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ICAC shake-up takes aim at Megan Latham

AAP logoAAP 15/11/2016

A proposed overhaul of the NSW corruption-fighting body is an "unprecedented attack" that would result in a "fundamentally weaker" watchdog, commissioner Megan Latham says.

In a fiery statement released late on Tuesday, the head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption said laws now before the NSW parliament would mean "a radical restructure of the commission and a complete departure from the constitution and functional operation of the commission as it was originally conceived".

Under the plan announced by Premier Mike Baird on Tuesday, Ms Latham would be stripped of her autonomous powers and replaced with a panel of three commissioners.

Ms Latham would be invited to apply for one of the new positions, Mr Baird said.

"The bill represents an unprecedented attack on the independence and effectiveness of the commission as a leading anti-corruption agency," Ms Latham said in a statement.

She said the ICAC was not handed a copy of the government's bill until 3.30pm on Tuesday, more than half an hour after a press release was sent out.

Labor opposition leader Luke Foley slammed the legislation.

"The government is railroading Ms Latham out of a job because she inquired into corruption in the ranks of the Liberal Party," he said.

"Removing the commissioner was never discussed in the parliamentary committee but it is now being snuck into this legislation."

Both the ICAC and the ICAC Inspector will be required to give people "a reasonable opportunity to respond before including an adverse finding or opinion about the person in a report", under the proposed legislation introduced to parliament on Tuesday.

The person will also be able to have a summary of their response in the report.

"These changes implement the recommendations of a bipartisan and unanimous parliamentary committee report," Mr Baird said.

"They are entirely consistent with last year's independent panel report into the ICAC, and will deliver a stronger and fairer anti-corruption watchdog."

ICAC Inspector David Levine's review of ICAC's powers, which was handed to Mr Baird in May, recommended abolishing public hearings "to prevent the undeserved trashing of reputations".

The report followed ICAC's botched investigation into whether Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen attempted to pervert the course of justice by telling her son's girlfriend, Sophia Tilley, to fake chest pains to avoid a police breath test after a 2014 car accident.

ICAC aborted the inquiry after the High Court ruled it was outside its jurisdiction.

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