Queensland

Queensland LNP MP Ann Leahy found in contempt of Parliament

The Ethics Committee discovered Jake Smith assisted Ann Leahy to draft an email which dealt with confidential ...
The Ethics Committee discovered Jake Smith assisted Ann Leahy to draft an email which dealt with confidential Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Commission business. Photo: Supplied

An email LNP MP Ann Leahy sent to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's office as a "courtesy" and her subsequent conduct and "lack of remorse" over potentially misleading Parliament, may see the first-term member make Queensland parliamentary history.

Ms Leahy's fate lies with her parliamentary peers after an Ethics Committee investigation found her guilty of contempt and misleading Parliament, recommending she be banned from serving from parliamentary committees for six months, and admonished by Speaker Peter Wellington, a punishment not experienced by a sitting member since Jack Paff in 1999.

The admonishment would become a matter of public record.  Ms Leahy would also lose $11,715 in pay, if the Parliament votes to accept the committee recommendations, which will also see her stripped of her seat on the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee. 

Ms Leahy was found to have made "an unauthorised disclosure of committee proceedings of the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee" when she copied in Ms Palaszczuk's generic and electorate office email she had sent to the PCCC, after finding confidential documents in a safe she had been given to store papers from PCCC investigations.

The safe had previously been in the possession of Labor MP Jo-Ann Miller, who signed a document declaring she had correctly returned or destroyed all confidential committee documents in her possession.

An Ethics Committee investigation into that matter cleared Ms Miller of contempt, but rebuked the then police minister for "a pattern of reckless conduct".  She later resigned from cabinet and now sits on the backbench.

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But Ms Leahy was also found to have "actively engaged" with Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg's chief of staff, Jake Smith, in drafting the email, which involved matters covered by the PCCC's confidentiality rules, before sending it to her fellow committee members, and Ms Palaszczuk, as it involved Ms Miller.

But during the course of the Ethics Committee investigation, Ms Leahy neglected to mention Mr Smith's involvement in drafting the email, and later, when asked if anyone else was involved, only mentioned contacting the Clerk.

It was only during a private hearing the committee held with Mr Smith that his involvement was revealed and Ms Leahy was found to have misled the committee - and therefore Parliament - by omitting it.

"The committee finds the combined effect of the Member for Warrego's conduct reflects a lack of regard for the rules of the PCCC and lack of respect for the role the Ethics Committee performs," the committee found.

"The committee was concerned at the way the Member for Warrego conducted herself before the inquiry.  Those members noted a disrespectful tone in responding to questions and in advising of her inability to appear before the committee at a scheduled time.

"More importantly, the committee noted a reluctance on the part of the Member for Warrego to assist the inquiry, particularly as evidenced by the delay in providing the relevant emails involving Mr Smith."

The committee also "noted that the Member for Warrego demonstrated little remorse for her actions in making her submissions as to penalty".

But it also recommended the Parliament consider amending Standing Orders to allow committee members to contact the Clerk and seek external support, if necessary, to help them properly discharge their responsibilities as committee members.

The bipartisan Ethics Committee unanimously agreed with the investigation's findings, with Parliament to debate vote on its recommendations in a motion following question time on Thursday.