** This article has been republished courtesy of The Courier-Mail **
Fighting corruption could be made harder if a proposal to ban reporting on allegations against candidates in local government elections is implemented, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says.
The Crime and Corruption Commission has recommended making it an offence to publish any details of a matter before it relating to mayors, councillors and candidates during the poll period.
The watchdog wants a three-month blackout period to investigate whether any of the allegations have merit but the move would make it impossible for the media to report on allegations during local government elections.
Ms Palaszczuk, writing in The Courier-Mail today, says she would consider the watchdog’s recommendation but was worried it would make it harder to fight corruption.
She said her Government respected the role and independence of the CCC and would consider the report and its recommendations.
But Ms Palaszczuk said: “I am very concerned that the new offences proposed by the CCC’s inquiry … might deter those who can expose corrupt behaviour from doing so.”
Ms Palaszczuk noted that next year would mark the 30th anniversary of the Fitzgerald inquiry, which was commissioned after the “trailblazing reporting by Phil Dickie at The Courier-Mail” and other reporting that followed: “Thesemedia reports were based on the information of whistleblowers and those aware of, but not subservient to, The Joke (police taking bribes) and other corrupt practices in Queensland at the time.”
University of Queensland law professor Graeme Orr said he would prefer no change to the CCC’s functions and therefore transparency.
“I can understand it’s a difficult balance to strike but the change could cause a situation where a group of society is kept in the dark (about corruption allegations) before they are to case their vote,” he said.
But Griffith University’s Paul Mazerolle said the change “was a necessary evil”.
Local Government Association of Queensland chief executive Greg Hallam said the CCC’s proposal would prevent corruption allegations being made for political gain.
The Opposition said it was yet to consider the proposals.
The move came as the Government yesterday announced a review of the state’s Right to Information Act and Information Privacy Act.
The review is considering whether or not the laws are adequate and whether they should be widened to cover government-owned corporations and the documents of third parties doing work for the government.
For more news from NewsMediaWorks, click here.