Queensland’s deputy premier wants to meet with corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald to address his concerns about the government.
The Newman government wants to meet with the man who headed Queensland’s historic corruption probe to prove it’s not trying to return the state to its darkest days.
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney is seeking a meeting with Tony Fitzgerald, who led Queensland’s historic corruption probe in the 1980s, after he accused the government of abusing its power through its huge, unchecked majority.
Mr Seeney said he had great respect for Mr Fitzgerald, but some of the things he was saying about the Liberal National Party were wrong.
“I’ve asked my staff to invite him to come in and have a meeting with me,” the deputy premier told the ABC on Monday.
“I’d like to have an opportunity to explain to him the extent to which I share his concern that Queensland should not go back to the 1970s.”
He said he wanted to tell Mr Fitzgerald about the systems the LNP had put in place to ensure Queensland is governed in a way that’s entirely different to what existed before the Fitzgerald inquiry.
He cited reforms to the state’s corruption watchdog – which have been savaged by Mr Fitzgerald – as proof of the government’s commitment to open and accountable government.
“The changes we have made to the CMC, in my view, and in our government’s view, make the CMC a lot better. It focuses it on major crime, and it ensures the CMC can do the job that Tony Fitzgerald set it up to do,” Mr Seeney said.
“I want a chance to explain all that to Tony Fitzgerald, on a personal basis across the table, and I hope I can get a meeting with him to do that.
“I respectfully think he’s not right when he says we have a disdain for democracy.”
He said he’d listen to anything Mr Fitzgerald had to say about his concerns about the government.
Mr Fitzgerald has been a staunch critic of the LNP government over a long period of time.
On Saturday, he issued a new statement saying he didn’t expect voters to tolerate “destructive populism of an irresponsible government for long”.
“The LNP’s first term in office has confirmed the critical importance of adequate checks and balances,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
“The government has already flaunted its disdain for democracy and good governance by attacks on the judiciary and judicial independence, emasculation of the state’s anti-corruption commission and interference with the electoral system.”
He also accused the government of pursuing self-interest, favouring its supporters and passing “irrational, counter-productive and sometimes invalid” criminal laws.
He said Queensland was extremely vulnerable to the misuse and abuse of power, given a lack of constitutional limits on the state’s single house of parliament.
Without an effective parliamentary opposition, the checks and balances needed for democracy were missing, Mr Fitzgerald said.
“Queensland’s future is a matter for its voters,” he said.
“At the next state election, they will simply need to decide which party will do the least long-term damage.”
But Mr Seeney said the Newman government had done much to improve transparency and accountability.
He cited the reforms to the corruption watchdog, alongside the publication of ministerial diaries, and an enduring commitment to the parliamentary committee system that acts as kind of upper house in Queensland.
Mr Fitzgerald has been contacted for comment.