- by Graham Holton
- The Guardian
- Issue #2047
Photo: Kgbo – Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
In 1987 the Fitzgerald Inquiry, The Commission of Inquiry into Possible Illegal Activities and Associated Police Misconduct, began investigations into the corruption by the Queensland police and government ministers.
The inquiry lasted 2 years, with three members of parliament imprisoned and the police commissioner, Sir Terry Lewis, who was also jailed, losing his knighthood. The commission tabled more than 100 recommendations in the Queensland parliament, including the establishment of the electoral and administrative review commission, the criminal justice commission and the need to reform the police force.
The findings contributed to the end of the National Party of Australia’s 32 years in power in Queensland. The corruption within the police force was so bad that in an Australian film, Dirty Deeds (2002), the American gangster, played by John Goodman, says the corruption was worse than in Chicago. Unfortunately, much needed changes were still forthcoming.
In January 2022 Qld Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, and Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman, announced a new Commission of Inquiry (COI), under Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC), to be chaired by retired Supreme Court Judge, Alan Wilson QC and conducted by Tony Fitzgerald QC, who had headed the earlier inquiry into systemic corruption in the Queensland police force 36 years earlier. Fitzgerald QC established the Criminal Justice Commission, renamed the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee, to continue the inquiry. The new commission of inquiry, with the powers of a royal commission, originated from the Palaszczuk government’s response to a damning report into the CCC’s handling of a Logan City Council case.
In August 2022 Fitzgerald QC handed down 32 recommendations to correct the systemic issues within the CCC, including the need for investigators to seek legal advice before laying charges and strategies to reduce the number of police officers seconded to investigate CCC cases. The Corruption Operations unit included 18 seconded police officers and 11 civilian staff with policing backgrounds. The percentage of seconded police making up the Queensland CCC’s workforce was 23 per cent, compared with South Australia’s ICAC with 12 per cent, the ACT’s Integrity Commission with 6 per cent, WA’s CCC with 2 per cent and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) at just 3 per cent.
On the 8th March 2023 the CCC delivered its second quarterly report, Implementation and Delivery of COI Recommendations, covering 9th November 2022 to 20th January 2023. Its investigation found the Queensland Police Service (QPS) engaged in discriminatory recruitment practices to address the low number of women, 26 per cent, within the QPS to achieve a 50 per cent female recruitment target by October 2018. Females were recruited over male applicants, who had “performed to a higher standard across entry assessments,” to achieve the target. It lowered the cognitive assessment standard for female applicants, allowing female applicants, who had failed aspects of the physical assessment, to progress. Such discriminatory practices prevented 2000 male applicants from progressing through the recruitment process. The senior executive of the QPS were allegedly unwavering in their pursuit of the 50 per cent female figure. Disciplinary action against senior staff was taken to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Services.
On 13th February 2023 the Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) published its findings of misconduct against Toowoomba Regional Council Councillor, Wayne William Cahill, and Brisbane barrister, Salvatore “Sam” Di Carlo. At a Council Meeting in 2017, Cr Cahill allegedly failed to declare that his wife owned land close to land proposed to be acquired by the Toowoomba Regional Council for development. The CCT held that Mr and Mrs Cahill were likely to gain a benefit from the proposed acquisition and development of the land.
In January 2023, a senior Queensland Police officer, from the Operations Support Command, was charged following allegations of “serious” misconduct, allegedly driving under the influence while on duty. The male senior constable, after a two-vehicle crash in Yamanto, had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.177 per cent. The officer was stood down from duty and appeared at Ipswich Magistrates Court in February. The QPS said the Queensland Police Integrity Framework, 2020, commits all members to “consciously being an ethical role model for their peers” requiring them to act “professionally at all times and operating within the boundaries of legal, policy, and organisational constraints.”
Following the death in Custody of a 51-year-old Aboriginal man on 9th November 2022, at the Aboriginal Shire of Kowanyama in north Queensland, three police officers were transferred. The Ethical Standards CCC investigation continues.
Complaints against the behaviour of police officers can be made to the Queensland Police Service and the Crime and Corruption Commission.
Reports can be found at: ccc.qld.gov.au/publications