Corruption reports might be brought to light by reforms

Fraser Barton and Laine Clark |

Catherine Holmes examined what and how the CCC is able to report on matters before it.
Catherine Holmes examined what and how the CCC is able to report on matters before it.

A veil of secrecy surrounding a report on a former deputy premier might be lifted after an overhaul of a corruption watchdog’s powers.

Under proposed changes, Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) would be able to release reports on top officials retrospectively.

The commission would be allowed to report on politicians accused of misconduct even if found not guilty.

People might no longer be kept in the dark over reports after former chief justice Catherine Holmes released her almost 500-page, three month CCC review findings.

The Queensland government on Wednesday said it would adopt all 16 recommendations.

“This will enhance the transparency of my government, it will give the CCC reporting powers they don’t currently have,” Queensland Premier Steven Miles told reporters.

It could lead to the release of high-profile reports that have to date remained top secret, including a probe into the conduct of former deputy premier Jackie Trad.

Former chief justice Catherine Holmes
Ex-judge Catherine Holmes says her conclusions won’t please all but will set up a workable regime. (HANDOUT/ROYAL COMMISSION INTO THE ROBODEBT SCHEME)

Ms Holmes’ review was launched after a 2023 High Court decision ruled a corruption commission report on former public trustee Peter Carne was not subject to parliamentary privilege and could not be released.

An appeal was dismissed, ensuring the commission was not able to release other reports including one involving Ms Trad.

The former deputy premier had been accused of interfering in the recruitment of a senior treasury official.

Ms Holmes’ review, considered by cabinet on Monday, recommends the commission be able to release reports retrospectively when in the public interest.

“When faced with the situation where the CCC had been found to not have the power to report we have said we will give them that power and that we will make it retrospective, but it needs to be under appropriate circumstances,” Mr Miles said.

“So we have asked one of the state’s most respected legal experts what those circumstances should be and she has done a very good job of advising us.”

Asked whether the Trad report would now be released, Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said it would be up to the commission.

“This was not about whether any one report should or shouldn’t be released,” she said.

“This is about a framework that gets the balance right and … that we can as much as possible withstand any future legal challenges.”

Commission chair Bruce Barbour released a brief statement on Wednesday acknowledging the review.

Ms Holmes also recommended corruption reports on elected officials be made public even if serious conduct was not substantiated.

But they must be in the public interest, factual and contain “no critical commentary or expression of opinion concerning them”.

Ms D’Ath said the government was drafting instructions for the parliamentary council to usher the reforms into law as a matter of priority.

But the LNP opposition said the changes made the corruption watchdog “all bark and no bite”.

“Under what Labor is proposing, the curtains have been drawn again and the darkness is creeping back into the administration,” shadow attorney-general Tim Nicholls said.