The Queensland LNP are refusing to accept any other candidates than former Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney as chair of the PCCC and have asked for reasons why he is not suitable. Alex McKean responds to this request.
The Queensland LNP on Wednesday rejected Labor's suggestion for the new chair of the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Commission (PCCC), again forwarding Premier Campobell Newman's burly sidekick Mr Jeff Seeney MP for the role.
The ABC summarised the situation as follows:
The stand-off continues over who should chair the powerful committee which oversees Queensland's corruption watchdog after the Government's choice was knocked back.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was prepared to put forward in Parliament this afternoon Liberal National Party (LNP) MP Trevor Watts, who is already acting deputy chair of the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee.
The LNP rejected the recommendation and are refusing to withdraw their first choice, former deputy premier Jeff Seeney ....
Mr Springborg said the Premier needs to properly explain why Mr Seeney is not suitable ....
Ms Palaszczuk maintains that Mr Seeney is an unacceptable appointment, which is traditionally held by a non-government MP for accountability.
"The former government sacked the PCCC but not only that, in the past the member for Callide has been quoted as admitting to being a tactical liar," she said.
... Mr Seeney told the committee that the nomination should be accepted.
"I don't think it's appropriate for the Government or the Premier or the Leader of the House to say we don't like that particular person — 'you know we don't like Seeney, he's a rude bastard'," he said.
There are many excellent reasons why Mr Jeff Seeney, member for Callide, should not be appointed to any role on the PCCC, let alone be chair. These reasons have little to do with Mr Seeney being a "rude bastard", or even a "tactical liar".
The most cogent reason Mr Seeney should not be the chair of the PCCC is the damage his occupation of that position would do to that already fragile committee and the seriously compromised body it oversees — the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC).
The principal functions of the PCCC are to:
- monitor and review the performance of the functions and the structure of the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC or the Commission);
- report to Parliament on matters relevant to the Commission; and
- participate in the appointment of Commissioners of the Commission.
The chair of the PCCC plays an important role in ensuring these functions are performed in a manner consistent with promotion of the independence of the CCC from government and its continued effectiveness as the premier anti-corruption body in Queensland. Public confidence in both institutions hinges upon that being, and being seen to be, the case.
It has become fashionable for contemporary conservative governments in Australia to appoint individuals to lead institutions who are not just skeptical of the usefulness of such institutions, but have actually called for their abolition.
This leaves partisan supporters of the government in (usually very highly paid) key positions, undermining the usefulness and independence of the institution and severely damaging public confidence in its effectiveness.
An example is the appointment of former IPA director Tim Wilson to the position of Human Rights Commissioner, not long after the IPA had called for the HRC to be abolished. This practice is unprincipled and ought be discouraged.
Mr Seeney’s prior actions and statements demonstrate his hostility toward the anti-corruption regime in Queensland and hence his unsuitability as PCCC chair.
While many members of the LNP expressed their unhappiness, with some reason, with what they saw as an effort by the Bligh Government to use the then Crime and Misconduct Commission to dig up dirt on Campbell Newman, in the lead-up to the March 2012 election, Mr Seeney appeared particularly incensed.
Shortly after that election, Mr Seeney said he had a personal determination to speak to Mr Ross Martin, then head of the CMC, about the role the CMC had played in the election.
Mr Martin had been appointed not long before the election, with the bipartisan support of the PCMC, but against the objections of senior LNP leadership, including Mr Seeney.
Soon after the election, the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Commission (PCMC) was tasked with investigating the involvement of the CMC in the March 2012 poll.
In May 2012, the PCMC reported on that investigation.
The report concluded there should not be any legislative ban imposed on the CMC to prevent it from making public comments during an election campaign, saying it would
‘... fly in the face of the independence of the CMC.'
The PCMC was then chaired by then LNP MP Dr Alex Douglas and was composed of MP’s from across the political spectrum, with a majority of members from the LNP.
But the then Deputy Premier Seeney appears to have been unwilling to accept the verdict even of his own party.
By September 2012, he was saying the LNP Government would look at legislation to prevent the CMC from becoming involved in the political process. This statement was made in response to the CMC publicly confirming it was investigating a public servant, who turned out to be Mr Ben Gommers, son of then Arts Minister Ros Bates.
It had been revealed Mr Gommers had scored a job at A08 level, being paid up to $103,000.00 per annum, along with an exclusive carpark at Mineral House, despite Premier Newman earlier decreeing a freeze on public service permanent and temporary appointments.
Mr Seeney said the CMC had once again “allowed itself to be used in the political debate”, adding that the developer donation claims were part of Labor's “horrendous campaign” against Mr Newman in the run-up to the election.
Mr Seeney called on the CMC to “immediately dismiss complaints that are obviously part of the political argument” and flagged potential legislative changes if the CMC did not change its approach.
During his tenure as deputy premier, Mr Seeney was not above using the CMC for his own political purposes.
On 27 September 2012, Mr Seeney said:
“The genuine complainant would not use the fact that they have made a complaint in the political argument. Anyone who is genuinely concerned about something can make a complaint to the CMC and not broadcast it to the world.”
With breathtaking hypocrisy, Mr Seeney went on in June 2014 to broadcast to the world the fact that he had referred documents allegedly given to him by Clive Palmer to the CMC.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Mr Seeney’s dealings with the CMC and PCMC was the support he gave to the Premier when Mr Newman sacked the entire membership of the PCMC in November 2013.
Mr Newman took this step when the PCMC was investigating the contradictions between the evidence of Dr Ken Levy, Acting Chair of the CMC, and Mr Lee Anderson, the Premier’s chief media advisor, about an opinion piece Dr Levy wrote supporting the Government’s anti-bikie laws.
But the Government said the PCMC had done itself in when members called for Dr Levy to quit before its investigation into his testimony was complete.
Mr Seeney said the level of bias that had been on display meant the PCMC simply could not perform its functions.
He told parliament:
"This parliament has the responsibility to make sure that the composition of the PCMC is such that it can carry out the functions."
This proposition, at least, is something upon which all reasonable minds should agree.
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