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Queensland premier orders review into ethics of public service decision-making

Queensland’s premier has ordered a wide scale probe into government accountability and workplace culture after weeks of questioning about integrity watchdogs.

Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Friday she had appointed Prof Peter Coaldrake, former Queensland University of Technology vice-chancellor, to lead the review.

The premier has faced sustained questioning about misconduct allegations involving the government, the public service and the state’s four integrity watchdogs.

Palaszczuk has decided to turn the microscope on the government itself and the public service.

“It is always good to look at things with fresh eyes,” the premier said in a statement on Friday.

“The 21st century has brought rapid changes, not least in terms of technology. We need to address that.

“People deserve a government that is fit for purpose, geared to their needs and focused on them. I welcome this independent review and look forward to Professor Coaldrake’s findings.”

Coaldrake has been asked to investigate the public service’s culture of “ethical” decision-making and impartial advice to the government.

He will examine the interactions and interdependencies of integrity bodies, public servants and the government.

The Coaldrake inquiry will also check integrity laws, systems designed to prevent ethical and accountability issues arising, whether staff are adequately trained and if integrity complaints are resolved in timely manner.

But Coaldrake has been told to focus on systemic issues rather than individual misconduct complaints, with at least two of those under investigation.

The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) is probing whether senior public servants in 2021 took a laptop from integrity commissioner Dr Nikola Stepanov’s office and deleted its contents.

Stepanov, who is resigning in July, had said the government cut her funding and staff, which the premier denies.

Palaszczuk referred allegations of misconduct against the integrity commissioner to a parliamentary committee, after Stepanov had complained to the government about the laptop.

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Meanwhile, a Queen’s Counsel is probing misconduct claims made by the former state archivist Mike Summerell.

Summerell has alleged interference in his role and his reports, potentially leading to parliament being misled.

At the same time, three separate reviews are looking at whether the CCC, the integrity commissioner and the office of the independent assessor, which is the local government watchdog, are fit for purpose.

Coaldrake was the chief executive of the public sector management commission set up by the former Goss government to overhaul the public service, from 1990 to 1994.

He has also written a number of works about administration, including his 1989 book Working the System: Government in Queensland.

The premier will receive his interim report by mid-April with the final report due in mid-June.

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