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Corruption watchdog urges ministers, bureaucrats to safeguard integrity

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The Crime and Corruption Commission has sent integrity reminders to the Palaszczuk Government as the Liberal National Party tries to keep up the pressure on Labor.

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CCC chairman Alan MacSporran has written to every minister, assistant minister and director-general, urging them to support the agency’s efforts to make Queensland resistant to corruption and attempted corruption.

In his letter, MacSporran repeated his concerns over the role and influence of lobbyists, political donors and consultants, who might seek to pressure government.

“There may be an expectation among some individuals or private sector corporations that they are entitled to special treatment,” MacSporran said, marking International Anti-Corruption Day.

It was recently revealed Labor-linked lobbyists were able to work from government offices during the election campaign however the government insisted that was neither unusual nor inappropriate. Several private sector figures, including Labor figure turned consultant Mike Kaiser, have also been given jobs in the bureaucracy, while the major parties continue to sell access to frontbenchers.

MacSporran’s comments come ahead of a scheduled review of the role of the Integrity Commissioner, Nikola Stepanov, who oversees lobbying laws but does not have any investigative powers and has been struggling with a booming industry.

The CCC is currently also the subject of a scheduled review, and MacSporran and Stepanov sit on a committee that has noted the increased integrity and corruption risks associated with the fast-tracked government response to the pandemic and recession.

While Labor was plagued by integrity issues last term, helping to bring down then deputy premier Jackie Trad, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk insisted there were no findings of corruption and her government had acted on all recommendations.

Nonetheless, the LNP Opposition now has a dedicated integrity spokeswoman, veteran frontbencher Fiona Simpson, who has sought to keep the issues alive. This has included Cabinet members’ use of private email addresses to communicate government business without being restrained by the rules on public records – last dealt with by the CCC in 2017.

The rules on public records, in most Australian governments, have not kept up with private emails let alone messaging apps. The LNP has yet to reveal any wrong-doing not already in the public domain.

Meanwhile, the government this week announced extra funding for the Office of the Independent Assessor to deal with a growing number of complaints about local government councillors.

Any reforms, and funding increases, for the CCC and Integrity Commissioner will be considered as part of their separate scheduled reviews.

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