Qld premier defends bid to probe official

Marty Silk |

The Queensland premier has defended her failed bid to have misconduct claims against the integrity watchdog probed.

Annastacia Palaszczuk referred bullying and credit card misconduct claims against Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov to a parliamentary committee last year.

At the time, the premier’s department was probing Dr Stepanov’s complaints of political interference in her office.

The commissioner alleged that senior public servants raided her office and confiscated a laptop and later wiped the device

The Economics and Governance Committee told the premier it had no role in assessing her allegations about Dr Stepanov.

Ms Palaszczuk says she was told she was legally obligated to refer the integrity commissioner and the committee can explain why it decided not to investigate Dr Stepanov.

“I want answers to this as quickly as possible as well,” the premier told reports on Monday.

“Now obviously, there are matters before the committee, I cannot talk about those matters.”

She didn’t comment on whether she thought it was strange that the complaints had been made two years after the alleged misconduct.

“The solicitor-general had all of the advice provided to him and he gave me the clear advice, after he had all of the advice in front of him, that I had to act,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“And it was clearly up to the committee to either investigate it, dismiss it, or ask for further questions.

“They are questions for the committee.”

The Crime and Corruption Commission is still probing Dr Stepanov’s allegations regarding the laptop, which belonged to her assistant Sara Rancic.

In months leading up to the Public Service Commission raid, the commissioner had repeatedly requested for a forensic examination of the device.

She was concerned about the handling of documents on the laptop, such as declarations of interests of lobbyists, public servants, ministers, chief executive officers and statutory office holders.

Ms Palaszczuk insisted that she wanted to the CCC probe into the raid to be finalised as soon as possible.

“I would like these results as quickly as possible, in the public interest,” she said.

“I absolutely would like to see a resolution to all of these issues as quickly as possible.”

The premier has thus far rejected calls for a sweeping integrity probe despite a series of misconduct allegations being made against the government.

The Queen’s Counsel is also investigating misconduct allegations made by former state archivist Mike Summerell, who alleged interference in his role and his reports, potentially leading to parliament being misled.

There are also separate reviews looking at whether the CCC, the Integrity Commissioner and the Office of the Independent Assessor are fit for purpose.

Dr Stepanov, who is resigning in July, took to social media on Monday morning to thank her supporters.

“I really appreciate your comments and support,” she wrote on LinkedIn.

“It is entirely to be expected that, as part of any meaningful change process, there will be ebbs and flows.

“However, those ebbs and flows should not dissuade open and transparent discussions.

“Let’s all continue to be brave.”