Liz Cunningham says reasons for dissolving PCMC are invalid
THE ripples caused by the government's decision to relieve the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee of its duties gathered strength today with strong reaction from all quarters, in particular former chair Liz Cunningham.
Ms Cunningham, the member for Gladstone, says the government's actions were puzzling but not unexpected and the reach for total control is something she and her colleagues have come to expect in the Newman era.
"It is really disappointing to me that a government that depends so much on the committee process has used that process in such a politicised way," she said.
"It is absolutely clear that reasons given for dissolving the PCMC are invalid. The Attorney-General and the Premier disagreed with the committee on one issue, an important one but one issue, and then decide to dismiss the committee without any consultation. The move is not surprising but very concerning as it undermines the basic tenets of parliament and is a massive abuse of power.
"The PCMC has to be independent of government influence or it won't truly be able to function in the way it was designed. It seems that the government is not prepared to let that happen. That puts an added pressure on all the other committees in parliament as they will not be able to exercise their duties in a bi-partisan way. "
While opinion on social media seemed to mirror that of the Opposition and Independent MPs, questioning both the government's motives and arrogance, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie came out in strong support of the move saying action taken by members of the PCMC left the government with little choice.
Mr Bleijie laid the blame for the events which reached their peak late into the night of the final sitting of parliament for the year, squarely on the shoulders of Labor MPs Jo-Ann Miller and Jackie Trad and Independent members Peter Wellington and Ms Cunningham saying that their bias had destroyed any credibility the PCMC had.
The issue at the centre of this bubbling cauldron is the committee's treatment of CMC acting chair, Ken Levy, who has been accused of misleading the parliament about meetings he had with the Premier's office, before penning an op-ed piece for the Courier-Mail supporting the state government's anti-biking laws.
"The PCMC were discharged from their duties because I think they showed they can't be trusted to complete an assessment in the future without it being in a biased, compromised, tainted and corrupted way," Mr Bleijie said.
"I was particularly disappointed with the chair, Member for Gladstone Liz Cunningham, because she decided to table those documents and denied procedural fairness to Dr Levy."
"If you were in court with a jury and four members of the jury went and tweeted, gave press conferences and made Facebook accusations that this person is guilty of an offence before he was tried properly the whole jury would be stood down and there may be a mistrial," Mr Bleijie said.
"That's what's happened to Dr Ken Levy here. He has been prejudged by members of the committee that should ought to have known better and not made public comment on it."
If Ms Cunningham went to bed last night a bit dazed and disappointed, by her own admission, the comments made by Mr Bleijie this morning would have done nothing to disperse the haze. In fact they just fuelled an anger that has been growing for the last two weeks.
"Parliament is not the judicial system and we are not a jury," said Ms Cunningham. "The decision to release those documents was not an easy one but it was made in the public interest so Mr Bleijie is unfair in his criticism there. It was a test for us as a committee. The documents were statements Dr Levy made in a public forum so they were out there anyway and the last was a letter he wrote to correct the record. Dr Levy had further opportunities to correct the record after we had established the discrepancies under questioning but he chose not to.
"We were under a lot of pressure from the Premier and leader of the opposition to publish everything and have all meetings public. What we released was consistent with the evidence Dr Levy gave in public.
"It was not Dr Levy's duty to decide which parts of the truth he told us. It was his job to tell us the whole truth and then for the committee to examine it in context."
Ms Cunningham said Mr Bleijie's criticism of the members of the committee who had made their opinions known on Twitter and Facebook was inaccurate as they had been acting in private capacities using information in the public realm.
She dismissed as ridiculous claims of bias and personal vendettas saying in the last 18 months the former PCMC dealt with a number of public and private decisions none of which the government had a problem with.
"Mr Bleijie claims we are tainted and biased and that is unbelievable," Ms Cunningham said.
"There is no difference in terms of bias than when the government called for the resignation of former CMC head Ross Martin earlier this year insisting he stand down before we gathered all the evidence and before those allegations with the Fitzgerald papers were proved. It's the same judgment call.
"Perhaps Mr Bleijie should start looking at events without being blinded by the political prism."