High Court dismisses appeal by Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission to make report into state’s former public trustee Peter Carne public

High Court dismisses appeal by Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission to make report into state’s former public trustee Peter Carne public
  • PublishedSeptember 13, 2023

The High Court has dismissed an appeal by the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) to make public its report from an investigation into the state’s former public trustee.

Peter Carne was investigated for corruption by the commission in 2018 after an anonymous complaint.

He was cleared of corrupt conduct and not criminally prosecuted. 

The commission moved to have the report made public through the state parliament, but Mr Carne went to court to try and block the move.

He lost an initial case in the Queensland Supreme Court, but that decision was overturned on appeal.

Today’s ruling means details of the complaint cannot be released.

In the summary of the judgement, the court found that the preparation and presentation of the report was not within the scope of the Queensland Legislative Assembly.

“The report was not prepared for, or presented to, the Committee for the purposes of transacting the business of the Committee,” the judgement summary read.

“It was prepared by the Commission and presented to the Committee for the Commission’s own purpose of making the report public.”

In Queensland parliament, Shadow Attorney-General Tim Nicholls asked the premier, in light of the High Court’s decision, would the state government look at law changes to allow the public release of certain reports from the CCC. 

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the ruling had just been handed down and her government would be considering it.

‘Antiseptic of sunlight’ will not shine

Mr Nicholls said the ruling meant certain reports from the CCC will not be publicly released.

“This issue is that investigations that are carried out by the Crime and Corruption Commission into allegations of misconduct — where there are not findings of corruption but nonetheless serious lessons to be learnt – will now not see the light of day,” he said.

“The antiseptic of sunlight will not be shone on the actions of executive government.

“The lessons learnt will not be learnt by the wider public sector, they will not be learnt by the government and most importantly Queenslanders will not find out what is going on behind closed doors.”

Mr Nicholls has called on the Queensland government to amend the legislation to allow the CCC to release past and future reports.

‘Digesting the decision’

Queensland parliament was granted leave to appear in the matter due to it dealing with reports being tabled in parliament and attracting parliamentary privilege.

Queensland Speaker Curtis Pitt said the implications of the ruling were being considered.

“We are digesting the decision to fully understand the implications of the decision for the operation of the Parliament of Queensland Act 2001 (Qld),” he said in a statement.

“Particularly the connection between reports and other documents prepared for parliamentary committees and parliamentary privilege going forward.”

Health Minister and former Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said the state government would consider the decision and take advice on the next steps. 

“It has just been handed down this morning so we’ll take our time to consider what it means,” she said.

“It will take time to work out what this mean for our legislation.

“What this unanimous decision by the High Court tells us is that there are certain reports that can be published and other reports that can be prosecuting authorities or the Attorney-General.”

Mr Carne was appointed as the Public Trustee of Queensland from 2009 to 2014 and again from 2016 to 2020 before he resigned.

In June 2019, Mr Carne was suspended after details of the complaint had come to the attention of the Attorney-General.

Mr Carne is a past CEO and president of the Queensland Law Society who practice as a solicitor for more than 30 years.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *