Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission boss is worried that plans to limit anonymous tip-offs from the public could hamper corruption investigations.
A fake Tahitian prince and jailed former minister Gordon Nuttall may have escaped justice if a proposed overhaul to Queensland’s corruption watchdog had been in place at the time.
Under the plan, the public will no longer be able make anonymous tip offs, except when their safety, property or career is threatened.
But it was secret tip-offs that resulted in the downfalls of the fake prince, former Queensland Health financial manager Joel Barlow, for stealing $16 million from taxpayers, and Nuttal, a former Labor health minister, for receiving corrupt payments.
Barlow was convicted in 2013 and is serving 14 years in jail. Nuttal, convicted in 2009, is serving seven years.
In recent years, about seven per cent of complaints to the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) were anonymous, acting chairman Ken Levy says.
“The commission believes that the strict wording of this clause may inhibit the ability to efficiently investigate some complaints of serious corruption,” Dr Levy told a public hearing into proposed legislation on Wednesday.
“Therefore some flexibility may be considered in this area.”
Dr Levy found an ally in his predecessor, Ross Martin, QC, who asked for corruption reporting barriers to be removed.
“Imagine if an anonymous or detailed complaint came in, and it could do nothing about it and some time later the complain became public and it became known that the CMC had the complaint and couldn’t act upon it,” he said.
“The position would be manifestly absurd.”
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has argued statutory declarations are needed to ward off baseless, dishonest and vexatious complaints, which had overwhelmed the CMC.
More than 35 people and groups have made submissions to the Liberal National Party government’s proposals.
Many were concerned that bipartisan support would no longer be needed for chief appointments.
A suite of reports leading up to the bill didn’t recommend the change, and Mr Bleijie’s director-general John Sosso didn’t elaborate on motives.
“It was a policy decision of the government,” he told the hearing.
Independent MP Peter Wellington alleged the government had no evidence to prove the existing system wasn’t working.
“I have a concern (that it) enables the government to appoint people to the leadership team because they will do the government’s bidding,” he said.
Five former part-time commissioners, in a joint submission, also criticised the move: “We observe that is the bill is enacted in its present form, it will not be possible for executive government, or anyone else, to credibly claim the CMC is independent of government.”