This month’s edition of the Queensland Corruption and Integrity Update considers the Integrity and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, the latest update from the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) regarding the progress towards the Coaldrake recommendations, recent CCT outcomes, an update on the PID Act review, and updates arising from the Office of the Independent Assessor public briefing.
Following our previous instalments, the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has recently published its third quarterly report (Report No. 3) on the implementation and delivery of the 32 recommendations set out in the Coaldrake Report.
Report No. 3 suggests that for recommendations 1, 8, 12, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 23 and 30, the balance of the recommendations remain either ‘in progress’ or ‘noted but not yet commenced.’ By way of substantive update over the last quarter, the CCC notes that:
The CCC will continue to publish quarterly reports relating to the progress of the implementation and delivery of the 32 recommendations.
On 30 June 2023 the CCC released its Strategic Plan for 2023-2027. The Strategic Plan identifies the key indicia identified by the CCC to measure its ongoing performance, including the percentage of corruption investigations resulting in significant outcomes, the corruption investigation clearance rate and the average cost per assessment of corrupt conduct.
The Plan also identifies mega trends expected to have an impact over the course of the next four years, including the rise of technology, climate change and sustainability, and geopolitical disruption, and strategic risks such as talent shortages, regulatory changes, and economic instability.
The review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld) (PID Act) conducted by The Honourable Alan Wilson KC has been completed, with the final report delivered to the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, the Honourable Yvette D’Ath MP on 19 June 2023.
While the final report has not yet been publicly released, the 64 public submissions received by the Review has been released. Submissions of note include:
On 16 June 2023, the Integrity and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 (the Bill) was introduced into the Queensland Parliament.
The Bill represents the second key tranche of legislation to implement the Government’s response to recommendations from the Coaldrake Report as well as the Yearbury Report, both of which supported measures to encourage ethical lobbying.
The Explanatory Note provides that aim of the Bill is to:
The Economics and Governance Committee is inviting any interested parties to make submissions by 5pm on Friday 21 July.
On 24 May 2023, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) released its decision in the matter of Devlin v Councillor Conduct Tribunal and Anor  QCAT 194.
By way of background, the CCT previously determined that three allegations relating to the applicant had been substantiated. The allegations suggested that the applicant had engaged in misconduct as defined in section 176(3)(b)(ii) of the Local Government Act 2009 (Qld). The applicant subsequently filed an application to review the decision of the CCT, and brought a corresponding application to stay the CCT’s decision until the determination of the substantive application had been made.
Having regard to section 22(4)(a) of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld), the QCAT member determined that a compulsion on the application ‘to make an admission of misconduct in circumstances where the applicant challenges the foundation upon which such an order has been made is a material matter, particularly given that it is at least strongly arguable that the making of an admission would not be remediable in the event that the review was ultimately successful.” Ultimately, QCAT ordered that the CCT decision be stayed in relation to two of the three allegations.
On 19 June 2023, the CCT released its summary of decision and reasons in a matter involving a councillor of Sunshine Coast Regional Council. The matter concerned allegations of misconduct relating to a possible breach of the trust placed in a councillor and the alleged influence or attempt to influence a local government employee in a matter contrary to section 175I(3) of the Local Government Act 2009 (Qld).
Having regard to the various fact the subject of the allegations, the CCT found that the relevant Councillor had appropriately disclosed all conflicts at the relevant times and that neither allegation could be substantiated. It was determined that the Councillor did not have the capacity to influence either the CEO or the relevant Council employees as alleged.
On 12 June 2023, the State Development and Regional Industries Committee held a public briefing for the oversight of the OIA. During the hearing, the Independent Assessor, Ms Kathleen Florian, provided an update on the work of the OIA and highlighted the significant progress made towards reducing the backlogs in resolving matters.
Ms Florian advised that the number of complaints received in the 2022-2023 financial year (856 at the date of the briefing), was consistent with complaint numbers in previous years. On average, 26% of all complaints made to the OIA are investigated as potential misconduct, with 4% referred to the CCT.
For the 2022-2023 financial year to the date of the briefing, the assessment team had assessed and communicated outcomes for 94% of all complaints within 21 working days, with investigators having reduced the average length of investigations to two months. The OIA had no investigation older than three months. Ms Florian advised that a key factor contributing to delays in investigations related to the time taken by parties to respond to requests for information or respond to notices, including requests for extensions and failure to provide responses by set deadlines.
Finally, backlogs and delays before the CCT and QCAT were flagged as an ongoing risk for the OIA, with Ms Florian noting that they had written to the department on 15 occasions to raise systemic issues, primarily relating to the need to build the capacity of councillors and councils to resolve matters independently of the CCT.
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Daniel Maroske, Director
Angela Szczepanski, Director
Anna Fanelli, Senior Associate
Georgia Bloxham, Graduate
Monica Baur, Paralegal
Max Drummond, Paralegal