Watchdog’s blast: Trad laws ‘watered down’

 

QUEENSLAND'S corruption watchdog has savaged the State Government's proposed conflict-of-interest laws sparked by Treasurer Jackie Trad's investment property scandal, claiming the crackdown didn't reflect its recommendations.

The laws would see ministers face up to two years' jail if they intentionally failed to disclose a conflict of interest or did not update their register of interests.

They were announced after Ms Trad did not properly declare a three-bedroom Woolloongabba home she and her husband bought near the $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project, which she managed.

But in a scathing submission published today, the Crime and Corruption Commission claimed the Government had ignored key parts of its recommendations.

The watchdog said the proposed new offences were too weak and would not stop ministers using their roles to gain a benefit.

It also warned the planned conflict-of-interest offence overlapped existing laws against fraud and misconduct in public office but is weaker.

This comes despite the Government claiming in November that the CCC was happy with the proposed new laws.

"An unintended consequence of the proposed provision may be to 'water down' the seriousness of conduct which may already amount to serious criminal offending, rather than strengthening the framework and obligations on ministers to avoid conflicts of interest," the CCC wrote.

 

Treasurer Jackie Trad
Treasurer Jackie Trad

 

"The CCC recommends that the requirement for proof of dishonest intent be removed.

"Making this misdemeanour an offence of 'strict liability' would appropriately recognise the lesser culpability where dishonest intent could not be proven, encourage transparency in the way ministers deal with conflicts of interest, and significantly contribute to reducing corruption risk."

The watchdog had recommended a criminal offence be created for when a Cabinet member did not declare a conflict of ­interest.

It also recommended that Parliament create a ­criminal offence for when a member of Cabinet failed to comply with the Register of Members' Interests, and the Register of Members' Related Persons Interests.

The CCC had recommended a penalty should apply for the latter offence, including possibly removing the member from office, if it was found their lack of compliance was intentional.

However the watchdog said the proposal ignored calls for a minister to be removed from office.

The body's submission also stated it was "very concerned" about the councillor conflict-of-interest changes.


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