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Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk fires back at integrity claims

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Annastacia Palaszczuk says she did “everything right” as Queensland Premier after confirming she had referred the integrity commissioner over misconduct allegations.

The referral reportedly came just weeks after Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov had raised concerns about interference from senior public servants, including claims a laptop was taken from her office and its “sensitive” contents were deleted.

A NewsCorp report claimed on Sunday the premier referred Dr Stepanov over two-year-old “low level” misconduct allegations weeks after the integrity chief had complained of Public Service Commission interference.

Ms Palaszczuk said she referred Dr Stepanov to the Economics and Governance Committee on advice from the solicitor-general “as soon as I became aware of matters” in April 2021.

The referral reportedly involved allegations of bullying and credit card misconduct, but the parliamentary committee that oversees the integrity chief’s office later decided to take no action.

The Crime and Corruption Commission is currently probing Dr Stepanov’s PSC interference claims.

The premier said there were limits to what she could say due to legal reasons but wanted to “get the facts on the table” when she addressed media on Sunday.

“The solicitor-general advised me that that was the correct course of action … I didn’t do it myself,” she said of referring Dr Stepanov.

“When I am given solicitor-general’s advice, I act on that advice.

“If I didn’t, it would be absolutely negligent.”

Liberal National Party leader David Crisafulli on Sunday accused the Premier of “a deliberate hit job to take out an independent officer asking probing questions about Labor lobbyists”.

Asked if she was aware of Dr Stepanov’s allegations of PSC interference before she sought the solicitor-general’s advice, Ms Palaszczuk said: “To my knowledge, no, but I will double check.”

“As soon as I heard about an alleged misconduct I took immediate action, that is my obligation as premier.

“I had to act. I did everything right as premier.”

Asked who had brought forward the allegations against Dr Stepanov, Ms Palaszczuk first said it was “irrelevant” before later claiming she could not comment for legal reasons.

However, the premier did urge the CCC to release an update on their probe into Dr Stepanov’s PSC interference claims.

“Certain matters relating to this complaint have been referred to the CCC, which continues its investigation,” she said.

“I think it would be helpful if the CCC could provide an update to the public on this investigation.”

Dr Stepanov, who will step down in July, has said the government cut her funding and staff, and even tried to have her removed.

But the Premier said she “never, never, never” wanted Dr Stepanov removed.

“I absolutely had faith in the job that she was doing,” she said on Sunday.

“I have personally no issues with the integrity commissioner.”

Ms Palaszczuk again rejected calls for a sweeping integrity probe despite a series of misconduct allegations being made against the government.

Meanwhile, the PSC denied they had seized anything from the integrity chief’s office.

“At no time did the Public Service Commission ‘raid’ the offices of the Integrity Commissioner, at no time did the Public Service Commission ‘seize’ anything from the Integrity Commissioner,” PSC CEO Robert Setter said in a statement.

“A laptop was provided to the CCC at their request.”

-AAP

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