By Tom Armstrong. Edited for online by Rachel Riga.
A prominent Queensland lawyer has taken aim at the Queensland Government over changes to the State’s crime and corruption watchdog.
Controversial amendments passed in State Parliament last night give the Government power to appoint the head of the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) without bipartisan support.
Despite last-minute amendments giving the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee (PCMC) the power to veto appointments, criticism remains.
Law and Justice Institute of Queensland president Peter Callaghan, the body behind a 10,000-strong petition against the changes, says the involvement of the PCMC is disturbing.
Mr Callaghan says bipartisan leadership is crucial for the committee.
“It has to be the case that anyone, any citizen and particular any politician who has a complaint about corruption, should feel confident about making to someone who is freed from political association or at least enjoys the confidence of both sides of politics” he said.
Bipartisan support ‘hasn’t worked’: Bleijie
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie told ABC radio the old bipartisan approach was ineffective.
“If bipartisanship support has given us some of the recent chairmans of the CMC with the maladministration, then I think it clearly shows the great bipartisanship and holding hands in these appointments hasn’t actually worked,” he said.
But Mr Callaghan says the public needs confidence in the CMC.
“It is absolutely essential that the leader of the CMC be someone in whom everyone has absolute confidence and that cannot happen unless they are appointed with bipartisan support,” he said.
He says he worries the old leadership process was political and will not be solved.
“I have a newsflash for them – when you don’t have bipartisan support you’re still a politician, you’re still pollicising, and you’re still part of a political process,” he said.
Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk says the changes trash the legacy of former Justice Tony Fitzgerald, who himself has heavily criticised the amendments.
Mr Fitzgerald was the original overseer of the 1980s inquiry into crime and corruption in Queensland, which recommended the creation of the CMC’s predecessor, the Criminal Justice Commission (CJC).
Despite this involvement, Mr Bleijie has never privately sought to speak to Mr Fitzgerald on the topic.
“I’ve read plenty about what Mr Fitzgerald says about me and others and I have always maintained the position that I’m not going to get into the name-calling,” he told ABC radio.
“Unfortunately the debate in the last seven weeks did transpire into name calling which I didn’t participate in.
“I think it’s more of a reflection on the person that is doing the name-calling.”
Mr Bleijie says the adjustments will lead to a more effective and independent watchdog.
“It’s an organisation that needed reform,” he said.
“I have a very positive outlook on the [CCC] now going forward because it will continue to look after corruption and continue to look after major crime but will be accountable to the people.”
‘Law will be changed’
Mr Callaghan says last night’s decision will be challenged in the future.
“There will be further corruption – it will be exposed and at that time every member of the committee, every member of the Government who voted, will be asked ‘what did you do to prevent it?’” he said.
“When the question cannot be answered, then the law will be changed.”
However, Mr Bleijie says the new structure brings Queensland in line with the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in New South Wales and the Australian Crime Commission.
He says the new approach will draw the best people for the job.
“We’ll advertise – it will be a global advertisement and we hope that some great candidates come forward to run the new CCC,” he said.