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About face: Premier admits mistakes in handling of integrity issues

Politics

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has admitted her government could have done a better job acting on integrity issues, saying she wanted the public to have confidence in her commitment to accountability.

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Under constant fire in recent weeks over claims by senior public servants of political interference in their work, Palaszczuk said she did not want Queensland’s bureaucrats to think the government would ignore any concerns they had.

Her comments signal a big shift in the government’s handling of the integrity crisis, which it has claimed up until now was largely due to Opposition ‘mud slinging’.

Palaszczuk said her director-general, Rachel Hunter, would write to all the state’s public servants today to remind them of their obligations to report integrity concerns.

“I acknowledge some things could have done better,” she said.

“Some people don’t think they were listened to and I don’t want that.

“I want the public to have confidence in our robust institutions in this state.”

She was speaking after the state’s former archivist, who claims he was pushed out of the job over his concerns of interference, called for the release of a secret report into a minister’s email scandal.

Among a number of concessions on the integrity controversy, Palaszczuk said the government was consulting wit the Crime and Corruption Commission on whether the report should be released.

Former state archivist Mike Summerell says there was interference in his record-keeping role, potentially resulting in parliament being misled.

He has now revealed that his confidential 2017 report into a scandal involving Transport Minister Mark Bailey using his private email accounts for official business still hasn’t been released.

“I considered the Minister Bailey investigation was one of significant public interest and that there would be an expectation that the report would be made public,” Summerell said.

The Crime and Corruption Commission cleared Mr Bailey of wrongdoing, but the former archivist said the government has been sitting on his report for more than four years.

Summerell said the government should release the document to show that it still values integrity, transparency and accountability.

In another concession, the Premier said a Queens Counsel wold not investigate Summerell’s claims rather than Rachel Hunter, admitting Ms Hunter was concerned about perceptions of a conflict of interest.

The QC investigation would be kept “at arm’s length from the government” and their report released without any oversight from the government, she said.

Apart from Summerell’s claims, outgoing Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov alleges a laptop was taken from her office and wiped, and that the government tried to have her sacked.

The CCC is investigating Dr Stepanov’s complaint.

Summerell later praised the Premier’s about face, saying she deserved a lot of credit.

“I hope it is the start of an true Integrity legacy for the Premier and I hope she grasps the opportunity to continue to lead in this space,” he said.

 

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