John Hatzistergos selected as ICAC chief

John Hatzistergos

The former NSW Labor attorney-general John Hatzistergos has been selected to be the next commissioner of the state’s corruption watchdog as part of a major changing of the guard at the integrity agency.

Premier Dominic Perrottet has notified the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption of the proposed appointment of a new Chief Commissioner and Commissioners of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Former District Court Judge and NSW Attorney-General the Honourable John Hatzistergos AM is proposed to be appointed as the new ICAC Chief Commissioner, subject to the concurrence of the Parliamentary Committee.

The Honourable Helen Murrell SC, recently retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the ACT, and the Honourable Paul Lakatos SC, District Court Judge and President of the Mental Health Review Tribunal, are proposed to be appointed as ICAC Commissioners.

Mr Perrottet said the appointments would bring experience and leadership to the integrity agency.

“ICAC plays a central role in ensuring good governance and ensuring public faith in government, and these appointments will bring a huge depth of experience, perspective and awareness to these positions,” Mr Perrottet said.

“Judge Hatzistergos has experience as a barrister, a judge and in government as Attorney General, and will come into the role as Chief Commissioner at a time when our government has boosted integrity agency funding and independence.

“The Honourable Helen Murrell and the Honourable Paul Lakatos also have incredible expertise in a range of roles and responsibilities, and I am confident they will bring great understanding, foresight and integrity to their new positions.”

The appointments are proposed following a merit-based selection process. In May 2022, a nominations panel was convened to identify a shortlist of candidates suitable for the three appointments.

The Nominations Panel members were the Hon Thomas Bathurst AC QC (former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW) as chairperson, the Hon Dr Annabelle Bennett AC SC (former Judge of the Federal Court of Australia), Ms Juliana Warner (Partner at Herbert Smith Freehills), Mr Michael Coutts-Trotter (Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet), Mr Michael Tidball (Secretary of the Department of Communities and Justice).

The proposed appointments fill the roles to be vacated by current Chief Commissioner Honourable Peter Hall QC, and Commissioners Patricia McDonald SC and Stephen Rushton SC who are nearing the end of their terms.

The Joint Committee has 14 days after the proposed appointment is referred to it to veto the proposal, and has a further 30 days (after the initial 14 days) to veto the proposal if it notifies the Minister within those 14 days that it requires more time to consider the matter.

The ICAC is an independent body established to expose corruption and enhance public confidence in the integrity of the NSW public sector. The ICAC’s principal objectives are to investigate, expose and seek to prevent corrupt conduct in the NSW public sector, and to educate public authorities, public officials, and members of the public about corruption and its detrimental effects.