SYDNEY, Nov 30 (Reuters) - A Royal Commission is Australia’s most powerful type of government inquiry, particularly because it has the power to compel witnesses.
A Royal Commission ranks above the courts and even, once the government has appointed it, the government itself. Royal Commissions cover a broad range of subjects deemed to be in the public interest, from individual matters to broad industry examinations.
Australia has had more than 100 since federation in 1901. The Royal Commission announced on Thursday to look into a scandal-hit finance sector is the country’s 8th commission since 2000.
Major Royal Commissions in recent history:
*Chamberlain convictions (1986-1987)
-About: Australia’s best known murder trial, in which a couple were convicted of murdering their two-month-old baby on an outback camping trip. The couple maintained their child was taken by a wild dingo.
-Outcome: The inquiry questioned the convictions, which were overturned the following year.
*HIH Insurance (2001-03)
-About: Australia’s biggest corporate collapse with an estimated A$5.3 billion of losses.
-Outcome: Two former executives and an associate were jailed for fraud and bribery offences.
*Building and construction industry (2001-2003)
-About: Allegations of corruption within the building and construction industry.
Outcome: No convictions but the government established an Office of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner to oversee the industry.
*Institutional abuse (2013-present)
-About: Responses by churches and other institutions to child abuse complaints.
-Outcome: Due to report by the end of 2017.
*Home insulation (2013-2014)
-About: A government roof insulation subsidy scheme, introduced as an economic stimulus after the financial crisis. Four electricians died as a result of accidents after the subsidy scheme led to an increase in insuffienctly trained labour.
-Outcome: No convictions, but a formal finding that the federal government was ultimately responsible for the deaths.
-About: Allegations of illegal activity and “financial irregularities” in unions.
-Outcome: One union organiser pleaded guilty to 10 counts of blackmail, while five union officials were charged with crimes although those charges were later dropped.
Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Edwina Gibbs