Queensland premier apologises to whistleblowers



The Queensland premier is sorry public servants “felt” ignored when they blew the whistle on alleged misconduct.

The government is facing two misconduct probes, while there are currently inquiries into the state’s corruption, lobbyist and local government watchdogs.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has rejected calls for a sweeping integrity probe to look at a series of allegations about the government’s integrity culture, poor record-keeping and political interference in watchdogs.

However, she says she’s sorry whistleblowers “felt” they were ignored when they raised issues previously.

“There were some people who said that they felt that they weren’t listened to, and I apologise if they feel that way,” the premier told reporters on Wednesday.

“But we absolutely need to make sure that we have absolute confidence and Queenslanders should have confidence in the robust checks and balances that we have.”

Her comments come as two serious misconduct allegations against the government are being investigated.

The Crime and Corruption Commission is looking into whether senior public servants in 2021 took a laptop from Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov’s office and deleted its contents.

Dr Stepanov, who’s resigning in July, has also said the government cut her funding and staff, and even tried to have her removed.

The government strongly denies the latter claim.

Meanwhile, a Queen’s Counsel is probing misconduct allegations made by former state archivist Mike Summerell.

He’s alleged interference in his role and his reports, potentially leading to parliament being misled.

At the same time, separate reviews are looking at whether the CCC, the Integrity Commissioner and the Office of the Independent Assessor, the local government watchdog, are fit for purpose.

Ms Palaszczuk ordered a formal inquiry into the CCC last week after a scathing report in December on its botched probe into Logan Council.

That report led to the resignation of the corruption watchdog’s chair Alan MacSporran two weeks ago.

A parliamentary committee is probing former bureaucrat Kevin Yearbury’s recommendations to reform the Integrity Commissioner.

He said the lobbyist watchdog should be separated from the Public Service Commission.

The PSC currently controls the staff and funding for the Integrity Commissioner’s office.

Dr Stepanov supports a split, saying her role is vulnerable to the PSC.

“The current … arrangements have adversely impacted upon the Integrity Commissioner’s independence and ability to discharge the purpose and functions of the Act,” she wrote in a submission.

Acting CCC chair Bruce Barbour also supports laws being changed to declare the Integrity Commissioner as a public official.

“This will ensure that the Integrity Commissioner has certain obligations (for example, an obligation to notify the CCC of suspected corrupt conduct),” Mr Barbour wrote in a submission.

The premier said she had no issue with Mr Yearbury’s recommendations, but had to wait for the parliamentary committee to report to the government before she can act.

“We will we look forward to what the committee has to say about that,” she said.

The Office of the Independent Assessor, the local government watchdog, is also under review after a number of complaints about its probes from Queensland mayors.

That inquiry, which was sitting on Wednesday morning, has already heard the OIA is understaffed and still dealing with council misconduct complaints almost 20 months old.


We’ve Already Come Too Far To End This Now.

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