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Accountability and transparency (or the lack thereof) major issues in Qld election

16 February 2015

On 8 January, in the lead up to the Queensland State Election, The Australia Institute wrote an open letter to the leaders of Queensland’s political parties asking each to commit to the principles of accountability and good governance put forward by The Honourable Tony Fitzgerald AC QC.

“The erosion of accountability and transparency has damaged democracy in Queensland,” the letter began. “Successive governments have become too close to industry lobbyists and representatives, particularly from the resources industry, undermining public trust in the political process.

“The (now former) government has weakened Queensland’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Crime and Corruption Commission, and used its almost unlimited constitutional power to legislate without regard to proportionality or individual liberties.”

Among the 50 prominent Australians to sign the letter were EDO Qld CEO Jo-Anne Bragg and EDO Qld Principal Solicitor Sean Ryan.

The principles the parties were asked to commit to were:

1. Govern for the peace, welfare and good government of the state.

2. Make all decisions and take all actions, including public appointments, in the public interest without regard to personal, party political or other immaterial considerations.

3. Treat all people equally without permitting any person or corporation special access or influence.

4. Promptly and accurately inform the public of its reasons for all significant or potentially controversial decisions and actions.

Katter’s Australian party sent a lengthy list of its core values and principles, which included voting or governing in favour of peace and welfare.

The Palmer United party’s federal leader, Clive Palmer, and Queensland state leader, John Bjelke-Petersen, emailed the Australia Institute and said they supported the principles “100%”.

Labor’s response, sent by (the now former) deputy leader of the opposition, Tim Mulherin, agreed to all four principles.

After the LNP missed the deadline to respond to the Open Letter, Campbell Newman gave an impromptu commitment to the principles at a televised debate, however, provided no detail on what that means in practice.

Read the responses from all parties that responded by the deadline.

On 9 February, just over a week after the election, Brisbane was host to top legal and anti-corruption experts at the Accountability and the Law: Safeguarding Against Corruption in Queensland conference, organised by a group of Queensland lawyers, with the support of The Australia Institute.

The Hon. David Ipp AO QC, former ICAC commissioner who oversaw the investigations relating to corrupt coal licence allocations in NSW, was the keynote speaker.

The conference examined vital accountability issues in Queensland, including recent changes to the Crime and Misconduct Commission (now known as the Crime and Corruption Commission), judicial appointments, resource assessments, political donations and issues relating to the influence of lobbyists.