How sweet! Not content with giving Sir Joh a state funeral, Queensland Premier Peter Beattie wants to create another memorial to the old crook. The Queensland Parliament is notoriously unaccountable. No upper house and no adequate committee system means that whoever controls the Legislative Assembly gets away with anything – as the Joh era showed. The Crime and Misconduct Commission is supposed to act as brake, but as we have reported, sceptical sunshine staters now say CMC simply stands for “Cheers, mate, cheers” – that a steady erosion of its powers has made it next to useless.
Beattie’s government has unveiled proposed changes to the Freedom of Information Act that will block access to any information prepared for, used in or obtained during sensitive investigations. The state opposition – rather memorably – claims the government is blatantly “sending controversial documents to the laundry,” while other critics say the measure will disable current Freedom of Information provisions.
The new rules also also act retrospectively – always a bad sign – and apply to duplicates of the same documents held within government departments once the amendments are introduced when parliament sits next week.
Proposed changes to Section 42 of the Act will provide a mechanism to usurp existing FOI powers and stop anything investigated by a prescribed crime body, including the Crime and Misconduct Commission, the former Criminal Justice Commission and the now defunct Queensland Crime Commission, or another agency, from being released.
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“Prescribed functions”, in relation to the CMC are “the crime function, and the misconduct functions.” The definition of “another agency” has been changed to “a board, council, committee or other body established by government and comprised within a government agency.” Section 114 of the legislation provides the power to stop existing applications under the same new rules.
The Courier-Mailhas carried forceful feedback from University of Queensland ethicist Bill de Maria on the subject. He says the legislation could ban the release of information given to royal commissions.
“Why is this Government needing to increase transparency restrictions when no other government in the nation needs to do this? There is something unusual happening,” the Courier-Mail quotes him as saying. “This is classic behaviour of a third-term government. It is acting with great hubris and arrogance to the great citadels of democracy, and Beattie has come to the conclusion he does not need democracy to survive. He is acting like an African dictator.”
Sorta fits with the third world health system revealed by the “Doctor Death scandal” at the Bundaberg Base Hospital. Oh yeah. The legislation would block access to material unveiled by the Royal Commission into that scandal, too.