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Mark Dreyfus’ department used Google searches amid vetting ‘fail’

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“It’s a big failure, isn’t it? I think if you do an open-source Google review it can be better than anything you do because an open-source Google review can say ‘wait a minute’.”

Shadow attorney-general Michaelia Cash ran a Google search during the Senate estimates hearing and said she found search entries from previous years detailing Rothman’s links to Labor.

He attacked the government for refusing to disclose whether Rothman or two other potential candidates had disclosed any political ties.

Rothman, a highly regarded juror, was one of three candidates presented by an independent panel from which Dreyfus chose his preferred candidate. The nomination was put to a parliamentary oversight committee, which eventually balked and helped kill the proposal.

“They were asked for details of political affiliations and public commentary,” said senior public servant Simon Newnham. “I’m not going to answer the question about what the candidates answered.”

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Labor senators at the Senate hearing said the government’s merit-based appointment process worked, evidenced by the committee’s interactions with officials and the eventual agreement to appoint Kylie Kilgour. Kilgour is a former deputy commissioner at Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission.

Cash said Dreyfus’ nomination of Rothman was inexcusable and his department’s refusal to be transparent about the process made it worse.

“There is every manifestation of that [Dreyfus] tried to stack the NACC,” Cash said.

“This undermines public confidence in the commission even before it reaches one year.

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“There appears to be an attempt to deliberately subvert its legal processes in the interest of appointing a favorable candidate.

“This is an attorney-general who, as I said, trumpets transparency, but when it comes to his own appointments we seem to seriously lack his ability to answer very basic questions.”

Rothman’s chambers and the NSW Supreme Court did not respond to questions sent last week about the nomination.

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