The Queensland government has been blasted in a new integrity report, with Annastacia Palaszczuk accused of fostering a “rotten culture”.
A review into culture and accountability in the Queensland government has revealed widespread failures, including bullying and a “disproportionate” influence of lobbyists on politicians.
The Let the Sunshine In report, headed by Queensland University of Technology vice-chancellor Peter Coaldrake and released on Wednesday, outlined integrity concerns within Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor government.
The state government has been under fire for months over perceived failures in how it shares information, how it makes decisions, and who wields influence over these matters.
The 101-page report made 14 recommendations, including stronger lobbying regulations, the proactive release of cabinet documents, enhanced integrity body independence and whistleblower protection to encourage a culture of openness “from the top”.
“Any good government, clear in purpose and open and accountable in approach, should have fewer integrity issues,” Professor Coaldrake said.
He noted “the current visibility of paid lobbying, with its impact on public perception, highlights a serious issue”.
Queensland University of Technology vice-chancellor Peter Coaldrake made 14 recommendations for the state government. Picture: Supplied
He said through data collected from the Queensland Lobbying Contact log, it was evident that lobbying activity increased prior to elections and this represented a “risk window”.
Professor Coaldrake said government officials could feel “pressured” by ministerial staff to tailor advice to suit the government’s agenda, with “unwanted impacts and loss of employment status for unwelcome advice”.
“All of these matters are compounded by a culture too tolerant of bullying, unwilling to give life to unfashionable points of view and dominated by the occupational hazard of all governments’ short-term political thinking.” Professor Coaldrake said.
“Part of the problem is an identifiable loss of capacity in the public service, which has been accelerated by what is now an over-reliance on external contractors and consultants.”
Professor Coaldrake called for the “proactive release” of papers to be published within 30 days of a final decision being made by cabinet as he highlighted failures in transparency.
He said the report findings included the efforts of senior public servants to deliberately suppress records and rename reports in an attempt to dodge right to information requests.
The report further recommended a “clearing house for complaints” and for the Crime and Corruption Commission to double down on major crime and public sector corruption.
This would create a portal for people to “bring their grievances and complaints about alleged corruption, administrative decisions and other customer complaints”, Professor Coaldrake said.
Opposition Leader David Crisafulli slammed Ms Palaszczuk over the integrity findings. Picture: Supplied.
Opposition Leader David Crisafulli slammed Ms Palaszczuk over the “scathing findings” that he claimed proved “rotten culture comes from the top”.
“A premier who has overseen a rotten culture that’s delivered rotten services to Queenslanders,” he said.
“When a culture rots through a government, it is no longer about serving the people, it’s about serving their mates. That’s when the services Queenslanders rely on – hospitals, putting a roof over their head, and law and order – descend into chaos.
“A royal commission must be held to end the integrity inferno burning through this state government.”
Deputy Opposition Leader Jarrod Bleijie said Ms Palaszczuk had overseen a toxic culture in her government for seven years and allowed it to fester.
“The fish rots from the head,” he said.
“There is one common denominator and that is the Premier.”
In a statement, Ms Palaszczuk said her government would accept and implement all of Professor Coaldrake’s recommendations.
“I wouldn‘t have asked him to do it if I didn’t want reform – we will accept all of his recommendations,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said her government would take on all of Professor Coaldrake’s recommendations. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
“They are bold, they are comprehensive and they are visionary and they are exactly what I want.
“The report will go to cabinet on Monday and we will begin work on implementing these sweeping reforms lock, stock and barrel.”
Professor Coaldrake was appointed in February by Ms Palaszczuk to lead the independent review following public pressure for an integrity review.
Four months later, Professor Coaldrake has received more than 320 submissions and held almost 100 meetings.
Just a day before the final report was unleashed, Ms Palaszczuk announced changes to strengthen lobbyist rules.
The “fundamental first step” includes tightening the reins on registration for anyone working for a lobbying firm.
Despite issuing a late-night statement on Tuesday, Ms Palaszczuk had not yet fronted the media by 10.45am AEST on Wednesday, putting out three unrelated tweets as the government scheduled 11 unrelated press conferences across the state.
A full list of Professor Coaldrake’s recommendations can be found here.