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Parliamentary Committee Overseeing Crime & Misconduct Commission Fired by Newman Government

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

In November of 2013, Queensland's LNP Government, headed by then-Premier, Campbell Newman, sacked the entire cross-party parliamentary committee which oversaw the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) for apparent bias against the chief of the commission.

Campbell Newman with the text "Campbell Newman" foregrounded.

The mass firing occurred after some members of the committee publicly questioned the independence of the acting chair of the CMC, Ken Levy. This questioning was a result of an opinion piece Mr. Levy had published in the Courier Mail in the week prior, which praised the government's new laws on criminal bikies and sex offenders.

Mr. Levy had previously claimed he had minimal contact with the government in the lead up to writing his article. The committee then released evidence which showed Mr. Levy had met with the head of the government's media unit, Lee Anderson, prior to writing the piece.

Mr. Levy then accused the committee of holding "aggressive and partisan hearings" regarding what he had said about his communications with government: "I was of the view that I was being subjected to a biased and procedurally unsound process." Mr. Levy also claimed that the committee appeared to have "determined its view before it had heard from me," and that no MP's, including neither the premier or attorney-general, had contacted him before the article was published. Mr. Levy stressed that the article was not a result of any influence:

"From the beginning the article was my idea alone, and its composition was my work alone."

Then-Attorney General, Jarrod Bleijie claimed that the government's decision was "sensible" and that they were "left with no choice" but to fire the entire committee as it was "hopelessly biased against the CMC boss." Mr. Newman had refused to say if he was aware of the meeting between his media advisor and Mr. Levy, but stated that his government had not told Mr. Levy to write such a piece praising its new laws.

Griffith University political analyst, Paul Williams, claimed that the mass firing was remarkable and unprecedented in Australian political history:

"I think most Australians would find this shocking...It really is testing the boundaries of democracy...Sacking the committee that oversees not just the government, but an instrument of justice, calls into question the purpose of checks and balances in a democratic government...It also called into question the Newman government's understanding of those checks and balances."

Firing of Public Servants

In September of 2012 it was revealed that Mr. Newman’s budget intended to dismiss 14,000 public servants as an austerity measure, despite the firings themselves costing the state $800 million in redundancy packages. 

That same week, Queensland’s parliament house saw one of its largest protests in history, with more than 7000 Queenslanders protesting the measures. 

Mr. Newman reportedly “backpedalled” on the budget, stating that no employees had been dismissed as part of the measures:

"Despite all the hype and the hysteria not one permanent employee has been sacked as a result of the budget process…It is simply not true to say this government has sacked or cut 14,000 people."

Public servants who chose to leave their roles at the time of the budget’s release would be offered the equivalent of 12 weeks’ pay. Redeployment was the only other option available to those public servants affected by the measures. The details of the measures also outlined that for those who did not find a new position within 4 months or who refused two offers would not receive the financial incentive. 

Of the 14,000 affected public servants, more than 4000 of these were from Queensland Health. Other portfolios hit by the measures included Housing and Public Works (1425 redundancies), Queensland Rail (roughly 500 redundancies), Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (450 redundancies), and Education, Training and Employment (405 redundancies).

Speaking to the Australian Associated Press, Alex Scott, secretary of the public service union, Together, described Mr. Newman’s sentiments as “farcical” and stated that the government was holding a “financial gun” to the heads of the affected employees:

"The option is to get sacked now or get sacked later.”

Sources & Further Reading

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