Qld premier warns over committee leaks

Marty Silk |

The Queensland premier has warned of potentially “serious criminal consequences” for those who try to blow the whistle on her bid to have the integrity commissioner investigated.

Annastacia Palaszczuk referred Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov to a parliamentary committee over old bullying and misconduct claims last year.

Her referral came two weeks after Dr Stepanov formally complained that a laptop had been taken from her office by senior public servants and wiped without permission.

The Economics and Governance Committee has been silent about the status of the referral, but the opposition Liberal National Party wants an explanation with Dr Stepanov also having no objections.

But Ms Palaszczuk is warning that anyone who leaks confidential committee material about the matter could be breaking the law.

“Breaches of those confidentiality protections constitute offences, which attract serious criminal consequences under the Act,” the premier told parliament on Tuesday.

Committee deputy chair and LNP MP Ray Stevens moved a motion on Monday to release material about the Stepanov referral, but the outcome is unclear.

Meanwhile, Professor Peter Coaldrake has revealed his review of overall government integrity won’t hear individual complaints.

In response, Dr Stepanov called for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate all integrity complaints involving independent statutory bodies, watchdogs and individuals.

“Noting that the fear of legal action and other repercussions are commonly held concerns of whistleblowers, in my view only a full Commission of Inquiry would be able to afford potential witnesses the necessary legal protections required to overcome these concerns,” Dr Stepanov said in a statement on Monday.

Former state archivist Mike Summerell, who’s also complained of interference in his record-keeping role, said individual complaints must be heard.

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said complaints should be referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission.

“The CCC is Queensland’s standing commission of inquiry,” she said. 

“It has all of the powers of a royal commission. 

“Legal protections for whistleblowers exist under the Public Disclosure Act, introduced by a Labor government.”

However, LNP integrity spokeswoman Fiona Simpson said it was clear whistleblowers wanted a proper Commission of Inquiry.

“There is no excuse left for the attorney-general and her premier,” Ms Simpson said in a statement.

“Perhaps the attorney-general and her premier should start paying attention and start listening.”

There are also two other probes, and three separate reviews, currently underway involving integrity in the government, the public service and the state’s four integrity watchdogs.