Corruption watchdog brought to heel over damning report on police recruiting

The Palaszczuk government appears set to support a bid by the Human Rights Commissioner to force changes to a damning Crime and Corruption Commission report on police recruitment practices.

Sep 14, 2021, updated Sep 14, 2021
Crime and Corruption Commission chairman Alan MacSporran QC. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Crime and Corruption Commission chairman Alan MacSporran QC. (AAP Image/Darren England)

In May, after finalising Investigation Arista into the Queensland Police Service, the CCC released a report that outlined how a 50 per cent gender equity target was miscommunicated to staff who then actively discriminated against would-be male recruits in an effort to succeed.

The CCC held closed-door hearings and took statements to examine recruitment practices between December 2015 and October 2018. It found women were selected in preference to men who had performed to a higher standard across entry assessments.

According to the CCC, around 2000 men were discriminated against over an 18-month period, putting a cloud over approximately 200 women who joined the force ahead of “more meritorious male applicants”. Six women were accepted into the academy despite not meeting the required standards. The CCC recommended disciplinary action against those responsible.

Queensland Human Rights Commissioner Scott McDougall. (Supplied)

But Human Rights Commissioner Scott McDougall almost immediately questioned the report, and wrote to CCC chairman Alan MacSporran to suggest his criticism be formally added as an addendum, given the CCC had delved into areas that were primarily McDougall’s responsibility.

McDougall argued that the CCC failed to consider there may have been a lawful basis for the recruitment strategy and appeared to have exaggerated the number of men discriminated against, and the impact of its findings on the women recruited.

He suggested the evidence did not point to unlawful discrimination, as the CCC claimed, but rather actions taken in good faith to implement a justifiable strategy to recruit more women.

“The report notes that the CCC decided to issue a public report in this matter because of the ‘systemic and serious nature of the conduct’,” McDougall wrote in his letter to MacSporran.

“In light of the conspicuous failure of the report to properly consider the potential lawfulness of measures forming a core part of the ‘system’, I respectfully consider it is incumbent on the CCC to review its findings and recommendations and public an addendum to the report.”

In July, McDougall followed up again with MacSporran, who wrote back to “confirm the CCC will not be publishing an addendum report”.

By that stage, MacSporran was also under scrutiny over the CCC’s investigation of Logan City Council, and in recent weeks has given lengthy testimony to an inquiry into the abandoned prosecution of ex-councillors.

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The Palaszczuk government is also due to respond to a separate review of the CCC by the end of the month.

Undeterred, McDougall wrote to the CCC oversight body, the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee, bringing his correspondence with MacSporran to their attention.

The committee met today and heard MacSporran wanted additional correspondence to be made public, which the committee agreed to do. The documents are believed to be MacSporran’s letters to McDougall, in which he sought to justify the report and Investigation Arista.

It is understood the government supports McDougall’s intervention, and will take the unusual step of allowing a CCC report to be amended despite the CCC’s objections. The PCCC was this afternoon holding a private meeting.

The Leader of the House, Yvette D’Ath, and Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman were not in a position to comment today.

The former Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Commissioner, barrister Karen Carmody, had previously told the PCCC she did not believe the investigation should have been a priority for the CCC.

“I wouldn’t have viewed it as major crime or major corruption if I had been also mindful of the anti-discrimination provisions that do allow you to discriminate on occasions,” Carmody said.

The committee, meanwhile, today approved the release of other CCC reports, but sent one back for the CCC to correct minor errors before it could be tabled in parliament.

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