No stopping him: Fitzgerald may widen scope of CCC inquiry, says Minister

Former judge Tony Fitzgerald could broaden the scope of an inquiry into Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission, the attorney-general says.

Feb 01, 2022, updated Feb 01, 2022
Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman.   (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman. (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

The state government has appointed Fitzgerald, who led a landmark 1987/89 inquiry into corruption in Queensland leading to the establishment of the CCC, to review the watchdog.

Former judge Alan Wilson QC has also been chosen for the Commission of Inquiry, which will review the watchdog’s structure and functions, and its use of police officers.

Amid political calls for a wider inquiry into government integrity, Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman says the commissioners are free to broaden terms of reference.

“Well that’s a matter for him, obviously,” she told 4BC Radio on Tuesday.

“If he believes that there does need to be further investigation, I mean, it’s Tony Fitzgerald, I don’t think he’ll hold back.”

The government ordered the inquiry in response to a December parliamentary report, which called for a royal commission into the CCC after criticising its bungled 2019 probe into Logan Council.

The Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee report also triggered CCC chairperson Alan MacSporran’s resignation last Tuesday.

The Liberal National Party and Katter’s Australian Party want the new Fitzgerald inquiry to be broadened to probe overall government integrity.

LNP Leader David Crisafulli said the probe was a “cop out” following a week of controversial events, particularly the resignation of Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov.

Dr Stepanov has complained of “interference” in the funding and resourcing of her office, while the CCC is probing allegations that the Public Service Commission confiscated a laptop from her office and wiped its contents without her knowledge or permission.

Former state archivist Mike Summerell, who revealed last week he was forced out of his role last year, has also called for a broader probe into public service integrity culture and the operational and financial independence of watchdogs.

Queensland’s attorney-general has accused former state archivist Mike Summerell of being opportunistic in raising concerns about integrity years after they were investigated.

Mr Summerell called for a probe on Monday, three days after revealing he was forced out of his record-keeping role in March after it became “compromised” by potential interference.

His calls echo those of Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov, who has complained about a lack of resources since she resigned two weeks ago.

Fentiman has accused Summerell of being opportunistic as his concerns were probed by the Crime and Corruption Commission back when he raised them.

“In relation to the former archivist, I want to say again, everything in his report was investigated years ago, by the CCC,” she told 4BC Radio on Monday.

“He was offered an extension, he declined that, he’s gone back to New Zealand, and isn’t it interesting that he’s choosing now to raise these issues.”

Summerell said on Monday “everyone knows” the government had an integrity problem, particularly with a culture where public servants are encouraged to put the government’s political interest over the public interest.

The former archivist also believes the state’s integrity watchdogs should also be given complete operational and financial independence.

“Stop saying there is nothing to see here … everyone knows there is, stop putting the political interest above the public interest. Do the right thing,” he wrote in a LinkedIn post on Monday.

Fentiman said all those issues have been probed or are being investigated by the CCC, but she admits questions remain.

“Absolutely, and that’s why we follow the proper processes,” she told ABC Radio.

“We respect the robust integrity and accountability mechanisms that we have here in Queensland.

“As I said, they’ve either been investigated or they are being investigated and Queenslanders should have confidence in that system.”

The PCCC, which is chaired by Liberal National Party MP Jon Krause, launched their inquiry into the CCC in April after prosecutors dropped charges against the former Logan mayor and seven councillors due to a lack of evidence.

“A number of councillors there were charged and lost their jobs, so there was a huge inquiry into how the CCC handled that case,” Fentiman told ABC Radio.

“There was some very serious findings made and recommendations just strengthen and clarify the powers of the CCC, the structure of the CCC and how they use seconded police officers and looking at the legislation policy.”

“And practices about how they decide to charge people and prosecute people following their investigation.”

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