Corruption and Integrity Update – May 2024

25 June 2024
Daniel Maroske, Partner, Brisbane

In this edition of the Queensland Corruption and Integrity Update we consider updates from Parliamentary committees, amendments to the Integrity Act, and a recent decision of the Councillor Conduct Tribunal. We also consider the recently released final report of the Independent Review of the Crime and Corruption Commission’s reporting on the performance of its corruption functions.

Oversight of the Information Commissioner  

On 29 April 2024, the Community Safety and Legal Affairs Committee (CSLA) held a public hearing for the Committee’s oversight of the Information Commissioner. During the hearing, the Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner, and the Right to Information Commissioner provided updates on their roles and the work of the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC).  

Highlights across the updates included: 

  • increased demand for external reviews and privacy complaint mediations; 
  • 24% of reviewable applications received by the OIC involved a deemed refusal; 
  • increased training and events promoting information rights; 
  • the establishment of a temporary project team to implement the mandatory notification data breach scheme; and 
  • a focus by the Privacy Commissioner on artificial intelligence and the impact on privacy and data management. 

Oversight of the Queensland Ombudsman 

On 29 April 2024, the CSLA held a public hearing for the Committee’s oversight of the Queensland Ombudsman. During the hearing, Mr Anthony Reilly, the Queensland Ombudsman and Inspector of Detention Services provided updates.  

The Ombudsman outlined the proactive role it was taking in providing advice to agencies and overseeing the Public Interest Disclosure Act regime. Looking forward, it was noted that the Integrity and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2024 will enhance the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman by enabling it to initiate investigations of government services provided by non-government entities.  

Separately, an increased number of complaints from the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO) have been received by the Queensland Ombudsman due to the OHO suspending its internal review function. This has resulted in the Queensland Ombudsman effectively becoming the internal and external review function for the OHO. 

Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee 

On 17 May 2024, the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee held a public hearing in relation to authorising the publication of the Crime and Corruption Commission’s Report for the period 1 December 2023 to 31 March 2024. During the hearing, Mr Bruce Barbour, the CCC Chairperson, highlighted the following key findings of the Report: 

  • the Crime division progressed a major crime investigation involving the suspected professional facilitation of money laundering and trafficking of dangerous drugs; 
  • the CCC progressed two intelligence operations; 
  • the CCC finalised eight corruption investigations and is currently investigating 51 additional corruption investigations; and 
  • an amount of $5.888 million was returned to the State as forfeited property as a result of proceeds of crime orders. 

On 17 May 2024, the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Commissioner also published its public report which details the activities of the Commissioner between 19 January 2024 and 24 April 2024. The following events were regarded as being significant: 

  • the Commissioner provided a submission to the CSLAC on the Crime and Corruption and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024. An amendment was proposed to allow the Commissioner to conduct its own initiative investigation in relation to corrupt conduct of a CCC officer. 
  • the Commissioner has proposed amendments to the Telecommunications Interception Act 2009 and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth) which would allow the Commissioner and Public Interest Monitor to report on breaches of certain warrants by the CCC and Queensland Police Service.  
  • the Commissioner provided submissions to the review into the CCC’s reporting on the performance of its corruption function. The findings of the review have now been published in a report and are discussed below. 

Amendments to the Integrity Act 

Key amendments to the Integrity Act 2009 (the Integrity Act) became effective on 28 May 2024. These key changes include: 

  • changes to the advice function of the Integrity Commissioner, including that a chief of staff for a Minister or Assistant Minister must notify their Minister when seeking advice on an ethics or integrity issue involving themselves or a person advising the Minister or Assistant Minister; 
  • the Premier may now nominate a person, or class of persons, to receive ethics and integrity advice, with the nomination lapsing after 28 days; and 
  • amendments to the way in which lobbying is regulated, including mandatory registration for lobbyists, and mandatory training for registered lobbyists. 

Further to the regulation lobbying, most notably the prohibition of dual hatting also took effect on 19 April 2024. 

Councillor Conduct Tribunal 

On 7 May 2024, the Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) published its decision and reasons regarding alleged misconduct of a Councillor from the Moreton Bay Regional Council. The decision considered a complaint alleging the councillor had breached the trust placed in him as councillor because his conduct was inconsistent with the local government principle requiring the ‘ethical and legal behaviour of councillors.’  

The alleged misconduct involved the councillor breaching a policy which required the CEO to authorise any use of the council logo by external parties. The CCT heard that the councillor had instructed an employee to send the logo to a third party and explicitly requested the employee to “not ask anyone permission [hushing emoji].” The CCT noted the power imbalance between the councillor and the employee and held that sending the email was unethical and breached the trust placed in him as councillor.  

The CCT determined that the allegation of misconduct was substantiated, and the councillor was reprimanded.  

Independent Review of the Crime and Corruption Commission’s reporting on the performance of its corruption functions 

On 20 May 2024, the Report in the Independent Review of the Crime and Corruption Commission’s reporting on the performance of its corruption functions (the Report) was provided by the Honourable Catherine Holmes AC SC to the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence. The review, which largely responds to the impact of the High Court’s decision in Crime and Corruption Commission v Carne [2023] HCA 28, sets out 16 recommendations into the performance of the CCC’s corruption functions. These recommendations include: 

  • Recommendation 1 – the CCC may publicly report and make public statements in relation to corruption investigations if doing so is in the public interest;
  • Recommendation 4 – the CCC may prepare a report in relation to investigations of elected officials who have not engaged in corrupt conduct, provided the report is factual;
  • Recommendation 5 – the CCC may prepare a report on certain persons who have engaged in corrupt conduct;
  • Recommendation 7 – where an investigation reveals systemic corrupt conduct, the CCC may prepare a report and identify persons who have been named in a public hearing or fall into one of the categories listed under Recommendation 5;
  • Recommendation 8 – the CCC may prepare reports which identify persons who have been named in a public hearing or fall into one of the categories listed under Recommendation 5; and
  • Recommendation 12 – the CCC has the express power to make public statements relating to corruption investigations for one of the purposes listed, provided the identities of persons are concealed (some exceptions apply). 

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Authored by:

Daniel Maroske, Partner 

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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