Ex-legal boss adds to Premier’s integrity woes with claims against D’Ath

The former head of Queensland’s legal profession regulator says a current state government minister accused him of being disgruntled and self-interested after he raised concerns about a recruitment process.

Feb 04, 2022, updated Feb 04, 2022
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D'Ath and her predecessor, Deputy Premier Steven Miles, are likely to face more pressure over Mackay Hospital's failures. (AAP Image/Jason O'Brien)

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D'Ath and her predecessor, Deputy Premier Steven Miles, are likely to face more pressure over Mackay Hospital's failures. (AAP Image/Jason O'Brien)

Bob Brittan is the third serving or former independent official to raise concerns about the Palaszczuk government’s integrity this week after Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov and former state archivist Mike Summerell.

Brittan says he was rebuffed by then-attorney-general Yvette D’Ath after raising concerns about the hiring process for the Legal Services Commissioner role, in which he was acting, in 2019.

He says he was concerned that key legal bodies were involved in vetting applicants to lead their own regulator despite his own advice to the contrary.

“So it’s the same principles that flow through as to a lack of integrity in respect of following due process and public interest that has to be a problem with this government, the way that they’re conducting themselves,” Brittan told News Corp Australia on Friday.

Ms D’Ath, who is now the health minister, responded by accusing Brittan of being disgruntled and trying to undermine the reputations of those on the selection panel.

His claims come after Nikola Stepanov announced she would resign as integrity commissioner later this year, saying she was concerned about political interference in her role.

Stepanov also believes the Department of Premier and Cabinet referred her to a “parliamentary committee” last year in a bid to remove her.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk stridently denied Dr Stepanov’s claims on Thursday, but said she couldn’t reveal why the integrity commissioner had been referred.

The Crime and Corruption Commission (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 inquiry into the CCC structure and functions after its botched investigation into Logan Council.

Meanwhile, former state archivist Mike Summerell, who left his role in March, has made a series of allegations about interference in his record-keeping role.

He claims Housing and Public Works department officials forced him to change annual reports to “make the government look good”, and when he didn’t his reports were changed anyway.

Summerell alleges the premier’s staff interfered in his investigation into the missing resignation letter of Palaszczuk’s former chief of staff David Barbagallo as well.

When asked about the allegations on Thursday, the premier said Summerell left his role “some time ago” and hadn’t raised some of his issues previously.

The Liberal National Party, Katter’s Australian Party and the Greens are calling for a broad inquiry into state government integrity, but Palaszczuk is resisting their calls.

Brittan said the probe would reset the culture of the public service to ensure it was operating in the public interest.

“We’re not making it up. It’s one scandal after another,” he told News Corp.

“So I think, generally, the public should be appalled at what’s been happening over the last few years in respect to how they’ve been running things … it’s all consistent with poor governance.”

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