Premier protests her innocence and brings out top lawyer to prove it

The Queensland Government’s top lawyer has been called on to advise whether the Premier did anything wrong with private emails

Mar 09, 2021, updated Mar 10, 2021
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (AAP Image/Darren England)

Almost four years ago, the Crime and Corruption Commission warned the Labor government that ministers using private emails for official business “lacks transparency and is a corruption risk”.

It followed Transport Minister Mark Bailey using a Yahoo account to correspond on government issues, including appointments, and then deleting the emails when subjected to a Right to Information request. The CCC did not recommend any action against Bailey and the emails were ultimately recovered.

CCC chairman Alan MacSporran recently told a parliamentary committee the watchdog had not been aware during the Bailey investigation that Palaszczuk also had a private email account. Having looked back over around 20 emails between Bailey and Palaszczuk, mostly on weekends, MacSporran said “the content didn’t excite our interest”.

But the revelations reignited the controversy over private emails, particularly when Palaszczuk had previously told parliament she did not use private emails for government business. Four emails have since been considered for RTI release but kept secret.

After almost daily questioning from some journalists, Palaszczcuk today told parliament she had sought advice from the Solicitor-General, Sandy Thompson, QC, on the nature of the “unsolicited” emails from Bailey to her private account.

Thompson found that even a “brief reply” from Palaszczuk to Bailey, regarding autonomous vehicles, could not be released under RTI because it related to his portfolio, not her then role as arts minister.

Palaszczuk suggested it was only the most recent advice that she had no case to answer.

“The CCC chairman described calls to investigate these matters further as a ‘wild goose chase,’ a ‘fishing expedition’ and a waste of time,” the Premier said.

“I highly agree, especially as our state faces so many critical issues as we recover from COVID-19.”

In question time, Palaszczuk was asked why she did not release or allow further scrutiny of all 20 emails, responding that she did not intend to speak further on the matter. Asked how the CCC and State Archivist could deem her private emails government records, Palaszczuk instead sought to attack the Liberal National Party’s record on integrity.

The ensuing uproar prompted Speaker Curtis Pitt to warn several MPs – including Palaszczuk – they were at risk of being ejected from parliament.

Meanwhile, Labor backbencher Peter Russo has threatened the Opposition’s Deb Frecklington with defamation action over comments she made, as LNP leader, during the election debate.

Russo told parliament that Frecklington had questioned his integrity, over the government work of his former law firm, but after receiving his legal letter issued a full apology.

“I would also note Ms Frecklington paid for my reasonable legal fees,” Russo told parliament.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles told parliament he intended to write to the Clerk, Neil Laurie, over inconsistencies in declarations of interests made by the LNP’s now Member for Whitsunday, Amanda Camm.

The Greens also raised the issue of developer donations to the LNP.

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