Corruption and Integrity Update – February 2024

15 March 2024
Daniel Maroske, Partner, Brisbane

In this edition of the Corruption and Integrity Update we consider the proposed legislative amendments relating to the operation of the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC), including the Crime and Corruption Amendment Bill 2023 and the Crime and Corruption and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024, as well as the establishment of an independent review of the CCC’s public reporting on corruption matters. We also consider updated statistics from the CCC’s Corruption Allegations Data Dashboard and submissions made relating to the Ombudsman’s Prison Overcrowding report.

Proposed legislative amendments relevant to the operation of the CCC

Crime and Corruption Amendment Bill 2023 (2023 Bill)

As noted in our November publication, the 2023 Bill seeks to address the issues that arose from the High Court judgment in Crime and Corruption Commission v Carne [2023] HCA 28 in relation to the CCC’s public reporting powers. Submissions in relation to the 2023 Bill closed on 29 February 2024, with the CCC’s public submission being the most notable. The CCC’s submission addressed the following issues:

  • CCC public reporting powers for corruption investigations: The CCC supports the amendments proposed by the 2023 Bill to provide explicit power to the CCC to report on corruption investigations to the Legislative Assembly. The CCC notes that the proposed changes would align with other federal and interstate counterpart agencies with equivalent powers to publicly report.
  • Balanced consideration in the public interest when making public reports: The 2023 Bill proposes to replace the existing section 71A of the CC Act, with the updated section requiring procedural fairness to be afforded regardless of whether an adverse comment is proposed to be made against an individual. The CCC has no objections to this amendment, noting that the more detailed process for procedural fairness proposed by the 2023 Bill generally aligns with the CCC’s current approach to procedural fairness.
  • Tabling of public reports to Parliament: The CCC supports the 2023 Bill’s proposal for the tabling of CCC reports directly through the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, rather than through the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee. The CCC highlighted that no other integrity agency, including the most recently established NACC, is required to table its reports through a parliamentary committee.
  • Retrospective application of amendments: The CCC submission highlighted previous examples of its legislation being amended retrospectively to address judicial interpretations that were inconsistent with the CCC’s understanding of its powers. The CCC supports the proposed section 459 of the 2023 Bill that retrospectively validate previously tabled reports.

The Committee is due to publish its report into the 2023 Bill on Thursday, 11 April 2024.

Public reporting on corruption matters – Independent review

Closely linked to the 2023 Bill, on 15 February 2024, the Government announced that the Honourable Catherine Holmes AC SC had been appointed to conduct an independent review into the CCC’s ability to publicly report and make statements on the performance of its corruption functions (the Review).

The Terms of Reference of the Review were tabled in Parliament and acknowledge that any new powers for the CCC to report individual corruption matters raises complex legal, ethical and human rights issues. The Review is permitted to consult any person or entity considered relevant, and recommendations are due to the Attorney-General by 20 May 2024.

Crime and Corruption and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024 (2024 Bill)

On 15 February 2024, the 2024 Bill was introduced into the Queensland Parliament. The Bill is intended to implement the Government’s response to recommendations from the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee’s Reports No. 97, 106 and 108, as well as the recent Commission of Inquiry into the CCC.

Public submissions in relation to the Bill closed on 23 February 2024, with the Community Safety and Legal Affairs Committee receiving 10 public submissions. Submissions of note include:

  • Crime and Corruption Commission: The CCC highlighted the proposed changes to the duration of tenure of senior CCC officers and submitted that tenure provisions for senior positions, including the CEO, should align with appointments elsewhere within the Queensland public service. The CCC also raised concerns with amendments to section 197 of the CC Act and submitted that the practical outcome of R v McDougall [2020] QDCPR 42 is that section 197 currently unreasonably constrains the CCC’s ability to prosecute perjury proceedings arising out of hearings. The CCC’s view is that section 197 should be amended to clarify that any answer, document, thing or statement produced at a hearing may be admissible in a perjury proceeding arising from the same hearing.
  • Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Commissioner: The Commissioner supported the proposed amendment to the CC Act expanding the ability for its office to conduct own-initiative investigations into CCC staff. The PCCC also supported proposed amendments relating to the possession of and dealing with data and records of the CJC inquiry and the ability of the Commissioner and the Public Interest Monitor to report on contraventions of telecommunications interception warrants.
  • Queensland Law Society: The QLS did not support a number of proposals to the CC Act, including in relation to amendments to restrict a person’s ability to claim legal professional privilege, the expansion of powers to permit the CCC Chairperson to issue a warrant, and the insertion of provision into the legislation intending to operate retrospectively. The QLS also reiterated its concerns regarding the appropriateness of the CCC being involved in the prosecution of matters.
  • Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ): The LGAQ strongly supports the amendments proposed relating to the engagement of the ODPP prior to the laying of serious criminal charges about corrupt conduct and the need for written advice from the ODPP prior to prosecution.

The Committee is due to publish its report into the 2024 Bill on Friday, 5 April 2024.

CCC Corruption Allegations Data Dashboard

The CCC recently updated the Corruption Allegations Data Dashboard (CADD) to incorporate allegation data up to 30 September 2023. Since our last update on the CADD in June 2022, the number of corrupt conduct allegations referred to the CCC have trended upwards. The updated CADD shows 2,895 allegations in the third quarter of 2023, which represents the highest number of allegations the CCC has received for a quarter since records were published.

The Queensland Police Service continue to be the subject of a number of allegations, while the departments responsible for healthcare, corrective services, education, child safety and other frontline services also recorded a number of allegations.

The CADD indicated that the misuse of authority and unauthorised access to information continue to be issues of concern to those reporting alleged corrupt conduct. In the local government sector, the misuse of authority by council employees to benefit others was also reported on a number of occasions.

Queensland Ombudsman releases report on Prison Overcrowding

In February 2024, the Queensland Ombudsman released the Prison overcrowding and other matters report (the Report). The Report considers matters regarding Queensland Corrective Services (QCS), with a primary focus on prison overcrowding.

The Report considers the various factors impacting prison overcrowding and the impact on QCS, noting the CCC’s 2019 Taskforce Flaxton Report which stated that overcrowding was associated with “an increased risk of corrupt conduct”.

The Report made several recommendations, which have been accepted by QCS, to alleviate the current challenges caused by overcrowding, including but not limited to:

  • addressing staffing issues associated with overcrowding;
  • facilitating transparent information about prisoner populations and overcrowding; and
  • a continued focus on workplace health and safety responses for officers.

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Authored by:

Daniel Maroske, Partner
Anna Fanelli, Senior Associate
Monica Baur, Solicitor
Isabella Parsons, Graduate
Max Drummond, Paralegal
Safira Dashwood, Paralegal

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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