Appointing royal commissions for political gains: is it a bad thing?

Stream: Panel 53 - Australian Politics / Media & Politics: Policy Reform and Institutional Change 
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 4.00 pm – 5.30 pm


Discourse on royal commissions indicates that they are appointed for either policy advisory or inquisitive reasons. Recent trends in Australia point to a third reason for the appointment of royal commissions, namely their appointment for political advantage. This paper argues that a political advantage through a royal commission occurs through blame avoidance, the shaping of the political agenda and to gain a political edge over competing parties or interests groups. Reviews of recent royal commissions into trade union corruption, natural disasters, child sex abuse and the home insulation program illustrates a developing trend for them to be established for political gain. The act of establishing a royal commission for political advantage can quite commonly be seen as politicising its process, recommendations and conclusions. This can limit its effectiveness because a royal commission is independent from the government that establishes it. This research recognises the seriousness of each royal commission it discusses, and elaborates on both the disadvantages and advantages of their use for political gain.


Heath Whiley (Presenter), University of Tasmania
Heath Whiley is a PhD Candidate at the University of Tasmania. His main research focuses on the use of royal commissions in response to disasters. Specifically, he is looking at the usefulness and appropriateness of this approach.