The High Court has ruled that the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) in Queensland cannot publicly disclose allegations against a former senior public servant. This decision could potentially support a similar case brought by the state’s former treasurer.
Last year, the CCC was given permission to challenge a Queensland Court of Appeal ruling that the commission’s draft report on Peter Carne was not protected by parliamentary privilege and could not be released.
The CCC argued that the draft report, which detailed allegations against Mr. Carne, was subject to the parliament’s free speech privilege because it was submitted to the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee in June 2020.
The High Court’s full bench delivered its judgment on Wednesday, dismissing the appeal and ordering the CCC to pay costs. The court stated that the facts did not support the claim that the parliamentary committee intended to keep the CCC’s draft report for its own business purposes.
Former Queensland treasurer Jackie Trad is also involved in a legal battle with the CCC to prevent the release of a report on allegations that she intervened in the hiring process of a senior public servant in 2019. Ms. Trad’s case has been adjourned pending the outcome of the CCC’s appeal.
Following the High Court’s decision, the Queensland government stated that it is currently reviewing the judgment.
Peter Carne previously served as the Public Trustee of Queensland from 2009 to 2014. In this role, he held powers of attorney for individuals unable to manage their own affairs, managed deceased estates, and handled unclaimed money.
The High Court’s recent judgment highlighted that in June 2018, the CCC received an anonymous complaint alleging corrupt conduct and maladministration by Mr. Carne. The CCC initiated an investigation into these allegations after receiving further correspondence from the same individual in September 2018.
In April 2020, the CCC sent a letter to the Acting Public Trustee, containing various recommendations regarding the operations of the Public Trust Office. These recommendations covered topics such as the use of corporate credit cards, leave policies, development of external studies guidelines, and codes of conduct.