State secrets: Corruption watchdog demands greater secrecy amid ongoing leaks, smears

Crime and Corruption Commission chairman Alan MacSporran wants to protect sensitive information, including whether someone is facing investigation by his agency.

Jul 21, 2021, updated Jul 21, 2021
Crime and Corruption Commission chairman Alan MacSporran. (Photo: AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Crime and Corruption Commission chairman Alan MacSporran. (Photo: AAP Image/Dan Peled)

MacSporran gave a quarterly update to the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee today in which he revealed government corruption complaints had increased 13 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Police complaints were up 10 per cent, however local government complaints decreased 20 per cent, following an election period MacSporran said was “cleaner” than previous years.

While MacSporran was not overly concerned by the trends, which tended to fluctuate anyway, he suggested government complaints may have risen due to more people working from home during the pandemic.

He said the risks associated with working from home were not from “less work being done” but from people doing the wrong thing while unsupervised.

“We’ve done various presentations across the public sector to alert supervisors in particular of those increased risks,” he said.

MacSporran said there were still behavioural and cultural issues in the Queensland Police Service, particularly in relation to unauthorised access of information. He suggested the CCC’s bid to change that, by taking people to court, had failed.

“It hasn’t worked, frankly; we failed in that, because the courts have not imposed what we would see as sufficient sanctions to reflect the seriousness of that behaviour,” MacSporran said.

MacSporran also reiterated his long-held view that complaints to the CCC should be kept secret because their premature public airing could have “catastrophic consequences,” when it smears innocent people and “completely undermines our ability to do our job”.

Politicians and journalists have previously been singled out for criticism in that regard, and MacSporran today extended that to the Budget Estimates Committee process, where one public sector official has recently been asked about an investigation they may not have been aware of. He said there may have been a reason for that.

“Frankly, it’s just a disgrace, in my view,” MacSporran said.

One area where MacSporran would like more transparency is in relation to the activities of lobbyists. He said the CCC was considering issues in relation to unregistered lobbying, or lobbying without proper record-keeping, due to the obvious risk of corruption.

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“At the end of the day, people are paying for access,” he said, suggesting there was risk regardless of whether the government did anything unethical in response to such lobbying.

“If it’s just to get to have a say, that’s a risk, because they’re getting something that the average person who cannot afford to pay is not getting.”

The committee recently handed down a report arising from its five-year review of the CCC, and also launched an inquiry into its handling of a Logan City Council case.

The Palaszczuk government was forced to sack the Logan City Council two years ago after a CCC investigation led to fraud charges against seven councillors and mayor Luke Smith. In April, prosecutors dropped the charges, with only Smith now facing trial.

While there have been calls for MacSporran to stand aside during the committee inquiry, he said there was no reason for him to do so, and it would also be “undesirable” for the CCC to be without a chairman for several months.

“I have no intention of standing aside,” MacSporran said.

“In my view, there is no basis for me to stand down while these inquiries and allegations are dealt with.”

MacSporran also addressed criticism of a recent investigation of police recruiting practices, including from Human Rights Commissioner Scott McDougall, and said some individuals still faced disciplinary action.

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