The judge appointed to lead the Royal Commission into the abuse of children in Northern Territory detention centres, Brian Ross Martin, has resigned over a potential conflict of interest.
A former NT chief justice, Ross Martin was appointed as Royal Commissioner just last Thursday but this morning announced he would not be proceeding in the role.
Ross Martin’s acknowledged his daughter used to advise a former NT Attorney General on justice policy on Friday but said at the time he believed this would not compromise his independence.
Today he said he was resigning because his daughter had been dragged into the debate, and because of untrue and misconceived criticisms from Aboriginal groups about his involvement.
He said that while he saw no perceived or actual bias due to his previous role as chief justice of of the NT Supreme Court, “others do”.
“It has become apparent that, rightly or wrongly, in this role I would not have the full confidence of sections of the Indigenous community which has a vital interest in this inquiry,” he said.
“As a consequence, the effectiveness of the Commission is likely to be compromised from the outset.
“I am not prepared to proceed in the face of that risk. This Royal Commission is far too important to undertake that risk and, in the public interest, personal considerations must take second place.”
Indigenous groups and the Prime Minister’s indigenous advisor have criticised the level of consultation that went into the set-up of the commission.
The appointment of Ross Martin has also been the subject of criticism, with some indigenous leaders saying he is too close to the youth justice system which is a subject of the inquiry.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda has withdrawn his support of the former Chief Justice. “I take the view of the people in the Northern Territory. They say they don’t have that much confidence in him,” he said.
Labor leader Bill Shorten has called for two indigenous co-commissioners to be appointed to the role.
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