All government MPs sitting on a corruption watchdog oversight committee failed to turn up to a meeting where they would have had to vote on whether to release costs relating to former deputy premier Jackie Trad’s legal action.
- Four Labor MPs did not attend the committee, meaning a quorum could not be reached
- Parliamentary committees perform a similar role to senate committees at the federal level
- Both the opposition and the Labor-affiliated CFMEU have spoken out against the government’s perceived lack of action
The Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee (PCCC) was due to meet on Thursday over whether to publicly release the legal bill incurred by the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) in court action brought by Ms Trad.
Ms Trad has taken action in the Supreme Court to have a CCC report withheld from public release.
It is not known whether the report makes any findings against Ms Trad.
Taxpayers are funding some or all of Ms Trad’s legal costs but the details of those and the CCC’s legal bill remain secret.
In a move the committee chair has branded “extraordinary,” the four Labor MPs sent their apologies ahead of the PCCC meeting and did not turn up, meaning a quorum could not be reached and the meeting could not go ahead.
The chair of the PCCC, LNP member Jon Krause, told reporters it was “disappointing the government members haven’t seen fit to show up to integrity matters in Queensland”.
Queensland does not have an upper house, so committees are tasked with investigating issues and reporting back to parliament, scrutinising legislation, and monitoring bodies like the CCC.
Last month Labor members of the committee blocked an attempt to reveal the legal costs incurred by the CCC in Ms Trad’s court action.
The watchdog has provided its Parliamentary oversight committee with details of its legal bills so far, but Labor’s committee members opposed releasing it because the matter was ongoing.
That meeting was postponed until today, with Mr Krause saying he “would have consulted with other members of the committee about a new meeting time”.
“These are matters both on the public agenda but also the private meeting that needed to be dealt with in the committee, important matters, and it’s disappointing they haven’t been able to show today,” he said.
“It’s an extraordinary move.”
He said the CCC had not indicated the information relating to the legal costs should be kept from the public.
“I’m trying to enhance the committee process and having information held up in committee which the CCC in this case have clearly said should be made public could be considered an abuse of process, an abuse of the government’s majority on committees.
“What you have just seen here is emblematic of the government controlling all the committees in parliament.”
The committee consists of seven members – four Labor MPs, and three LNP MPs, including the chair.
Asked why she was not able to attend the meeting, Labor MP and committee member Jonty Bush said she had other appointments.
“The reality is, we did have other appointments this morning and that was made known last night,” she said.
“It is a really busy week for us, regrettably as you’d understand. Very happy to work with the committee, of course, and work with them about getting some future dates up and keep the work progressing.”
The other Labor MPs who did not show up were Jess Pugh, Jennifer Howard (who was substituting for Jimmy Sullivan) and Don Brown (who was standing in for Melissa McMahon).
In response to questions from the ABC, Mr Brown replied: “I don’t discuss committee business, especially PCCC.”
“At 8.30am I was doing my whips job, which is what I do at that time before every sitting day,” he said.
The other Labor MPs have also been contacted for comment.
MPs who are members of a parliamentary committee currently receive an additional salary of $25,118 per year – taking their total annual wage to $191,074.
‘Government has displayed a terminal reluctance to do anything’: CFMEU
A union boss has also hit out at the state government, saying it has not taken meaningful action on political lobbying.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Michael Ravbar — the state secretary of the CFMEU, a Labor-affiliated union — said if the Premier was serious about restoring public trust, “she must move swiftly to excise this cancer”.
“The CFMEU raised this issue at the last Labor State Conference, yet regrettably the Palaszczuk government has displayed a terminal reluctance to do anything more than hope the problem will go away,” he said.
Last week the CCC revealed it found a small number of key groups and individuals appeared to have a “disproportionate amount of access” to the government and may be using those relationships to “influence government decisions”.
Asked in parliament about his comments, Ms Palaszczuk said she has previously spoken about looking at tightening the requirements around lobbying.
“I’ve said publicly, and I’ll say it again today publicly, I absolutely do believe that we need to tighten up some of those definitions around lobbyists,” she said.
“I cannot be clearer, Mr Speaker.
“Peter Coaldrake is due to bring down a report very soon and the government will be acting.”
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