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Ombudsman And Auditor-General Bill

28 September 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (11:10): I rise to speak very briefly on the Statutes Amendment (Ombudsman and Auditor-General) (Terms of Office) Bill and to indicate that the Greens will be supporting the bill, albeit with amendments. The bill changes the term of the Ombudsman and Auditor-General to be fixed; that is, for seven years, with an option to extend to a maximum of 10 years. Currently, the legislation calls for those positions to expire when the office holder turns 65 years of age.

This bill removes the age discrimination precedent setting a term expiry at a certain age and will allow for applicants over the age of 65. It will also ensure that any younger person holding the role is not there for decades. All members of this place received a letter from the Auditor-General asking us to consider two recommendations; that is, to create a fixed term of 10 years and to not allow for reappointment after that term is complete.

I note that both the Greens and SA-Best have filed identical amendments and I indicate to the chamber that in the event that the amendment from the Hon. Connie Bonaros is successful the Greens will not proceed with our amendment—it would not be required. We will, of course, be supporting the amendment from the Hon. Connie Bonaros, which I anticipate will be dealt with first.

We note the amendments that have been filed by the opposition. Those amendments would allow for the reappointment of both the Auditor-General and the Ombudsman after their initial term. The Greens consider that to be against the spirit of the bill and therefore we are not in support of those amendments. I will make some general remarks about the Auditor-General, and I share the comments of the Hon. Michelle Lensink.

I want to put on the public record the appreciation of the Greens for the important work that these public officers do—that is, the Ombudsman and the Auditor-General. They are vital public roles that they perform. They offer fearless, independent advice. I share the concerns of the Hon. Michelle Lensink in relation to the Auditor-General's call to access cabinet documents not being actioned by the Malinauskas government.

This is a basic transparency measure. It is one that this house has supported when we supported the bill from the Hon. Heidi Girolamo and yet it has stalled in the lower house. That is very disappointing, because sunlight is the best disinfectant in our democracy and, really, the Auditor-General should have access to this vital information. I am not sure why the Malinauskas government is holding that up, but I do urge them to show leadership in this area of transparency, to listen to the calls of the Auditor-General and others and take action.