Dennis Cowdroy announced as new ACT integrity commissioner

Former Federal Court judge Dennis Cowdroy has been chosen as the ACT's new integrity commissioner, after the last candidate was scuttled due to a political stalemate.

However the commission will now likely begin work four months behind schedule, due to the stoush.

Dennis Cowdroy OAM QC has been appointed as the ACT's inaugural integrity commissioner. Picture: Supplied

Dennis Cowdroy OAM QC has been appointed as the ACT's inaugural integrity commissioner. Picture: Supplied

ACT Legislative Assembly Speaker Joy Burch made the surprise announcement on Tuesday, with the endorsement of all three parties in the Assembly.

Mr Cowdroy was a justice of the Federal Court of Australia from 2006 to 2014 and also served as an additional judge of the ACT's Supreme Court.

He was a Land and Environment Court judge, held commissions as Judge-Advocate of the Australian Defence Force and as a presidential member of the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and is a chair of the Australian Electoral Commission.

He also served in the Navy reserve as a captain, as well as on the the Defence Force discipline appeal tribunal, and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to the Returned and Services League of Australia, as well as the legal community.

His appointment came six weeks after The Canberra Times revealed the previous pick for the job, Terence Higgins, had been cast aside because of concerns about his previous political affiliations.

Mr Higgins was the inaugural ACT Labor branch president in the 1970s and represented Gough Whitlam when he faced criminal charges in relation to the Khemlani loans affair, although he quit the party in 1990 ahead of his appointment to the bench.

At the time, Ms Burch said she would not bring another candidate before the Assembly unless it was clear there would be tripartisan support.

Ms Burch said on Tuesday the recruitment process for the inaugural integrity commissioner had been "rigorous" and "robust".

"I am confident we will have a commission that delivers the expectations that we in this place have debated for some time," Ms Burch said.

Mr Cowdroy will formally commence in the role on August 1, one month after the commission was due to start work.

His spokeswoman said Mr Cowdroy "looks forward to serving in the role as integrity commissioner".

While some of the formalities associated with the commission will still commence on July 1, it is understood there will be a bill brought forward on Thursday to amend its commencement date to be two months after the commissioner starts work.

This delay will give the commissioner time to hire a chief executive and other staff and set the strategic direction of the integrity body.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he was pleased with Mr Cowdroy's appointment.

"Justice Cowdroy brings with him more than half a century of legal experience," Mr Barr said.

ACT Opposition Leader Alistair Coe said Mr Cowdroy's appointment was "a significant milestone which was worth the wait".

"The Canberra Liberals have fought hard to establish Canberra's own anti-corruption commission to investigate suspicions of wrongdoing and restore public trust in the ACT government," Mr Coe said.

"It is important that Canberra's inaugural integrity commissioner is beyond reproach and not subject to any actual, perceived or potential perceptions of partiality."

The commission is set to investigate allegations of corruption involving public servants, politicians, and government contractors, with a focus on serious and systemic cases, and the most serious cases of misconduct.

The commissioner must have been a Supreme or Federal Court judge, a justice of the High Court, or a lawyer for at least 10 years, and not have been a politician or a public servant in the past five years.