In an interview with Steve Austin on ABC Radio this week (Tue 16 Feb), the Member for Cairns, Rob Pyne again called for an inquiry into local government corruption in Queensland.
In today’s sitting of Parliament Mr. Pyne tabled documents including ‘public interest disclosures’ that make NEW allegations of corrupt conduct, bullying and harassment.
The above documents add to material tabled in December calling for an inquiry into local government. Mr. Pyne, who tabled allegations of misconduct, corruption and breaches of the Local Government Act (Qld) in October said, “If the material tabled in October and December opened the door on wrongdoing in local government, the material I tabled today should blow the door off its hinges.”
“I have been contacted by numerous residents from across Queensland, who have supported the call for an inquiry into Council corruption. These people have supplied my office with a significant new material.
Mr. Pyne, who in October was joined by Tablelands Residents Jason Ward and Lyn O’Connor in relation to concerns regarding Tablelands Regional Council (TRC), again teamed up with Ward, O’Connor and scores of other Queenslanders concerned about the administration of their local council. Pyne and Ward advised they also met with a number of senior academics concerned with corruption in local government and the appalling treatment of council staff. Council is the heart of local communities. It is often the biggest employer, and where a lot of apprentices and graduates start their careers. Council’s should support community groups, and empower their staff to feel valued, safe and supported. Unfortunately what is happening is often quite the opposite.
Councils owe a duty of care to their staff and the number of people who have been dismissed and damaged because of the bullying and toxic nature of certain councils. Unions are also reporting increased activity in contacts, and increased fear of retribution, without access to a dedicated bullying jurisdiction, as available to most Australia workers under the Fair Work Act.
The CCC has consistently failed to identify and punish wrongdoers and a judicial inquiry should be established, with all the required powers. Transparency and accountability must be a cornerstone of our governance process, and documents I have tabled in our Parliament show this is not the case in Queensland.
In a recent article in the Australian slamming the CCC, Professor Timothy Prenzler said, “The current approach is overly elitist. Ordinary complainants and whistle-blowers are treated dismissively, and the people of Queensland are badly let down. A major restructure is required to ensure optimal legitimacy and effectiveness.” Pyne agrees, saying “Most complaints about Councils are referred back to Councils, so they can investigate themselves. How anyone can defend such a process is beyond me.” Pyne concluded, “There is no politics in this, indeed the councils concerned range across the full spectrum of political leanings. An inquiry without ‘fear or favour’ is required to get to the ‘root of the allegations and identify systemic weaknesses, so remedial action can be taken to ensure accountability and transparency.”