Annastacia Palaszczuk announces Queensland government culture and accountability inquiry
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced an independent review of culture and accountability in state government.
- Former QUT Vice-Chancellor Emeritus Professor Peter Coaldrake will lead the investigation
- Former archivist Mike Summerell says officials must be protected from retaliation for speaking out or the investigation will be meaningless.
- Investigation ‘will build on’ 2019 Bridgeman civil service review
The state government has been dogged for weeks by allegations of integrity, with several outgoing former officials calling for a thorough review.
A review has been supported by Queensland Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov, whose role includes regulating lobbying activities and providing confidential advice on ethics and integrity issues, and the former Archivist of State Mike Summerell, in charge of maintaining the public records.
Ms Palaszczuk cited her government’s history of integrity reforms, including real-time disclosure, lowering caps on political donations and banning donations from property developers.
“I want to assure the people of Queensland that I have listened and listened, and my government absolutely intends to act,” she said.
Emeritus Professor Peter Coaldrake, former Vice-Chancellor of QUT, will lead the review.
Ms Palaszczuk said he would look at six key areas:
- The culture of ethical decision-making and impartial advice
- The nature of the interactions between integrity bodies, the civil service and the executive
- Legislation that underpins the existing ethics and integrity framework
- The adequacy of systems to prevent ethics, liability and integrity issues
- Adequacy of training
- The speed of complaint resolution processes
The review is expected to last four months, with an interim report midway through.
Ms Palaszczuk has pledged to make both reports public and “will act on any recommendations”.
She said periodic reviews were good for the government, especially after a period of civil servants working from home.
“We have to do this review for good government,” she said.
“I thought about it for a long time.”
The government resisted calls for an inquiry for several weeks, with the opposition repeatedly calling for a commission of inquiry.
Ms Palaszczuk did not say when Professor Coaldrake was approached to conduct the review, only that she understood his chief executive had approached him.
Professor Coaldrake will be able to “talk to whoever he wants to talk to”, Ms Palaszczuk said.
She said this review would “build” on the 2019 Bridgeman civil service review.
This review concluded that the current resources of the Integrity Commissioner, who has budgetary and support arrangements under the Public Service Commission, were not adequate, and recommended that alternative arrangements be considered.
This has not been implemented in the past two years, although a similar recommendation is contained in another review by the Integrity Commissioner which is currently before the parliamentary oversight committee of the office.
Individuals must be ‘heard without fear of repercussions’
Opposition leader David Crisafulli said this type of inquiry would still not be enough and reiterated his calls for a full commission of inquiry.
“What we saw in the last month, every day there was a different scandal, every day there were not only allegations, but revelations, from respected people,” he said.
“They’ve been criticized. We’ve been told you can’t do a commission because there’s only ‘vibe’,” he said, referring to a comment from the vice premier. Minister Steven Miles.
Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov, who resigned and will step down mid-year, said she welcomed the announcement and appointment of Professor Coaldrake.
She said Prof Coaldrake had a deep knowledge and understanding of Queensland’s public sector and the move was an important first step.
“I note that the review will focus on the need for system-level reforms and will not seek to resolve individual complaints. This is appropriate for a review that does not have the full powers of a commission of inquiry,” she said.
“While the review is not intended to resolve individual complaints, in my view it is important that individuals have the opportunity to be heard as part of the review process, and that they can do so without fear. repercussions.”
‘I hope the terms of reference will provide Professor Coaldrake with the widest possible scope to conduct his review, in the public interest.’
Mr Summerell, who alleged interference with his annual reports and is currently being investigated by outside counsel, also hailed and praised the Prime Minister for ordering the inquiry.
He said a key requirement will be the protection of officials to speak about integrity issues “without any fear of reprisal or consequences”.
“Without those protections, it will be a meaningless investigation,” he said.
“To date, the only consequences have been aimed at those who raised these issues.
“To date, a message has been sent that is hardly conducive to a meaningful investigation of these issues.”