Controversial changes to CMC passed in Parliament overnight
AFTER six hours of debate, the government passed its Crime and Misconduct Commission amendments late on Wednesday night, laying the first foundation for the new Crime and Corruption Commission.
Labor, Katter's Australian, Palmer United and the two independents, including Sunshine Coast MP Peter Wellington, voted no to the amendments, every government MP present, including assistant health minister Chris Davis, voted yes, Fairfax reported.
Earlier in the day, Dr Davis released the results of a ReachTEL poll he had commissioned for his electorate, which found 73 per cent of the 667 respondents wanted senior appointments to the crime watchdog to be bipartisan.
Dr Davis hinted he would be prepared to figuratively cross the floor of the Queensland Parliament and vote against the amendments, if he felt the Commission independence and strength had been weakened, saying he would,"make the appropriate statement" in line with his community's expectations.
But a briefing from Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie ahead of the vote, which detailed the government's concessions -among them, allowing the Parliamentary oversight committee, which is currently controlled by LNP MPs, to have veto power over appointments - eased Dr Davis's concerns and his "appropriate stand" was to vote with his party.
In a statement on Thursday morning, Mr Bleijie said the Government had listened to community consultation and accepted the majority of amendments recommended by the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee, including providing its oversight Committee the power to veto the appointment of commissioners.
"The new Crime and Corruption Commission will be a modern, unmuzzled watchdog that will fearlessly and effectively tackle serious crime and corruption in Queensland, something the old Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) was unable to do," Mr Bleijie said.
"It will be better equipped to go after the criminal Mr Bigs and corrupt officials, whatever their political persuasion.
"We are keeping our promise to Queenslanders that we would revitalise frontline services and restore accountability in government.
"The sad reality is the CMC was plagued with problems. Three independent reports all found serious issues with its internal structure, administration, culture and complaints handling processes.
"The CMC was being used as a political weapon by the Labor Party while being flooded by minor, malicious and vexatious complaints.
"Maladministration within the Commission also led to thousands of confidential and sensitive documents from the Fitzgerald Inquiry being made available to the public, potentially putting witnesses at risk, while others were accidentally shredded. It also lacked accountability and transparency.
"We are restoring integrity to an important body that was being abused."
- creating a new role of Chief Executive Officer, who will responsible for the CCC's administration
- overhauling the complaints process to allow the CCC to focus on its core activities
- giving the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee (PCMC) the power to veto the appointment of commissioners, mirroring the processes of most other jurisdictions, including New South Wales' Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)
Mr Bleijie said extra layers of accountability and transparency were also part of the restructure.
"The PCMC will no longer constantly hold its hearings behind closed doors.
"It will now hold open hearings under nearly all circumstances, meaning the CCC's hierarchy will be under more scrutiny than it ever has been before.
"They will be grilled by Members of Parliament of all political persuasions in front of the media and the community to ensure Queenslanders' interests are being protected.
"The Parliamentary Commissioner will also have the power to investigate complaints against the CCC, ending the old, unacceptable practice of allowing the Commission to investigate itself."
Mr Bleijie thanked everyone who had made submissions during the committee consultation process.
"Debate on this important issue was healthy and the Government accepted the majority of the Committee's recommendations," he said.
Accepted recommendations include:
amendments that expand the types of exceptional circumstances that exempt a complainant from submitting a statutory declaration, which includes anonymous whistle blowers
clarifying the new Commission's priorities - corruption and crime will be investigated equally