Queensland’s Liberal National Party has called for mechanisms to stop journalists reporting on complaints to the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission, saying people have filed complaints to give weight to flimsy corruption allegations in the lead-up to state elections.

The submission, which carries the name of state party secretary Angela Awabdy, comes after most of the country’s media organisations filed a joint submission denouncing the Crime and Corruption Commission’s suggestion in a discussion paper that the media should not be able to report on corruption allegations.

The LNP’s response to the same paper begins by noting the importance of freedom of speech as a “fundamental pillar” of a free society. But it continues to say there is “much to be said” for placing restrictions on publicising complaints made to the commission. The submission says Queensland has had “repeated abuses” of corruption complaints for “short term political advantage”:

“Time and again persons and entities involved in the politics of Queensland have made complaints alleging corruption on the part of a political opponent for the purpose … of being able then to publicise the fact that the complaint had been made. Their intention has been that the media should then disseminate the fact that the complaint had been made, often without details or an analysis of its merits.

“Having made and publicised the making of the complaint, the complainant has then typically hidden behind the Commission, saying that he or she can say nothing more because the matter is in the hands of the Commission. One result of this sort of conduct is that the subject of the complaint is then left to confront not so much an allegation to which some response might be made, but a report that an unparticularised complaint has been referred to the Commission for investigation.”

The LNP appears to be calling for some sort of injunction on media reporting of complaints to the commission, saying that history shows “the vast preponderance of instances of the publication of the fact of such complaints falls within the electoral environment, and mostly proximately to an approaching election”.

During the 2012 state election, Brisbane City Council referred complaints about Campbell Newman’s conduct while mayor to the then-Crime and Misconduct Commission. The commission found no evidence of misconduct on Newman’s part and dismissed the complaints, but not before they were widely publicised in the lead-up to the election.

More than 50 submissions were sent to the CCC about its paper. Some of these have not been released publicly. There is no submission from Queensland Labor among the public submissions. One body that did make a submission is NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption, in which Commissioner Megan Latham wrote that it hadn’t been ICAC’s experience that publicity had hindered its investigations, nor had complaints to ICAC in recent history been used for mischief-making during election periods.

Peter Fray

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