Crime and Corruption Commission chairman Alan MacSporran.
Crime and Corruption Commission chairman Alan MacSporran.

Deputy mayor backs CCC proposed law change

THE recommendations of the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) to limit mudslinging and baseless accusations against councillors and candidates in local government elections have been supported by Ipswich Deputy Mayor Paul Tully.

In a statement the CCC said it had recommended the State Government consider making it an offence for any person to publicise allegations of corrupt conduct against a councillor or candidate during a local government election period, without first notifying the CCC and allowing at least three months to determine whether the allegations have merit.

The recommendation was made in the CCC's report Publicising allegations of corrupt conduct: Is it in the public interest? tabled in State Parliament yesterday.

In June 2016, the CCC issued a discussion paper and invited public submissions to examine whether it was in the public interest to publicise allegations of corrupt conduct, and what options were available legislatively to prevent that if it was deemed not to be in the public interest.

The CCC received 82 submissions and conducted a two-day public forum in October where 22 people provided their views on the issue.

CCC Chairperson Alan MacSporran QC said the four-person panel examining the issue acknowledged "the very important right to the freedom of speech and the need for open and accountable government"

But he added that "based on all the material examined by the CCC we are of the view limiting the publicising of allegations during local government election periods will allow this agency to complete its statutory functions, especially investigating corrupt conduct, in a more robust manner". 

The Ipswich council election was one where accusations of corrupt behaviour were made by certain candidates on the internet, some of which have led to court proceedings that are ongoing. 

Ipswich Deputy Mayor Paul Tully welcomed the CCC proposed law change.

Cr Tully said the usual band of disgruntled candidates who made scurrilous and unfounded allegations at every local government election should face jail sentences. 

"These would-be mayors and councillors have no respect for the laws of defamation or fighting fair and honest campaigns," he said.

"The CCC's proposal to make it illegal to publicly disclose unfounded claims for political purposes is a major step forward in eliminating this sort of disgraceful political conduct." 

The Local Government Association Queensland (LGAQ) also agrees with the CCC's recommendation that publicising allegations of corruption against candidates during local government elections should be prohibited.  

The LGAQ congratulated the Crime and Corruption Commission for recognising that allegations against candidates should not be manipulated for electoral gain.

"The recommendations of the report balance the need for an open and transparent election process with ensuring that false or misleading accusations about political opponents are not publicised to the detriment of the community and the council," LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam said.

"We commend the CCC for taking into consideration the reputation of councils and the public's trust in their institutions of government in their balanced recommendations."

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