A former state official has dialled up the pressure on the Queensland government’s integrity record, claiming the public service is driven by a culture that prioritises protecting the ruling regime from embarrassment.
Ex-state archivist Mike Summerell – who left the role last year amid a furore involving Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s private emails – has drafted a bombshell statement slamming government MPs and public servants for their attitude towards transparency and public information.
Mr Summerell’s letter – published in The Courier Mail on Friday – follows the resignation this week of Queensland Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov, who, like Mr Summerell, made a complaint to the Crime and Corruption Commission regarding alleged public service interference in her job.
Ms Stepanov says the contents of a laptop seized from her office were deleted without her permission.
State government indicated the CCC was already looking at certain aspects of Ms Stepanov’s allegations, and indicated journalists should also direct their questions to that body in relation to Mr Summerell’s complaint.
She said she “absolutely encouraged” people who suspected any form of corruption to make a complaint through the act.
“I expect a very high standard for my ministers, for my assistant ministers and every single member of my government,” she said
“That is what I stand for, and the people of Queensland know that.”
Mr Summerell claims he was prevented from performing his duties properly between 2017 to 2021, having landed firmly in the public sphere after his blunt his assessment of the Mark Bailey ‘mangocube’ emails saga.
He had advised in 2017 that the controversial emails sent between Ms Palaszczuk and Mr Bailey in 2015 and 2016 should be retained for the public record, although they remain confidential.
One email that has been leaked shows the Premier inquiring about public service job applicant‘s political leanings before they were hired.
Ms Palaszczuk on Friday said
Mr Summerell says he feels his attempts to put the public interest in matters of integrity above career cost him his role as state archivist.
“In 2021, prior to my departure, I outlined my concerns in regard to potential inappropriate interference in my statutory role to the CCC in great detail,” Mr Summerell wrote.
“For many senior public servants in Queensland the concept of an impartial, apolitical and professional public service is career suicide.
“The concept of acting in the public good at all times as a guiding principle has been seemingly long lost.”
In a separate development, CCC boss Alan MacSporran also quit this week following of a damning assessment of his organisation’s performance.
State government said Mr MacSporran left of his own accord, and was not pushed.
Nonetheless, this development contributed to Mr Summerell’s decision to issue a statement, claiming both Ms Stepanov and Mr MacSporran were “individuals of the highest integrity and professionalism.”
He also echoed calls from State Opposition to establish an inquiry into integrity in the Queensland government.
Opposition leader David Crisafulli says a “Fitzgerald Inquiry 2.0” is needed.
“Sadly those who perhaps have most to fear from a renewed drive for integrity in government are the only ones with the power to strengthen the legislation supporting integrity in government in Queensland,” Mr Summerell wrote.
“In my former role, I firmly believed neither politicians or public servants should have the ability to “choose” what information they create or share with the public if it relates to decisions and actions they took on their behalf.
“There are of course valid exceptions to an open by default position, some things should remain closed, but the position should be open by default and closed by exception … because it is embarrassing or damaging to the government of the day isn’t one of those exceptions.”