A request under the Official Information Act for details on the date when the position, which has been vacant since the appointment of Terrence Arnold to the Court of Appeal in May this year, might be filled, along with details on the number and gender of applicants, was refused by State Services Commissioner, Mark Prebble.
Dr Prebble regarded the refusal to be in the public interest given that potential applicants will be “disinclined” to put themselves forward for senior appointment if the selection and appointment process is jeopardised.
“I consider that the release of the number of applications received for the position of Solicitor-General, or any information about them, poses a significant risk for the quality and integrity of the recruitment process,” Dr Prebble said.
“Clearly, all applications must be treated with the highest confidence, and I believe that releasing even the total number would be seen by some applicants (and future applicants) as eroding that confidentiality. I also consider that release of the number of applications, and any information about them, would present a distraction for short-listed candidates, particularly if the number is higher or lower than they expected. It is not the sort of information that I would expect to provide to the candidates themselves.”
With no information as to when the top spot will be filled the rumour machine continues to grind out names: Mai Chen, the TV lawyer and over-achiever has already denied interest, Mary Scholtens QC, current Crown Counsel, is touted, along with fellow female QC with an eye on the opportunity, Helen Cull, the bookish Brendan Brown QC and the perennially driven Dr David Collins QC.
Are there others? QCs or otherwise? Only Dr Prebble knows.
And he’s not telling.