Major reforms for Queensland corruption watchdog

The Queensland government will adopt all the recommendations of an independent review into the reporting powers of the state’s corruption watchdog.

Former chief justice Catherine Holmes was tasked with examining what and how the Crime and Corruption Commission is able to report on matters before it, and recommends 16 reforms to the performance of its functions.

Ms Holmes’ three-month review came following a High Court decision and precedent in the 2023 matter of former public trustee Peter Carne.

It ruled a CCC report into Mr Carne was not subject to parliamentary privilege and could not be released.

The government then committed to expanding the CCC’s reporting powers when it came under fire over the release of an anti-corruption report involving former deputy premier Jackie Trad, accused of overruling an independent selection panel to ensure her own pick as under-treasurer in 2019.

Ms Trad later won a court battle to keep secret the watchdog’s report, with the Supreme Court in October ordering Ms Trad’s application against the CCC to be dismissed after all parties accepted the state’s law would not allow its release.

Justice Holmes’ review, considered by cabinet on Monday, recommends the power to release reports retrospectively when in the public interest.

“There is logic in saying that the standard of fairness and compatibility with human rights recognized in the recommended changes should also apply retrospectively,” she said.

“On that basis, reports and public statements which would have been valid had they been made pursuant to the powers now recommended should be given retrospective effect.”

The review also recommends the ability to report on elected officials accused of corruption even if not found guilty.

Additionally, it’s recommended elected officials may be the subject of a report even if corruption allegations are not proven, provided the report is purely factual and in the public interest.

Ms Holmes found reporting against an individual where there has been no finding of corrupt conduct “cannot ordinarily be justified” but for a number of reasons, elected officials should form an exception.

However if they have been found not guilty of any corruption-related offense, “reporting in relation to them should be confined to the purely factual.”

Ms Holmes recommends the watchdog be able to report to dispel allegations of corrupt conduct because “that is in the interests of public confidence in the integrity of the public sector.”

Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said the government would usher in laws as a matter of priority to empower the CCC.

“There is a clear public interest in the CCC being able to report on corruption matters,” she said on Wednesday.

“This is vital for the transparency and accountability of our democratic institutions.

“The Miles government has supported all of Ms Holmes’ 16 recommendations and will work swiftly to introduce legislative amendments.”