Australia Integrity Commission unable to probe Gutwein handling of Liberal candidate Adam Brooks

00:06  11 june  2021
00:06  11 june  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Tasmanian Liberal candidate Adam Brooks at the party's 2021 state election campaign launch. (Facebook: Adam Brooks) © Provided by ABC NEWS Tasmanian Liberal candidate Adam Brooks at the party's 2021 state election campaign launch. (Facebook: Adam Brooks)

Tasmania's integrity watchdog says it is unable to investigate how the Premier handled allegations against a former Liberal candidate who resigned facing criminal charges in another state, because the case falls outside its jurisdiction.

The Greens referred Peter Gutwein to the Integrity Commission last month, arguing he had not properly responded to claims against Braddon candidate Adam Brooks.

Mr Brooks — a former mining minister — faced allegations during the election campaign that he had tricked women he was dating into believing he was an engineer named Terry.

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Mr Brooks denied the allegations and was declared elected to the Tasmanian parliament on May 13.

Early on May 14, Mr Gutwein announced Mr Brooks would resign his seat after Queensland Police raided an apartment near Brisbane and charged him with possession of a handgun, unauthorised explosives and false driver's licences.

Mr Brooks appeared in a Queensland court on Thursday, where he faced six new charges. He is yet to enter a plea on any of the charges but has previously indicated he would defend them.

Also on Thursday, Greens leader Cassy O'Connor received a letter from Integrity Commission chief executive Michael Easton saying her referral was outside the body's jurisdiction because misconduct allegations against Mr Gutwein fell within the election period.

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"The impact of the (parliament's) dissolution is that sitting members no longer hold their seats in parliament; they cease to be MPs and are no longer public officers," Mr Easton said.

"We acknowledge that government ministers retain their ministerial role during the election period, and remain subject to the Ministerial Code of Conduct.

"However, given we only have jurisdiction over ministers due to their status as MPs, I can confirm that we do not have jurisdiction over ministers (including the Premier) during the election period."

When asked by the ABC to respond to the commission's letter, Mr Gutwein said in a statement:

"That's a matter for the Integrity Commission, but as I've consistently said I have been open with the Tasmanian people at every step during this process."

Bid to close 'loophole'

Ms O'Connor said there were still questions surrounding Mr Brooks's election.

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"This is not a dismissal based on no evidence of wrongdoing," Ms O'Connor said.

"Tasmanians are still asking the questions about the circumstances surrounding Mr Brooks's candidacy and his resignation, and when the Premier knew and the Premier's responses."

Ms O'Connor said her party had drafted amendments to close what she described as a loophole in the laws surrounding the Integrity Commission.

"This has exposed a significant flaw in the law, because there's a very strong argument that during an election campaign there are perhaps greater opportunities for misconduct and corruption," she said.

Speaking at a press conference in May, Mr Gutwein said he did not know of the criminal charges facing Mr Brooks until the evening of May 13.

He said at the time he was "happy to withstand any scrutiny on this matter".

Mr Brooks, a generous Liberal Party donor and traditionally high vote-winner, sat in Tasmania's parliament between 2010 and 2019.

Early in the 2021 state election campaign, Tasmania Police confirmed Mr Brooks would be summonsed to court on allegations he had incorrectly stored ammunition.

Mr Brooks also denied any wrongdoing on that allegation.

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