On January 13th, ART sent a letter to all major parties contesting the Queensland election, the Liberal National Party, the Australian Labor Party, Palmer United Party, the Greens, and Katter’s Australia Party. This letter requested the commitment of all parties to the anti corruption principles espoused by ART. As responses from the parties come in we will publish them to this website for comparison.
Our letter to the parties reads in part as follows;
“ART has adopted the practice (most recently during the Victorian election campaign) of writing to political leaders at election time to seek their views on aspects of democratic government of particular concern and what action their parties propose in the new Parliament. We do so now on four matters in relation to the Queensland election on 31 January 2015 and will follow our usual practice of publishing our request and the responses received on our website (www.accountabilityrt,org ).
The first area of concern is that the effectiveness of Queensland’s anti-corruption body has been diminished by recent legislative changes. We consider that the new Crime and Corruption Commission will be a much less effective body than the former Crime and Misconduct Commission because, in particular, of the requirement that complaints must be made by way of a statutory declaration and the very restrictive definition of “corrupt conduct” that will limit the Commission’s ability to investigate allegations of corruption (For further details; see ART submission http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/documents/committees/LACSC/2014/CMOLAB2014/submissions/026.pdf ).
Second, the State lacks appropriate mechanisms for ensuring that the raising of funds by political parties does not lead to anti-democratic, if not corrupt, outcomes. Our particular concerns are the perception that access to Ministers can be purchased, and that all political donations remain undisclosed during election periods and many are never revealed. An expert panel has recently recommended major changes to electoral funding laws in NSW to overcome these and other defects in the law that have been exposed by inquiries of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in that state. These and other proposals should be the subject of a wide-ranging independent public inquiry in Queensland.
Third, while Queensland has the nation’s best Right to Information legislation, there are ways it can be improved – for example, by removing the exemption for parliament. It is of concern that an attempt has recently been made at the Commonwealth level to restrict freedom of information, and the issues paper published previously by the present government could lead to similar changes in Queensland. We seek undertakings that such changes will not be pursued.
And fourth, Queensland’s Public Sector Ethics Act and the Ministerial Code of Conduct specifically recognise the legal and ethical principles that
. public office is a public trust, and
. that holders of public office must, in exercising the powers entrusted to them, give priority to the public interest over any personal or private interests (http://www.premiers.qld.gov.au/publications/categories/policies-and-codes/handbooks/ministerial-handbook/appendices/appendix-1.aspx ).
We seek a specific commitment by all candidates for parliament to adopt, endorse, and act as required by, these principles; for example, by publicly committing to the The Fitzgerald Governance Principles.
We respectfully request a response on or prior to 23 January 2015.
The Hon. T.H.Smith QC