Top mandarin warned over refusal to comply with lobbying audit

A top Queensland public servant was warned after refusing to cooperate with an official lobbying probe, but the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk won’t say when.

Feb 16, 2022, updated Feb 16, 2022
Public Service Commission chief Rob Setter

Public Service Commission chief Rob Setter

Public Service Commission chief executive Rob Setter was reportedly asked to audit his staffs’ contacts with lobbyists in the previous 12 months by Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov early last year.

Instead, Mr Setter wrote back on February 18 to Dr Stepanov saying she didn’t have legal power to ask for an audit and he instead provided her with a basic lobbying log.

The commissioner also asked 20 other government department heads to do audits and all complied, except for the PSC boss, The Australian reported.

Ms Palaszczuk says Mr Setter should have ordered an audit, saying her director-general Rachel Hunter had spoken to him about the matter

However, she refused to say exactly when the PSC boss had been warned about complying with lobbying probes.

“Ok, sorry, any other questions,” Ms Palaszczuk asked reporters on Wednesday.

“Are there any other questions.”

In a statement issued later, Setter said he regrets not providing a more detailed register to Stepanov, but said it would not have mattered as the PSC does not work with lobbyists.

“I regret that I did not follow up by providing the register,” he said.

“For the record, the Public Service Commission register for that period records a NIL response.

“Public Service Commission staff are asked monthly to record any contact with lobbyists, and the organisation has no history of working with lobbyists.”

At the time of Stepanov’s request, the PSC had control over her budget and staff. Stepanov has previously revealed that last year she had only had between one and three staff to help her probe illegal lobbying.

However, Palaszczuk denies the Integrity Commissioner’s staff were cut down to two.

“That’s not my understanding about the staffing arrangement,” she said.

“The staffing wasn’t cut down, but my understanding is it was four (staff), and there were some recruitment processes.”

Stepanov resigned from her role as the lobbyist watchdog last month, to finish in July, and has since complained of interference.

The Crime and Crime Corruption Commission is probing her complaint that a laptop was taken from her office and wiped without her knowledge or permission last year.

Setter has also denied the PSC raided Dr Stepanov’s office or seized anything from the integrity commissioner.

However, he said in a statement that “a lap top was provided to the CCC at their request”.

The premier said she tried to have old bullying and credit card misconduct claims against Stepanov probed after the integrity commissioner had complained about the laptop.

Palaszczuk said she was obligated to refer Stepanov to the Economics and Governance Committee.

The committee dismissed the allegations, which were two-years old and had previously been dismissed by the CCC.

Liberal National Party leader David Crisafulli called the events “an absolute hit job” on the integrity commissioner.

He called for the premier and Setter to reveal what was on the laptop and why it was taken, alleging it related Stepanov’s lobbying probe.

“She was asking some pretty pertinent questions, a little bit uncomfortable, it was about Labor lobbyists, and all of a sudden a lot of things happened to Dr Stepanov,” Mr Crisafulli said.

“And I want to know what the premier knew and when.”

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