Concern as new inquiry announced into powers of Qld corruption body

Robodebt Royal Commissioner Catherine Holmes SC will head a “short, sharp, targeted” review of Queensland’s public sector corruption watchdog’s reporting powers, the state government says.

Catherine Holmes

The three-month independent review will examine the Crime and Corruption Commission’s ability to report publicly on corruption matters, and whether legislative changes are needed.

It comes after a CCC investigation into Logan City Council led to the dismissal of councillors in 2019 over fraud charges that were later thrown out of court after the DPP said it had insufficient evidence to proceed.

The body representing local government in Queensland says there’s already been a comprehensive inquiry into the CCC and another one will only delay reforms arising from its recommendations.

High Court ruling

Attorney General Yvette D’Ath says the decision about the latest probe was sparked by last year’s High Court decision, which tested the CCC’s authority to prepare and publish reports and make public statements.

Alison Smith: we don’t need another report to gather dust

The court found that while the CCC can report generally in relation to its corruption functions, it doesn’t the power to publicly report on individual corruption matters.

Ms D’Ath said the government recognises while there’s a need to report on corruption, there are also significant implications for individuals associated with an inquiry.

“There is a clear public interest in the CCC being able to publicly report on corruption matters, however what should be reported and the parameters of that power is complex,” she said.

“The CCC has highly coercive investigative powers, and its reports and statements can cause significant prejudice to individuals who are not otherwise subject to criminal or disciplinary action.

“That’s why we are taking action with a short, sharp and targeted independent review that will consider the legal and human rights implications of such reporting.”

Concern about delaying reforms

Premier Steven Miles says the appointment of Ms Holmes, a former Queensland Chief Justice, will consider both the legal and human rights implications of any changes. She’s required to report to the government by May 20.

The review will also consider whether any changes should be applied retrospectively.

However councils are less than happy with the announcement, saying yet another inquiry will only delay work needed to reform the commission.

Queenslanders deserve to have a corruption watchdog that is unbridled from it’s recent failings, not a pile of reports that simply gather dust.

LGAQ CEO Alison Smith

The government last year said legislative amendments arising from the recommendations of the report by Tony Fitzgerald and Alan Wilson, released in August 2022, would be introduced in early 2024, LGAQ says.

“People’s lives were destroyed and the reputation of our chief corruption watchdog was brought into significant disrepute,” LGAQ CEO Alison Smith said.

The LGAQ is calling for assurances that the new Commission of Inquiry doesn’t delay urgent reforms recommended from the previous Commission of Inquiry.

“It has been over 18 months since that report was handed down, which included key recommendations urgently needed to overhaul the remit of our State’s corruption watchdog,” Ms Smith said.

“It has been over 18 months since that report was handed down, which included key recommendations urgently needed to overhaul the remit of our State’s corruption watchdog.”

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