Union calls for independent inquiry on corruption investigation

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh
The Queensland Public Sector Union has called for Premier Anna Bligh to launch an independent inquiry into corruption investigation.

By Angela Dorizas

The Bligh Government should launch an independent inquiry into corruption investigation in the state, says the Queensland Public Sector Union (QPSU).

The call for a special investigation follows the release of the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) report on police corruption and the sentencing of former Beattie minister Gordon Nuttall, who was found guilty of receiving payments from two prominent Queensland businessmen.

QPSU spokesman Chris O’Regan said the union was not calling for an inquiry into specific acts or allegations, but was concerned more generally with the functioning of existing public sector investigative structures.

“We are calling for an inquiry that examines whether Queensland’s corruption-fighting bodies need to be enhanced or reworked to give them greater ability to fight official corruption,” O’Regan told GovernmentNews.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh last week announced a review of integrity and accountability issues within the state, including political fundraising and the adequacy of internal misconduct investigation procedures.

The Premier said the Green Paper would canvas a number of specific issues such as political fundraising, the ministerial code of conduct, the pecuniary interest register and the appropriateness of current internal misconduct investigation mechanisms.

The QPSU welcomed the Premier’s decision to conduct out an in-house review of misconduct investigation processes, but appealed for an independent inquiry to be launched.

“We still believe that an external investigation is called for, for the simple reason that it’s better to have a body that doesn’t have any stake in the outcome report on what is the best process,” O’Reagan said.

“It was this government that created Queensland’s corruption investigation structures as they currently exist – if the outcome of a review is that significant change or additional resourcing is required to give Queensland the best corruption-fighting mechanisms possible, that outcome will be more likely to generate an appropriate response and not be swept under the carpet if it is delivered from an external source.”

O’Reagan acknowledged that the CMC was working “very hard” to investigate official corruption with notable success, but was uncertain whether the CMC was the best model.

“Having one body with the functions of both a high-level anti-crime unit and a body that investigates official corruption means that the CMC essentially has to make a resourcing choice between investigating paedophilia and organised crime or investigating allegations of official corruption,” O’Reagan said.

“Additionally, the Electoral and Administrative Review Commission (EARC), which was established in the wake of the Fitzgerald Inquiry, had only a limited tenure.

“It’s unclear whether Queensland’s structure is the most efficient and effective model, or whether a structure like that of NSW, which is similar to what Queensland had prior to the 2002 amalgamation of the Crime Commission with the Criminal Justice Commission  (CJC), would be a better model to fight corruption.”

He said the QPSU was calling for an independent inquiry to ensure that the state had the best anti-corruption body available.

“It is not possible to anticipate the outcome of that inquiry and what recommendations that it would make – but it certainly would be an exercise in good governance to conduct one, to continue to refine and enhance public sector administration in Queensland.”

Last night, Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek challenged Premier Bligh to launch a royal commission. 

"Establish a royal commission and invite Tony fitzgerald to chair it," he said in Parliament. 

The motion was voted down by the Government on the basis that the CMC already had the powers of a royal commission.

The Premier today announced that every member of caucus would annually meet with Integrity Commissioner David Solomon to go over their pecuniary interest form as an "added check and balance." 

"Dr Solomon agreed that this would be an appropriate measure and advised me that he would be happy to make himself available to any member of Parliament who sought such assistance," Bligh said.

"I challenge the Leader of the Opposition…to follow my lead." 

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