In this edition of the Corruption and Integrity Update, we cover the appointment of a former judge as Chair of the new Complaints Oversight Board, analyse the various annual reports published by the Queensland Integrity Commissioner and the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee, and consider the Crime and Corruption Commission’s review into the proceeds of crime regime. Finally, we take a look at recent Councillor Conduct Tribunal determinations, and highlight an instance of ‘fake lawyering’.
In September 2023, the Queensland Government renewed its commitment to implementing the complaints clearing house as recommended by Professor Peter Coaldrake in his June 2022 Report. On 28 November 2023, Premier Palaszczuk announced that former District Court Judge, Mr Michael Forde, has been appointed to oversee the development of the new Complaints Oversight Board. The Complaints Oversight Board will include members from government agencies involved in the management of complaints, including the Information Commissioner, the CCC, and the Queensland Ombudsman.
The Office of the Queensland Integrity Commissioner (OQIC) has released its Annual Report for 2022-23 which highlights the work of the OQIC over the last financial year.
The Report referenced the amendments to the Integrity Act 2009 throughout the year, including changes to:
A key activity of the OQIC in the past year has been the development and implementation of the new Lobbying Register, which was launched in May 2023. The new Lobbying Register was a recommendation in the 2021 Strategic Review of the Integrity Commissioner’s Functions by Mr Kevin Yearbury as the previous register was deemed not fit for purpose.
During 2022-23, the OQIC:
The Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee (PCCC) has released its Annual Report for 2022-23 which contains details of the PCCC’s oversight of the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) during the last financial year.
During 2022-23, the PCCC:
The report also highlighted the PCCC’s focus on the CCC’s ongoing reform work and its response to the High Court’s decision in Crime and Corruption Commission v Carne  HCA 28.
Earlier in the year, the CCC commenced a review of the Criminal Proceeds Confiscation Act 2002 (Qld) (the Act), following findings of inquiries that there was scope for reform. The Act currently authorises and empowers specific public officials to apply to the Supreme Court to restrain or forfeit assets that are believed to be derived from or connected with criminal offending, with or without a criminal conviction, and then disposed of by the Public Trustee. In the 2022-23 financial year, orders made under the Act resulted in:
On 24 November 2023, the CCC released a discussion paper to support a public consultation on the Act.
The CCC has broadly identified that Queensland’s asset confiscation regime contains a number of intersecting challenges and the discussion paper identifies three areas as the most significant challenges or issues for potential reform:
Submissions are to be made by Friday 22 December 2023.
On 20 November 2023, the Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) released its decision and reasons in relation to 14 allegations that a councillor engaged in misconduct pursuant to the Local Government Act 2009 (Qld) (the Act).
The allegations variously related to alleged breaches of trust for failing to ensure the accuracy of their Registers of Interests (ROI), as required by the Act and related Regulations. The CCT found that the obligation to provide an update to the ROI arises on the 31st day after an interest arises.
Seven of the allegations could not be sustained on the basis that any non-compliance was deemed to be ‘so minor as to be trivial’ and could not be considered a breach of the trust in him as a councillor in circumstances where the councillor held an ‘honest but mistaken belief that his conduct had complied with the law.’ The remaining seven allegations were substantiated as the conduct was more serious, demonstrating ‘a stark ignorance of the Commonwealth laws regarding proper conduct of company officers,’ and constituted a breach of trust, whereby the conduct was not consistent with the local government principle of ethical and legal behaviour of councillors.
Within 90 days of the CCT’s decision, the councillor is required to make a public admission of misconduct at an ordinary General Council meeting, attend training or counselling at their expense to address their conduct, and pay the council an amount of $2,167.20 as a penalty.
On 21 November 2023, the CCT released its decision and reasons regarding an allegation that a councillor engaged in misconduct pursuant to the Act.
The allegation was that the councillor, following a meeting with the Acting Director of Infrastructure, advised their daughter the council might investigate the possibility of the use of labour hire in the future, and invited a submission on the services that the labour hire company her daughter worked at, Company X, could offer. In this communication, the councillor provided her daughter with contact details for two relevant council officers.
The CCT found that, on the balance of possibilities, the councillor provided an external party with information acquired in, or in connection with, their function as a councillor, and that providing their daughter with the information constituted a ‘misuse’ of the information. The CCT considered whether there was a benefit as a result of this misuse of information, given that Company X was the only local labour hire company and would have been considered first in any procurement process, and, while the council was not aware of Company X at the time, the CCT ultimately determined any benefit was irrelevant because the key issue in the matter was the councillor’s conduct. Having regard to the relevant matters, the CCT found that the allegation could be sustained.
The councillor is required to make a public admission at a general meeting of the council that they engaged in misconduct, and attend training to address their conduct, at their own expense.
In the recent District Court decision of Arulogun v Legal Services Commissioner  QDC 207, an appeal against a 12-month prison sentence was allowed and the sentence imposed was reduced, following an earlier plea of guilty to providing legal advice while misrepresenting himself as a lawyer.
While the appellant holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the Queensland University of Technology, he has never been admitted to the legal profession as required by section 24 of the Legal Profession Act 2007 (Qld) for those wishing to engage in legal practice in Queensland.
Charges were brought by the Legal Services Commissioner (LSC) following his representation on the website Airtasker that he could provide ‘litigation process, commercial, IR and HR and government consulting’ and ‘workplace relations and employment advice from $50.’ Through this website, the appellant provided advice to over 33 people and earned approximately $8,126.00 in fees. These representations came to light following the attempted use of his advice in a 2020 trial.
The appellant plead guilty to a total of 65 charges brought by the LSC:
The District Court found that the Magistrate’s original decision erred in rejecting delay as a mitigating factor during sentencing, in circumstances where sentencing occurred 22 months after the appellant had given undertakings to the Supreme Court. During this period, he did not reoffend and abided by his bail conditions.
The 12-month prison sentence was reduced to nine months by the District Court, though the necessity of a prison sentence was also re-emphasised in view of aggravating factors arising from a prior criminal history of fraud and drug offences, the deliberate and sophisticated nature of the numerous charges brought by the LSC, and the ‘paramount’ importance of public confidence in the legal system.
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Daniel Maroske, Partner
Anna Fanelli, Senior Associate
Safira Dashwood, Paralegal
Cameron Beavis, Vacation Clerk