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Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk battles with journos over integrity report

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has battled with journalists as she fronted the media for the first time since a scathing report exposed the ‘fear-based’ practices used by the state’s public service.

At one stage she cold-shouldered a journalist who questioned what the consequences would be for the ‘bullies and belittlers’ that the report, conducted by Professor Peter Coaldrake, found were endemic to the profession.

The exchange began when the reporter asked if public servants who were bullied and belittled by senior and ministerial staff were owed an apology.

‘I think everyone needs to be treated with respect,’ Ms Palaszczuk said, without making a specific apology. 

‘Honestly, if people have time to belittle and bully other public servants it was time to move on’.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had some strained exchanges with reporters after fronting the media for the first time since a damning report on the culture of government

Annastacia Palaszczuk (pictured with her boyfriend Dr Reza Adib at the Logies on the Gold Coast) said she was 100 per cent committed to her job after claims she had 'checked out'

Annastacia Palaszczuk (pictured with her boyfriend Dr Reza Adib at the Logies on the Gold Coast) said she was 100 per cent committed to her job after claims she had ‘checked out’ 

The journalist objected that the report specifically identified a problem with ministerial staff and asked if they weren’t setting an example, why they shouldn’t lose their job.

Ms Palaszczuk responded that training was important but when the reporter tried to insist the ‘report was a lesson in itself’ the premier turned away from him with a curt ‘OK’.

The premier was asked about the last-minute cancellation of a media event on Wednesday after the report’s release, saying she had to rush to an emergency dental appointment.

‘I just had to get it done, alright, I’m sorry,’ a stony-faced Ms Palaszczuk said.

‘I was in my office working, I would have loved to have come and seen you. I was hoping to see you in the afternoon but unfortunately I couldn’t speak.’  

Ms Palaszczuk ducked questions about whether ministerial staff found to be 'bullying' others would be fired and did not issue an apology to any potential victims

Ms Palaszczuk ducked questions about whether ministerial staff found to be ‘bullying’ others would be fired and did not issue an apology to any potential victims

Ms Palaszczuk admitted she was ‘shocked and surprised’ by some of the things she read in the report but vowed to implement all 14 recommendations in the review, calling it a ‘health check’. 

‘It is absolutely healthy for government to have a health check from time-to-time,’ the premier said. 

She said the most ‘revolutionary’ move would be to release Cabinet papers in 30 days rather than waiting 30 years, which would follow the practice of New Zealand.

‘This is the most fundamental change (to cabinet conventions) that this state and this nation has ever seen,’ she said. 

Following her testy press conference, Ms Palaszczuk headed to Ipswich to look at the building site for the new Ripley Hospital.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk headed to Ipswich to inspect the new Ripley Satellite Hospital

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk headed to Ipswich to inspect the new Ripley Satellite Hospital

The premier turning the sod at the new hospital site, which will cost $40 million to build

The premier turning the sod at the new hospital site, which will cost $40 million to build

Annastacia Palaszczuk (pictured in parliament last week) vowed to implement the integrity recommendations 'lock, stock and barrel'

Annastacia Palaszczuk (pictured in parliament last week) vowed to implement the integrity recommendations ‘lock, stock and barrel’

The recommendations include tightening the rules on lobbyists and banning them on working with parties on electoral campaigns.

The 131-page Coaldrake Review unearthed allegations of bullying and belittling of public sector officials by ministerial staff and more bureaucrats.

‘Public service officials can feel pressured, sometimes by ministerial staff, sometimes by more senior officers, to moderate advice developed with a “public interest” goal in mind, to fit with a perceived ministerial preference – which may or may not be real – or to avoid giving advice on difficult issues in writing,’ Professor Coaldrake said.

‘Personal interactions with some ministers and ministerial staff, and indeed some senior officers, can be disrespectful, belittling or bullying, and [cause] long-term detriment to careers real or apprehended.

‘If unreasonable deadlines, bullying interactions, and intemperate demands for action or for compliant advice become pervasive, a fear-based response becomes entrenched in the culture.’

The former state archivist Mike Summerell, whose accusations of intimidation sparked the review, said the recommendations ‘don’t go remotely far enough’ and only reflected the limited scope of the report, the Courier Mail reported.

‘Peter Coaldrake has shown there is a huge problem, but he has provided no real details at all,’ Mr Summerell said.

‘The people who caused these issues in many cases remain in post and in power, those who stood up to them have been forced out and suppressed.

Queensland opposition leader David Crisafulli  will continue campaigning for a royal commission into government integrity.

Queensland opposition leader David Crisafulli  will continue campaigning for a royal commission into government integrity.

‘A full Commission of Inquiry is now required to examine the details and to ensure those who caused and prospered under this culture are held to account.’    

Mr Summerell previously claimed pressure applied to him to protect the government’s image in preparing annual reports potentially led to parliament being misled.

An independent probe found this was not the case.       

Titled ‘Let the sunshine in’, the Coaldrake review called for a strengthening and continual review of the frameworks of transparency, integrity and accountability in government.

‘This review aspires to influence a cultural shift which encourages openness from the top, starting with cabinet processes and a resulting shared focus on identifying and dealing with the challenges Queensland faces,’ Prof Coaldrake said.

‘Any good government, clear in purpose and open and accountable in approach, should have fewer integrity issues.

‘It is now up to the government to make this focus a wake-up call to support for a more open system of government.’

Opposition leader David Crisafulli described the review as ‘laughable’ and said he would continue campaigning for a royal commission into government integrity.

‘It doesn’t address the integrity inferno at the heart of the corruption risk that is the Palaszczuk government,’ he said.

Last week, Labor insiders claimed Ms Palaszczuk has ‘checked out’ of her role and showed more interest in attending social events than running Queensland.

The claims prompted former premier Peter Beattie to urged her to start a new agenda and prove she still wants to be premier.

‘You’ve got to keep renewing your vision, because if you don’t, you get stale and people see you’re stale and they will want someone else to have a go,’ he told Courier Mail.

Ms  Palaszczuk responded to that criticism by saying she was ‘100 per cent’ committed to her job and saying she was ‘absolutely staying’ up until the next election.

She also wouldn’t rule out running for another term.

‘I love this job and it is up to the people of Queensland to vote whether they want me to continue or not doing this job.’ 

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