Australian Law Reform Commission to Examine Royal Commissions
The goal is to examine whether less formal, less time-consuming, and more cost efficient forms of inquiry into controversial issues are feasible. Royal Commissions are independent public inquiries that are conducted on an ad hoc basis by an entity commissioned by, but external to, the government. Their primary role is to inquire into, and report on, the subject matter it has been asked to consider by the government:
"This is the first comprehensive review of the Royal Commissions Act in its 107 year history. While the operation and provisions of the Act will be a major focus, the ALRC also has been asked to inquire into and report on a number of other issues. In particular, the Terms of Reference, reproduced at the beginning of this paper, require the ALRC to consider:"The Commission will provide its report to the Australian Attorney-General by 30 October 2009.
"(a) whether there is any need to develop an alternative form or forms of Commonwealth executive inquiry, with statutory foundations, to provide more flexibility, less formality and greater cost-effectiveness than a Royal Commission (particularly whether there would be any advantage in codifying special arrangements and powers that should apply to such alternative forms of inquiry);"
"(b) whether there is any need to develop special arrangements and powers for inquiries involving matters of national security;"
"(c) the appropriateness of restrictions on the disclosure of information to, and use of information by, Royal Commissions and other inquiries, including restrictions contained in other legislation (but not including those arising from the operation of client legal privilege); and"
"(d) suggestions for changes to the Act proposed or raised by Royal Commissions."
Further information is available on the ALRC website.