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Corruption watchdog back in spotlight ahead of Queensland election


With Jackie Trad still under investigation, a parliamentary inquiry into the Crime and Corruption Commission has been widened and will continue into next term.

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It comes less than a month after the CCC announced it would investigate allegations then deputy premier Trad had interfered in a school appointment process. The announcement led to her resignation and a Cabinet reshuffle.

The CCC had been assessing the allegations, and whether to launch an investigation, for six months, having decided in September last year not to investigate other allegations that had also been left unresolved for some time. Trad has maintained her innocence and said she resigned to avoid becoming a distraction.

The Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee, which oversees the CCC, had already initiated a targeted inquiry into the watchdog’s performance, specifically how it assessed and reported on complaints about corrupt conduct. Members on both sides of politics have privately expressed concern over the lack of timeliness from the CCC, and its habit of announcing outcomes by media release.

However, with public hearings cancelled due the social distancing requirements in the pandemic, the committee has now decided to fold that inquiry into a much broader inquiry into the CCC. It will form part of a five-year review required under legislation, and due to report in 2021 – leaving the next government, whether Labor or Liberal National Party, to decide whether the CCC requires reform.

Committee chair and LNP frontbencher Tim Nicholls told InQueensland there were sufficient concerns over the CCC’s practices, as well as reports from the Speaker, Curtis Pitt, to warrant the initial inquiry.

“The committee felt it made sense to roll that inquiry – which had only just received material (from the CCC on its practices) – into the five-yearly review process,” Nicholls said.

A CCC spokesman said the agency would work with the committee to satisfy the requirement for a five-year review.

“These scheduled reviews are an important component of the PCCC’s oversight of the CCC and provides a framework for the CCC and others to identify areas for reform or improvement to enable the CCC to continue to deliver its essential services of combatting major crime and reducing corruption for the benefit of Queenslanders,” the spokesman said.

As always, corruption claims have been a simmering political issue in recent months, with LNP leader Deb Frecklington using the last sittings of parliament to unsuccessfully have Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk condemned for the performance of at least a dozen MPs, including her former deputy.

Trad will recontest the election, in her seat of South Brisbane, at the October state election. However, she recently told The Guardian newspaper the allegations and investigations had made for “a bruising time for me”. The CCC traditionally warns candidates not to misuse the complaints process for political purposes during an election campaign.

With parliament on limited sittings, at this stage, its committees may see the most action, with another inquiry looking at the government’s response to COVID-19.

The CCC inquiry was announced as another parliamentary committee completed its inquiry into the recent council elections and state by-elections, and problems the Electoral Commission of Queensland had reporting the results of vote counting.

Last month, InQueensland revealed evidence a new computer system being used by the ECQ could not be tested as planned because “coding resources” were locked down in Wuhan. That forced the ECQ to use a backup system.

The committee stopped short of making any specific recommendations, instead calling on parliament to note the evidence given to the inquiry.

“The committee notes the strategy being implemented by ECQ to secure system stability for the 2020 State general election in October, as well as the enhanced governance structure that has been put in place to ensure that outcome,” the committee said.

The government has yet to decide whether pandemic restrictions will require crowding mitigation measures, such as an increase in postal votes.

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