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Corruption watchdog set to focus on government lobbyists

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Crime and Corruption Commission chairman Alan MacSporran says he wants “transparent safeguards” to prevent wrong-doing.

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In a budget estimates committee hearing today, MacSporran said he was heartened to learn that a routine review of the Integrity Commissioner would consider oversight of lobbyists.

The CCC has previously warned that interaction between lobbyists and the government is a corruption risk. MacSporran has published statements and written to ministers on the issue, as recently as last week.

MacSporran today revealed the CCC was planning to monitor lobbying activities more closely in future.

“That is going to be an area of focus for us for some time to come,” MacSporran told the committee.

MacSporran said “transparent safeguards” were needed to avoid any enhanced risk of corruption or misconduct, however he would not be drawn on potential solutions without further review.

Under questioning from the Liberal National Party, MacSporran said there had been no complaint to the CCC about Labor-linked lobbyists working from a government office building during the election campaign. He confirmed the CCC was considering information in relation to another Labor-linked lobbyist, former Brisbane lord mayor Jim Soorley, but would not comment further.

The committee also heard about electoral laws that ban political donations from developers, and the Supreme Court currently considering whether that definition would apply to businessman and party founder Clive Palmer. The Electoral Commission is separately reviewing some donations made to the LNP but commissioner Pat Vidgen gave no further detail today.

In the hearing, MacSporran was also asked about previous CCC investigations. He confirmed the CCC had not been aware that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had a private email account when it investigated Transport Minister Mark Bailey’s private email use, although he said it was not an uncommon practice. Having looked back over around 20 emails between the pair, mostly on weekends, MacSporran said he was satisfied the broader issue had been dealt with at the time.

“The content didn’t excite our interest,” MacSporran said of the emails between Palaszczuk and Bailey.

MacSporran also declined to name an MP who, in a CCC report on the appointment of a school principal, had set up a meeting with then deputy premier Jackie Trad, saying there was “no even hint of any wrong-doing”.

The committee heard evidence about the CCC and internal government investigation into former public trustee and Labor-linked lawyer Peter Carne, who was accused of being intoxicated at work, absent without notice and bullying staff.

Carne was paid $385,000 in salary, as well as almost $38,000 in post-graduate education expenses, in the year after he was issued with a show cause notice.

While Carne ultimately resigned in July this year, and will not face criminal charges, MacSporran said “we’re not quite finished with the matter yet”. He declined to elaborate.

MacSporran said that although the allegations were complex, he believed internal investigations should be efficient as possible to ensure taxpayer funds were not wasted on people with a case to answer.

“I do have significant concerns about that but bear in mind … there is a natural justice to follow,” MacSporran said.

The LNP Opposition has sought to maintain pressure on the Labor government over integrity issues.

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