Risk it and you will get caught, CMC warns

By Rob O’Brien

Public officials have been warned: if you risk corrupt behaviour, you will be caught and punished accordingly.

Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) Chairperson Robert Needham said Friday’s jailing of former Queensland Minister Gordon Nuttall for offences relating to secret commissions should serve as a strong deterrent to people in public office.

But following Nuttall’s conviction, Needham said that the case should be a warning to all public officers that they must adhere to the highest possible ethical standards when serving the community.

“Ministers of the Crown occupy important places in public life and have the potential to wield influence,” he said.

“As such, it’s vital that their actions, and those of senior public officials, are ethical and transparent. Their professional behaviour must be open and accountable."

Nuttall was found guilty of corruptly receiving almost $360,000 from two prominent Queensland businessmen, Ken Talbot and Harold Shand, over three years.

The evidence from Nuttall’s trial showed Talbot made 35 corrupt payments to the former Minister totalling almost $300 000 between October 2004 and September 2005. Shand made one corrupt payment of $60 000 to Nuttall in April 2002.

Nuttall was sentenced to seven years jail for each offence to be served concurrently and will be eligible for parole on 2 January 2012.

Needham said that communities had a right to expect that public officials from all levels of government “perform their duties in an unbiased way and that decisions they make are not affected by self-interest, private affiliations or the likelihood of personal gain or loss”.

“Let this sentencing be a warning to other senior public officials who might contemplate similar improper behaviour that it’s not worth the risk. You will get caught," he added.

Shand will face a separate trial later this year. A date is yet to be fixed for Talbot’s trial.

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