New laws to stop the Crime and Corruption Commission being used as a political football during election campaigns should be amended to protect journalists and then passed to discourage the malicious use of the watchdog.
Local Government Association of Queensland CEO Greg Hallam said councils did not support provisions criminalising journalism, but they did support the introduction of penalties to stop complainants publicising their complaints to do reputational damage to their opponents during local government election campaigns.
It follows discussion on the State Government’s Bill at today’s meeting of the LGAQ policy executive - a body of Mayors and councillors representing the state’s 77 councils.
Mr Hallam said rather than withdrawing the Bill, councils believed it should be amended to protect journalists and then passed.
“The focus of the Bill should be on providing a disincentive to those who make baseless complaints to the CCC during election campaigns in order to denigrate their political opponents,” Mr Hallam said.
“The CCC’s figures show complaints regularly spike in the months leading up to the council elections, jumping from an average of 12 per month to 27 per month the 12 months leading up to polling day, with just 6 per cent of those allegations substantiated,” Mr Hallam said.
“By the time the CCC is able to assess and dismiss the baseless allegations, the damage to the elected members who were the subject of those complaints - and the institution of local government - has already been done.
“By amending the Bill, the Government can ensure it is protecting the freedom of the press while also discouraging the use of the CCC as a political football.
“We urge the Government to amend the Bill and then ensure it is passed as soon as practicable, so the reforms are in place well ahead of the 2024 council elections.”
For more information, please contact:
Sarah Vogler, Media Executive
Local Government Association of Queensland