Queensland needs to re-establish an Electoral and Administrative Review Commission (EARC), including a parliamentary committee of oversight.
The disbanding in 1993 of one of the most important Fitzgerald Report reforms was a mistake that should be reversed, a justice expert form the Queensland UniversIty of Technology (QUT) has said.
"We need a process to find solutions to problems like a government’s ability to hide bad news from Freedom of Information requests by sending it to Cabinet or creating a system of government appointments that reduces potential cronyism," Dr Mark Lauchs of QUT’s School of Justice Studies said.
"Fitzgerald said that we needed to improve the system of governance in Queensland but didn’t give the details of what a better government would look like. He recommended the creation of the EARC to investigate all of the questions and flesh out the detail."
The EARC was dissolved in 1993 after less than four years of operation despite the Fitzgerald Report’s proposal that it be an ‘enduring independent process’, Lauchs said.
"The EARC’s brief included reviews of key issue such as freedom of information, the electoral system and judicial review.
"Thanks to EARC, Queensland caught up to, and exceeded, the standards of administrative reform that had already occurred in most other Australian states. It enhanced government honesty by reviewing Queensland politics and the public service and making recommendations for their improvement."
Dr Lauchs said the EARC protected the public "by helping improve accountability and the mechanisms of review and correction".
"One of the EARC’s strengths was the integrity of its independent research and consultation process. It took submissions and held public hearings on each of its reviews. It then reported its findings to the Parliament where they could be scrutinised in the public domain.
"A re-established EARC could continually review electoral and administrative issues in Queensland to make sure we have the best system available. It could have a rolling brief under which it covered all the key issues of administration across a 10-year period."