This month’s Corruption and Integrity Update considers a number of important developments within the Queensland landscape including the recent Issues Paper released by The Honourable Alan Wilson KC as part of his review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010; the publication by the Crime and Corruption Commission of a report on influence and transparency in Queensland’s public sector; a summary of the Coroners Court of Queensland’s Annual Report; a rundown of the latest published decision of the Councillor Conduct Tribunal; and recent government appointments including the Inspector of Detention Services, the Forensic Science Queensland’s interim advisory board, and the Deputy Chairperson of the Crime and Corruption Commission.
As summarised in the November 2022 Corruption and Integrity Update, the Attorney-General announced a review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (PID Act). The review will be led by The Honourable Alan Wilson KC and will be provided to the Attorney-General by 30 April 2023.
Under the Terms of Reference, the review will consider:
On 30 January 2023, His Honour released an Issues Paper relevant to his review. The Issues Paper seeks submissions to inform the review and sets out the issues for consideration alongside 44 questions to consider.
The questions range from matters such as the title of the relevant legislation, the scope of the PID regime, experiences of disclosers under the PID Act, and whether a person should be required to have a particular state of mind when reporting wrongdoing under the PID regime.
To guide submissions, the questions to consider are grouped into 10 categories:
Submissions are due by 5pm on Friday 24 February 2023.
On 30 January 2023, the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) released its first publication for 2023. The report entitled ‘Influence and transparency in Queensland’s public sector: Minimising the corruption risks associated with improper influence on government decisions’ notes the increased public attention on lobbying in Queensland, and highlights areas of continuing risk and opportunities for reform.
Throughout the report, while highlighting the strong framework already in place, the CCC proposes reforms to enhance Queensland’s integrity landscape and better ensure government decision-making aligns with public expectations. The proposed reforms include suggestions that the Queensland government:
To achieve this objective, the CCC proposes:
To achieve this, the CCC suggests government:
To achieve this, the CCC suggests government:
CCC Chairperson, Bruce Barbour noted the proposed reforms align with best practice in other jurisdictions, and, if implemented, would help to improve public trust and confidence that government decisions are not improperly influenced.
In preparing the report, the CCC sought comment from the Queensland Integrity Commissioner, the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Department of Justice and Attorney General, Department of State Development Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, Public Service Commission and the Queensland Audit Office. In response to its public discussion paper, the CCC received 54 submissions from community members, professional associations, advocacy groups, industry bodies, lobbying companies and private sector organisations.
The Coroners Court of Queensland (CCQ) Annual Report 2021-22 was tabled in Parliament on 16 December 2022.
The Annual Report provided a summary of the CCQ’s work relating to domestic and family violence, deaths in care and deaths in custody. Case studies were shared on themes arising from public interest inquests, as well as the experiences of First Nations peoples. Responses to historic coronial recommendations were also considered.
Statistically, the State Coroner noted that during 2021-22, 6,044 deaths were reported to the CCQ for investigation, representing the highest volume of deaths lodged with the CCQ in its history. The CCQ had a clearance rate of 101.2% throughout 2021-22 meaning more cases were finalised than were lodged with the CCQ. The State Coroner also noted that “the increase in the number of deaths reported has arguably also contributed to a reduction in the number of inquests held […]. This reflects the reduced capacity of coroners to undertake more detailed work as they respond to increasing numbers of complex cases.”
A public Facebook comment made by Councillor Dan Stewart of the Gympie Regional Council (GRC) was found to amount to misconduct by the Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on 12 December 2022.
The judgment, which relates to comments made on Facebook by Cr Stewart on 7 January 2022 about the departure of a staff member and a Settlement Deed that was entered into as a result, requires Cr Stewart to make a public admission as to his misconduct, complete training (at his own expense), and reimburse GRC for 25% of the costs incurred as a result of his misconduct.
The CCT ruled that “Cr Stewart knew, or should reasonably have known, that the existence of a formal agreement between the (staff member) and Council contained a confidentiality clause and was information that was confidential to council.”
In revealing the existence of a confidential agreement, Cr Stewart contravened section 171(3) of the Local Government Act 2009 (Qld). Cr Stewart also breached clause 6.1 of the Settlement Deed, which provided that “the existence and terms of this Deed are confidential”. Of particular note, the CCT indicated that this was the third time there had been misconduct findings against Cr Stewart in relation to confidential information he had released on Facebook.
In the wake of the Commission of Inquiry into Forensic DNA Testing in Queensland, two appointments have been made to Forensic Science Queensland’s new interim advisory board. Retired judges Julie Dick SC and Walter Sofronoff KC will co-chair the interim advisory board, which is intended to provide accountability, transparency, and governance oversight to support Forensic Science Queensland. The board will include representation from a broad cross-section of criminal justice stakeholders including government agencies, legal and scientific professionals, and victim advocacy representatives.
The Inspector of Detention Services Act 2022 (Qld) (IDS Act) received Royal Assent on 7 September 2022. Under the IDS Act, the Queensland Ombudsman will assume the new additional role of the Inspector of Detention Services (Inspector).
The IDS Act aims to improve detention services with a focus on promoting and upholding the humane treatment of detainees and the prevention of harm. Several parts of the IDS Act commenced by proclamation on 9 December 2022, supporting the appointment of the Inspector and providing the Queensland Ombudsman with a period to undertake establishment activities, including hiring staff, before commencing operations.
The focus of the Inspector will the prevention of harm rather than responding to complaints when harm occurs. This preventative focus will examine the systems and the lived experiences of people detained.
The functions of the Inspector under the IDS Act include:
The Inspector must have regard to the cultural background and vulnerability of detainees when carrying out the above functions.
Kathryn McMillan KC has been appointed Deputy Chairperson of the CCC for a five-year term.
As foreshadowed in the October 2022 Corruption and Integrity Update, Linda Waugh has been appointed as Queensland’s new Integrity Commissioner for a five-year term. She commenced in the role on 14 December 2022.
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Angela Szczepanski, Director
Daniel Maroske, Director