Conflict of interest?

It has been interesting to see the reactions to the situation that the Trade Union Royal Commissioner, Justice Dyson Heydon has found himself in. The push for claims of conflict are most frequently driven by those that are likely to be caught by the process being conducted, be it a Royal Commission, an investigation or whatever.

If my memory serves me correctly when I was very young I remember being told that there was an expectation that a member of the Public Service could not hold any particular political allegiance as it was their duty to act in accordance with the instructions of the party of the day regardless of who it was. This is logical but clearly no longer the case.

In my experience one must balance the issue of independence with the practicalities of cost and efficiency. By way of example if there is a group of companies and each is indebted to others within the group then there exists a number of debtor/creditor relationships. Thus do you appoint a different liquidator to every company and double up on costs or do you appoint one liquidator who watches for issues of conflict and then identifies an appropriate independent solution when the need arises, thus saving significant cost and argument.

Clearly the latter is the preferred course of action, particularly in this day and age when costs can run into extraordinary figures.

There can be and are clear conflicts of interest. The perpetrator of an act should not be the subsequent investigator of that act should the need for one arise, but in the main the focus should be on the creation and maintenance of independent authorities. This is a point that I have oft argued in relation to insolvency practitioners who seem to have a burning desire to forcibly divide into two camps, Creditor based or debtor based. I have always fought to be independent; I will seek out the correct ground and seek to return value to all stakeholders in accordance with the law.

It is regrettable that all must be divided up into camps, and then branded accordingly, why is it that we have lost sight of acting independently. Over the years it would appear that whilst a skill lost to the many over the years, it has been resoundingly understood by our Public Service as it moves forward.

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