Corruption and Integrity Update – October 2023

8 November 2023
Daniel Maroske, Partner, Brisbane

The October edition of the Corruption and Integrity Update considers proposed legislative amendments to the Crime and Corruption Act 2001 and the Information Privacy Act 2009, provides an update on the CCC’s progress in implementing commission of inquiry recommendations, and details the outcomes from a CCC audit into the management of lobbyist contact within public authorities. The update also sets out details of the Commission of Inquiry to examine DNA Project 13 concerns, as well as a recent Councillor Conduct Tribunal finding.

Crime and Corruption Amendment Bill 2023

Following the recent High Court judgment in Crime and Corruption Commission v Carne, the Crime and Corruption Amendment Bill 2023 (CC Bill) was introduced on 11 October 2023. The primary purpose of the CC Bill is to remedy the deficiencies in the reporting powers found in CCC v Carne, so that CCC reports arising from corruption investigations (including high-profile reports currently not yet published) can be provided to the PCCC, the Speaker and the Minister and tabled in parliament. Calls for submissions on the CC Bill are expected to be made shortly, with the final report not due until 11 April 2024.

Information Privacy and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023

The Information Privacy and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 was introduced on 12 October 2023. The policy objective of the bill is to make changes to Queensland’s information privacy framework to protect personal information and provide appropriate responses and remedies to data breaches and agency misuse of personal information. The Bill also makes legislative amendments to support the operation of the scheme that will provide for the proactive release of Cabinet documents.

Written submissions on the Bill are due on 3 November 2023, with a final report due 24 November 2023.

CCC undertakes audit of public authority contact with lobbyists

In 2022-2023, the CCC undertook an audit to identify areas of improvement for the management and recording of contact between government representatives and lobbyists. A subsequent publication has been released to assist public authorities identify and address the risks relating to regulated lobbying: Meetings with Lobbyists: Are you adequately minimising corruption risks?

The audit outlined that public authorities can strengthen their frameworks by:

  • identifying risks relating to improper influence by lobbyists in the risk register;
  • improving guidance provided to government representatives about contact with lobbyists;
  • amending contact forms to enhance accountability and transparency;
  • implementing controls to enhance checks when dealing with lobbyists and former senior government representatives; and
  • improving recordkeeping of meetings with lobbyists to comply with the Integrity Act 2009 and Public Records Act 2002.

Commission of Inquiry to examine DNA Project 13 concerns

Following the Commission of Inquiry into Forensic DNA Testing in Queensland, a new Commission of Inquiry to examine DNA Project 13 was established on 5 October 2023. The Inquiry, overseen by Dr Annabelle Bennett AC SC, follows a number of sentencing appeals on the basis of potentially flawed DNA evidence and is expected to run for six weeks.

The review of Project 13 was amongst the recommendations made by Walter Sofronoff KC in the previous Commission of Inquiry. Public hearings commenced in the Commission of Inquiry on 30 October 2023, with evidence indicating that a senior scientist raised concerns about Project 13 the night before testing of an automated system for DNA collection was commenced.

The Commission is scheduled to provide a report and recommendations by 17 November 2023.

Councillor Conduct Tribunal

On 30 October 2023, the Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) released its decision and reasons relating to allegations of misconduct by the Mayor of Cloncurry Shire Council. The allegations concerned conduct that was said to be inconsistent with the local government principles of ‘transparent and effective processes, and decision-making in the public interest’ and ‘ethical and legal behaviour of councillors and local government employees’ and related to an alleged failure to deal with conflicts of interests regarding procurement policies appropriately.

In finding that misconduct had occurred, the CCT noted that while the Mayor had a ‘personal policy’ of not tendering for Council’s work while he was an elected official, he nevertheless had a greater interest in the changes to the procurement policy than the other councillors, and that his interest as a partner in the supplying company could be in conflict with the public interest. The CCT noted that his failure to disclose was not motivated by malice or impropriety, but under a mistaken belief that he was permitted to conduct himself in a certain way and ordered that the Councillor attend training or counselling, at his expense, to address the conduct within 90 days of the decision and reasons being provided.

CCC Implementation of COI recommendations

Following our coverage in the June 2023, March 2023 and November 2022 editions of the Corruption & Integrity Update, the CCC has recently published its fourth quarterly update on the ‘Implementation and delivery of COI recommendations’.

In the most recent update, the CCC notes that the following recommendations are now complete:

  • that adequate resourcing to be provided to the CCC to implement the Training Strategy and Plan and to employ a Training and Development Officer on a permanent basis (Recommendation 14);
  • that adequate resources be provided to the CCC to establish the new Corruption Strategy and Prevention unit (Recommendation 18); and
  • That the CCC and Director of Public Prosecutions develop a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines practices and procedures for the referral of matters (Recommendation 26).

The recommendations that have not yet been completed largely remain in progress, with various actions taken towards implementation in the relevant period.

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Authored by:
Daniel Maroske, Partner
Anna Fanelli, Senior Associate
Monica Baur, Solicitor

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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