Queensland Corruption and Integrity Update – August 2023

7 September 2023
Daniel Maroske, Partner, Brisbane

The August edition of the Queensland Corruption and Integrity Update covers updates from recent estimates hearings and an update on the Integrity and Other Legislation Amendment Bill.

Estimates update

State Development and Regional Industries Committee

The State Development and Regional Industries Committee estimates hearing took place on 2 August 2023. The Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) and the Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) provided updates on the implementation of the recommendations from the Inquiry into the Independent Assessor and councillor conduct complaints system (October 2022). Of the 40 recommendations made, six of the administrative recommendations have been fully implemented and the OIA is working with stakeholders to consider and implement the following recommendations:

  • that the OIA publish its performance measured against the target timeframes in its annual report, and the Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning publish the CCT’s performance measured against the target timeframes in its annual report;
  • that future recruitment of CCT members also focus on candidates with high levels of experience in the local government management sector;
  • that the CCT resolve more matters quickly and efficiently, and on the papers, if the matters are not contested or involve an admission of fault;
  • that the President of the CCT develop and issue practice directions, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, to initiate change in practice and promote efficiency in determining matters;
  • that the OIA continue to publish the number of complaints dismissed or deemed to require no further action in its annual report; and
  • that the OIA consider recruitment of experienced former local government managers to provide a broader range of skills and outlook in the councillor complaint assessment process.
Legal Affairs Committee

The Legal Affairs and Safety Committee (LAS Committee) held its estimates hearing on 9 August 2023.

Of note was an increase in the budget of the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) of $15 million over the next four years to support the implementation of recommendations arising from the 2022 Commission of Inquiry, including an increase of the CCC’s technological capabilities, which has been highlighted in the recent Corruption Strategy.

The LAS Committee also considered the Carne v CCC matter, currently under consideration by the High Court. The Commissioner highlighted the importance of the proceedings, noting that the High Court is considering the provisions of the Crime and Corruption Act 2001 that permit public reporting, as well as parliamentary privilege and the importance of the role of the CCC in providing public reports on matters. The Commissioner stated that the CCC will consider any decision of the High Court and, if necessary, this may enliven potential legislative amendments, though the Attorney-General stated that it was premature to consider potential legislative amendments prior to any decision being made.

The investigations undertaken into Forensic and Scientific Services and the DNA inquiry were also raised. The Commissioner stated that the CCC could not comment publicly on operational matters, or the content of specific complaints, but noted that matters that were referred to the CCC following the commission of inquiry were ongoing.

The LAS Committee also specifically questioned the Attorney-General and the Commissioner in relation to the government’s policy position as to the Coaldrake recommendation relating to a single clearing house for government complaints. It remains unclear as to whether the government intends to implement this recommendation, however a clearing house was relevantly considered as part of the PID Act Review, with the ultimate conclusion being that a clearing house would not be the most efficient or appropriate format for the receipt and handling of PIDs.

Integrity and Other Legislation Amendment Bill Consultation

As we have previously covered, the Integrity and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (the Bill) seeks to implement public sector integrity reforms in response to the Coaldrake Report and the Yearbury Review, measures to strengthen the regulation of lobbying, and extend the jurisdiction of the Queensland Ombudsman. The Economics and Governance Committee (the EGC) held a public hearing on 11 August 2023 to consider the Bill and various submissions received. The EGC and stakeholders explored issues relating to the Bill, with their report on the findings (the Report) tabled on 1 September 2023.

The Report, which considered feedback received from stakeholders in the 16 submissions received, considered the public consultation and 16 submissions received from key stakeholders, noting that the submissions:

  • generally supported measures proposed to increase transparency and improve regulation of lobbying activity, though a number of submissions noted concerns with the definitions of what is and what is not lobbying activity, the requirements for registration, and measures relating to ‘dual hatting’;
  • generally supported measures to increase the independence of the identified statutory integrity bodies, though some submissions indicated concerns that the proposed amendments may not go far enough; and
  • while the principle of accountability in delivery of government services was supported, submissions indicated conflicted views as to the expansion of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction over non-government organisations.

Key stakeholders specifically raised the following matters:

  • Queensland Law Society (QLS): The QLS largely agreed with the changes of the Bill relating to what is lobbying activity and what entities are not required to be registered. QLS, however, highlighted that the inclusion of the term ‘substantial’ in the proposed s 58 of the Integrity Act 2009 (Qld) (the Act) may not prevent a lobbyist ‘dual hatting’.
  • Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC): The CCC supported the broadening of the definition of ‘lobbyist’ to include in-house lobbyists, but noted the definitions of ‘government representative’ or ‘Opposition representative’ fails to capture certain Members of Parliament and electorate employees.
  • Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ): The LGAQ noted it had no concerns with or recommendations to the Bill, with the provisions concerning local government representatives ‘working well and have stood the test of time’.
  • Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC): The OIC considers that the Bill does not go far enough to fully address the Recommendations contained in the Coaldrake Report which, among others, includes improved independence of officers of Parliament, the parliamentary committee to deal with all funding requests, and increased scrutiny on executive government decisions relating to the reduction of OIC funding.
  • Office of the Queensland Integrity Commissioner (QIC): The QIC was broadly supportive of the amendments in the Bill, however, noted that some amendments are not consistent with the Coaldrake Recommendations. Relevantly, these amendments include: definitions of ‘entity’, ‘official dealings’ and ‘third party client’; what lobbying is and is not; and s 58 and the dual hatting concerns highlighted by the QLS relating to professional services and lobbyists.
  • Office of the Queensland Ombudsman (OQO): The OQO is supportive of the Bill as it relates to the OQO with the Bill effectively implementing Recommendation 13 of the Coaldrake Report, expanding the jurisdiction of the OQO and its funding, as well as the parliamentary committee’s increased involvement in the administration and oversight of the OQO.

The ECG ultimately recommended that the Bill be passed, noting that the Bill had sufficient regard to the rights of individuals and Parliament.

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Authored by:
Daniel Maroske, Partner
Angela Szczepanski, Director
Anna Fanelli, Senior Associate
Monica Baur, Paralegal
Max Drummond, Paralegal
Catherine O’Connor, 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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