Thirty years after Fitzgerald, Qld watchdog warns risk of public sector corruption is no joke

By Stephen Easton

Friday July 5, 2019

“We must never go back to the pre-Fitzgerald days,” says Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission chair Alan MacSporran, marking the 30-year anniversary of the major inquiry into police corruption that left an indelible legacy throughout the state’s public institutions.

“This was a defining moment in Queensland’s history,” MacSporran observed this week, urging public sector leaders to maintain “strong cultures of integrity” in a statement addressing the state’s dark past.

“Thirty years ago, Queensland was a different place. The tentacles of corruption had spread through parts of the Queensland Police Service and involved some elected officials. Queenslanders could no longer turn a blind eye to the crime and corruption that was happening on our doorstep.”

MacSporran says he is “confident the brazen corruption and police misconduct of the old days are gone” but integrity risks clearly remain across the entire public sector.

“Advancements in technology and the ability to access vast amounts of information present significant corruption risks when confidential information is accessed and misused.

“Crime and corruption prosper when individuals put their private interests before the public interest. It’s that simple. The Crime and Corruption Commission’s (CCC) work in the last few years has unfortunately demonstrated that the threat of corruption remains. Whilst it manifests in new ways, we all need to work together to identify and extinguish it.

“Building strong cultures of integrity is the single most significant action our public sector leaders at all levels can take to address corruption.”

For two years in the late 1980s, the commission of inquiry led by former judge Tony Fitzgerald investigated deep and long-running corruption stretching into high office. MacSporran said the resulting report “signalled that the joke was over” in reference to the name of the crooked network for those who were in on it.

“The Inquiry changed the policing and political landscape in Queensland and across Australia.  Significant prosecutions followed the Inquiry. It led to four ministers being jailed, the conviction of former Police Commissioner Terence Lewis and numerous other convictions. Many others admitted to being involved in corruption.”

It also led to the creation of an independent investigative agency, the Criminal Justice Commission, one of several predecessors of the current CCC.

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