Friday, April 26, 2024

LGAQ concerned over new CCC inquiry

The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has voiced its increasing concern over delays in the implementation of recommendations from the previous Commission of Inquiry relating to the Crime and Corruption Commission chaired by the Honourable Tony Fitzgerald AC KC and the Honourable Alan Wilson KC.

The most recent progress report into the recommendations, published in December 2023, noted legislative amendments to be introduced “in early 2024.”[1]

The LGAQ is concerned that today’s announcement by the Queensland Government of a further Commission of Inquiry will only seek to further delay the work needed to reform the Crime and Corruption Commission, the Association said in a statement today.

“People’s lives were destroyed and the reputation of our chief corruption watchdog was brought into significant disrepute,” said LGAQ CEO, Alison Smith.

“It has been over 18 months since that report was handed down, which included key recommendations urgently needed to overhaul the remit of our State’s corruption watchdog.

“The LGAQ and our members support a strong and independent anti-corruption agency as a vital check and balance on democracy in Queensland.

“But that can only happen when these critical legislative reforms are introduced and passed.”

The LGAQ CEO says implementation of the recommendations “was urgent in August 2022”.

“As we head into the next term of local government, we have grave concerns about how much longer this will take to ensure that the lessons from the past are learnt and never repeated,” she said.

“We also must not forget the real human cost of the litany of failed CCC prosecutions.

“There has been no apology, and no compensation paid to date.

“Queenslanders deserve to have a corruption watchdog that is unbridled from it’s recent failings, not a pile of reports that simply gather dust.”

The LGAQ is seeking assurances that today’s new Commission of Inquiry will not delay the reforms recommended from the previous Commission of Inquiry.

The Queensland Government today announced former Chief Justice of Queensland, Catherine Holmes AC SC, will lead a three-month independent review to examine the CCC’s ability to publicly report in relation to corruption matters.

“The Miles Government acknowledges the need to legislate new reporting powers for the CCC, while also recognising that publishing reports relating to individual corruption matters raises complex legal, ethical and human rights issues,” the Government said in a statement.

“That is why a review has been initiated to ensure that any legislative amendments strike a proper balance between the rights of the individual and the broader public interest. The issue of whether any legislative amendments should be made to operate retrospectively will also be specifically considered.”

Premier Steven Miles said striking the right balance between allowing the CCC to do their job while also protecting the human rights of individuals was important.

“The appointment of The Honourable Catherine Holmes AC SC will ensure full consideration of the complex legal issues involved as well as the human rights implications and provide government with recommendations about reporting in other cases,” said Mr Miles.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Yvette D’Ath said that while was a clear public interest in the CCC being able to publicly report on corruption matters, what should be reported and the parameters of that power was a complex matter.

“The CCC has highly coercive investigative powers, and its reports and statements can cause significant prejudice to individuals who are not otherwise subject to criminal or disciplinary action,” she said.

“That’s why we are taking action with a short, sharp and targeted independent review that will consider the legal and human rights implications of such reporting.

“The government has been carefully considering this complex issue, and now is seeking external advice, separate from politicians, and who better to provide that advice than former Chief Justice, Catherine Holmes.”

The review’s Terms of Reference have been tabled in Parliament today. 

Ms Holmes’ recommendations will be delivered to the Attorney-General by May 20 and then considered by Cabinet and released in full.

[1] https://www.ccc.qld.gov.au/sites/default/files/Docs/Publications/CCC/coi-implementation-quarterly-report-5-dec-2023.PDF

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