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‘Don’t make stuff up’: Emotional Premier defends integrity record

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has refused to reveal why she referred the outgoing Integrity Commissioner to a parliamentary oversight committee but denies it was a move to sack her.

Feb 03, 2022, updated Feb 03, 2022
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is seen during a press conference at Coomera State Special School on the Gold Coast.  (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is seen during a press conference at Coomera State Special School on the Gold Coast. (AAP Image/Darren England)

A testy Palaszczuk again faced a barrage of questions over her government’s integrity record, insisting she valued the work of the public service and other government agencies.

Accusing journalists at one stage of “making stuff up”, the premier indicated her priority was the Covid-19 pandemic despite the mounting questions over her government’s record on transparency and accountability.

“Do you think it’s easy to come here every day and talk about people who have lost their lives to this (the pandemic)?” she said.

“So don’t for a moment think that I don’t get up every day and want to do the best for this state.

“If people have allegations, there are robust processes in this state that I abide by and I uphold.”

She was speaking amid the ongoing furore surrounding the treatment of Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov and former state archivist Mike Summerell, both of whom have claimed they were subjected to political interference in their jobs.

Stepanov, set to leave her post in July, has claimed that her referral by the Premier to a parliamentary oversight committee last year was likely a government move to have her sacked.

Summerell has claimed he was pressured to leave his job last year and has accused the government of deleting information that was critical of its performance from his annual reports to parliament.

Palaszczuk said she valued the work of the integrity commissioner and the state archivist but insisted that the proper process for reporting allegations of wrongdoing was to the Crime and Corruption Commission.

Palaszczuk said she “can’t say” why she referred Stepanov to a parliamentary committee, saying he matter was now before the CCC.

However, she said Stepanov’s claim that it was a preliminary step to have her removed was incorrect.

“Let me say the allegations that were raised by the integrity commissioner yesterday are incorrect,” she said.

“The matters that were referred to the committee were not what she alleges.”

“There is a lot of misinformation going around here.”

She sought to compare her government’s record on accountability and its treatment of the public service with the previous LNP government – ousted seven years ago partly due to its plan to sack 14,000 government staff.

“People were tapped on the shoulder, people were crying in toilets being told that they were to leave their jobs immediately. That does not happen under my watch,” she said.

“I expect our public servants to provide frank and fearless advice. That is one of the great institutions of having a robust public service in this state.”

Palaszczuk has ordered her department’s director-general Rachel Hunter to probe allegations by former archivist Mike Summerell that he was told to remove “damaging” sections of his annual reports.

She has also appointed former judge Tony Fitzgerald to review the CCC’s structure and functions following a 2019 probe into Logan Council in which charges were eventually dropped.

Liberal National Party leader David Crisafulli said the issue boiled down to “a sitting premier (referring) an Integrity Commissioner to a parliament where the government holds the numbers”.

“It was the Integrity Commissioner who was asking some pretty troubling questions for the government, particularly around Labor lobbyists,” he said on Thursday.

“That just triggered off a chain of events, and it culminated in the laptop of an independent officer being allegedly seized and information erased”.

The CCC is investigating Stepanov’s claim that the Public Service Commission confiscated a laptop from her office and wiped it without her knowledge or permission last year.

The laptop probe is running at the same time as a formal Commission of Inquiry into the CCC structure and functions after its botched investigation into Logan Council.

 

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