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Australia Qld premier avoids grilling over emails

03:25  16 april  2021
03:25  16 april  2021 Source:   aap.com.au

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Annastacia Palaszczuk wearing a blue shirt: Annastacia Palaszczuk told the Qld House she had not used her private email for official purposes. © Darren England/AAP PHOTOS Annastacia Palaszczuk told the Qld House she had not used her private email for official purposes.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will not face an Ethics Committee grilling over her controversial private emails.

Speaker Curtis Pitt knocked back the opposition's bid to refer the premier to the committee over allegations she misled parliament about the emails on February 28, 2017.

Ms Palaszczuk told the House on that day she had not used her private email account for official purposes.

In one of her emails publicly released, current Transport Minister Mark Bailey asked her about Paul Simshauser's political leanings before his appointment as director-general of energy and water in 2015.

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The Crime and Corruption Commission, and the former State Archivist Mike Summerell, have said her private emails should be retained as official records.

Opposition integrity spokeswoman Fiona Simpson applied to have Ms Palaszczuk referred to the Ethics Committee over her comments in parliament.

Speaker Curtis Pitt denied Ms Simpson's request, calling it a "question of semantics".

He says the email contents could be classified as being for "official purposes" just as easily as for "party political activity".

"This is a question of semantics which comes down to the subjective and personal classification of what the person answering the question at the time might constitute official purposes," Mr Pitt wrote in a ruling tabled in parliament.

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The Speaker also noted Ms Palaszczuk had tabled legal advice from the solicitor-general clarifying her emails were not public records.

Mr Pitt said the premier had also stressed to him she did not believe she was misleading parliament in 2017.

"I find that the Premier has made an adequate explanation in that at the time the question was asked she did not consider her prior use of her private e-mail accounts as for official purposes but rather that they relate to party political activity," he wrote.

"Therefore, I will not be referring the matter for the further consideration of the House via the Ethics Committee."

The Liberal National Party has made a Right To Information (RTI) application to access more of the controversial emails.

An RTI officer in the premier's department initially approved their request, but it was blocked by "a third party" at the last minute.

The opposition last month asked Mr Summerell to investigate other emails held by the state archives.

However, Mr Summerell unexpectedly left his role as state archivist hours after the LNP's request.

In his final Queensland State Archives annual report, released in March, he warned that state laws have not kept up with advancements in communication technologies.

He warned of increasing incidents of "failures in recordkeeping, some with tragic consequences".

"New communication technologies are creating new challenges for public authorities, the volume of public records in particular being created is a significant challenge," Mr Summerell wrote.

"There is a risk that the Act is inadequate to meet these challenges.

"There is an increasing risk that key public records that should be made and preserved for the benefit of current and future generations may be lost, or worse, never created at all."

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This is interesting!