Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie says the conviction of a drug trafficker proves the VLAD laws work. Photo: Glenn Hunt
After six hours of debate, the government passed its Crime and Misconduct Commission amendments late on Wednesday night, laying the first foundation for the new Crime and Corruption Commission.
Labor, Katter's Australian, Palmer United and the two independents voted no to the amendments, every government MP present, including assistant health minister Chris Davis, voted yes.
Earlier in the day, Dr Davis released the results of a ReachTEL poll he had commissioned for his electorate, which found 73 per cent of the 667 respondents wanted senior appointments to the crime watchdog to be bipartisan.
Dr Davis hinted he would be prepared to figuratively cross the floor of the Queensland Parliament and vote against the amendments, if he felt the Commission independence and strength had been weakened, saying he would,"make the appropriate statement" in line with his community's expectations.
But a briefing from Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie ahead of the vote, which detailed the government's concessions -among them, allowing the Parliamentary oversight committee, which is currently controlled by LNP MPs, to have veto power over appointments - eased Dr Davis's concerns and his "appropriate stand" was to vote with his party.
The government's legislation did not escape the community backlash unscathed. Following recommendations from the parliamentary review committee - which received submissions from former CMC commissioners, the judiciary and Tony Fitzgerald, the architect of the precursor to the CMC - Mr Bleijie announced further tweaks to the bill.
The Attorney-General will have to consult with the parliamentary oversight committee prior to approving a research plan for the CCC and whistleblowers, who have made a statement under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, will not have to sign a statutory declaration when making a complaint. Neither will children or a person who has a personal or physical disadvantage, which might make making a statutory declaration "difficult or impossible" and the Commission's corruption fighting function will be given equal weight to its crime function.
But the change to 'chairman' from 'chairperson' will stay, with Mr Bleijie telling the House "the government's position is that the term chairman does not refer to any gender ... [and would not] prevent an appropriately qualified woman from being appointed a chairman of the commission".
Mr Bleijie gave an impassioned speech for almost a hour when kick starting the debate, detailing the reason for the government's changes.
"How could anyone watching and viewing from the outside of what the CMC have been up to for the last couple of years, have any confidence at all that the CMC could appropriately deal with these matters when it is an organisation that couldn't even retain the confidential identity of informants and whistle blowers for that very important Fitzgerald Inquiry?" he said.
"... I would just put abundantly clear that this organisation is not the great organisation that some commentariat have held it out to be. It has serious flaws."
But the opposition was just as strong in its stance against the bill.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," Opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
"Unfortunately, some Queenslanders have forgotten the hard lessons of the pre-Fitzgerald era.
"... History will ultimately judge those who vote for the unnecessary, politically motivated and destructive elements of this bill. Nobody on that side of the house should forget that voters will eventually have their say."
The new changes are expected to be in place by July.