The Australian electoral commissioner hadn’t taken any legal advice when he appointed former federal police chief Mick Keelty to investigate Senate ballot papers missing during a recount of the West Australian vote.
Commissioner Ed Killesteyn told a Senate estimates hearing he was looking for an inquiry to give an assessment on what had happened.
“(Legal advice) wasn’t something that entered my mind,” Mr Killesteyn said on Tuesday.
Mr Keelty was called in when it was clear that more than 1300 ballot papers were missing when a recount was taken in a tight WA Senate election.
“We had reached a view that the ballot papers were not going to be found,” Mr Killesteyn said.
Mr Keelty was chosen by Mr Killesteyn and the Australian Electoral Commission’s (AEC) chair Peter Heerey.
With his inquiry in its third week, Mr Keelty is assisted by five Canberra-based AEC staff who are interviewing AEC staff in Perth and others involved in the transportation of the ballot materials.
Mr Killesteyn did not know how much the investigation had cost so far when quizzed by Labor stalwart Senator John Faulkner.
He said Mr Keelty was paid on a daily rate, but declined to say what that was because he had not asked the former police chief if he wanted it made public and took the question on notice.
Senator Faulkner was not happy with that response.
“I think this parliamentary committee as it works through these issues will want to come to grips with the consequences, including the costs, of what you told us in your opening statement was a `significant failure’,” the senator said.
“That’s not unreasonable and frankly would ordinarily provided. I would commend you reflect on that and perhaps come back to us with what costs you can.”