Another mea culpa: Premier apologises to whistleblowing public servants

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is sorry public servants “felt” ignored when they tried to blow the whistle and says she doesn’t have a problem with increasing the lobbyist watchdog’s independence.

Feb 09, 2022, updated Feb 10, 2022
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

There are currently two separate probes into alleged government misconduct and three active inquiries into Queensland’s corruption, lobbyist and local government watchdogs.

The Crime and Corruption Commission is investigating an allegation senior public servants in 2021 confiscated a laptop from Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov’s office and deleted its contents.

Dr Stepanov, who is resigning in July, says the government reduced her funding and staff and have tried to have her removed. The government stridently denies the latter claim.

A Queen’s Counsel is probing former state archivist Mike Summerell’s complaints about potential misconduct which may have resulted in parliament being misled, and that certain reports were altered or suppressed.

Ms Palaszczuk says she’s sorry about the situation and willing to make changes to ensure public servants are supported in raising misconduct allegations.

“There were some people who said that they felt that they weren’t listened to and, you know, I apologise if they feel that way,” the premier told reporters on Wednesday.

“But we absolutely need to make sure that we have absolute confidence and Queenslanders should have confidence in the robust checks and balances that we have.”

Her comments come as three reviews examine the structure and functions of the Integrity Commissioner, the CCC and Office of the Independent Assessor.

Palaszczuk ordered a Commission of Inquiry into the CCC last week after a scathing parliamentary committee report in December on its botched probe into Logan Council.

The report led to the resignation of the corruption watchdog’s chair Alan MacSporran two weeks ago.

Another parliamentary committee is considering former bureaucrat Kevin Yearbury’s review of the Integrity Commissioner, which has recommended the lobbyist watchdog be separated from the Public Service Commission.

Acting CCC chair Bruce Barbour told the committee he supports laws being changed to declare the Integrity Commissioner as a public official under the Crime and Corruption Act.

“This will ensure that the Integrity Commissioner has certain obligations (for example, an obligation to notify the CCC of suspected corrupt conduct) and the CCC has jurisdiction over the Office of the Integrity Commissioner,” Mr Barbour wrote in a submission to the committee.

The premier said she has no issue with Mr Yearbury’s recommendations, including splitting the Integrity Commissioner’s office from the PSC, which is overseen by her own director-general Rachel Hunter.

However, she said she must wait for the committee to report back to the government on Mr Yearbury’s report before acting.

“We will we look forward to what the committee has to say about that,” she said.

“I don’t have any problems with Kevin Newbury’s recommendations in relation to the office of the Integrity Commissioner.”

The Office of the Independent Assessor, the local government watchdog, is also under review after a number of complaints about its probes from mayors across Queensland.

That inquiry, which is sitting on Wednesday morning, has already heard the OIA is understaffed and still dealing with council misconduct complaints almost 20 months old.

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InQueensland.
All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy