Attorney General John Quigley has issued legal proceedings to urgently obtain clarification from the Supreme Court on whether the Legislative Council has the power to direct its Clerk to not comply with Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) investigations.
The writ lodged in the Supreme Court this afternoon comes in response to a resolution passed by the Legislative Council on September 25, 2019 directing its Clerk not to comply with two Notices to Produce records or things served on him by the CCC as part of its inquiry into possible corruption by former MLCs.
The Notices to Produce were issued on September 10, 2019 seeking email data and documents relating to three former members of the Legislative Council and a laptop computer and external hard drive owned by one of the former MLCs, “save and except” for any content covered by Parliamentary privilege.
Despite no privileged material being sought, the Legislative Council’s Procedure and Privileges Committee (PPC) recommended in a report tabled on September 24, 2019 that the Clerk be directed not to hand over the material, which the CCC has deemed relevant to its inquiry.
The resolution was adopted by the Legislative Council on Wednesday.
This resolution was passed despite a previous report by the PPC referring to an opinion from eminent QC Chris Zelestis advising that the Legislative Council did not have the power to order non-MLCs not to produce documents.
If the Notices to Produce created a valid obligation on the Clerk to produce the material and he did not comply with them, the Clerk may be in contempt of the CCC, which is a serious matter.
On the other hand, if the Legislative Council’s resolution to order the Clerk not to comply with the Notices was valid, that would have serious implications for the integrity and oversight of politicians in Western Australia.
In tabled correspondence, the CCC advised that it is investigating “grave allegations of serious misconduct against former members of Parliament”. It has also advised that the material including the laptop and its contents were “significant to the Commission’s investigation” and that “denial of the data will adversely impact the progress of the investigation”.
As stated by Attorney General John Quigley:
“If the Legislative Council’s resolution banning the Clerk from cooperating with the CCC is valid, this may mean a chamber of Parliament can order anybody to not comply with investigations into corrupt politicians.
“It would mean that a political party could use a majority in a chamber of Parliament to protect a corrupt colleague from investigation by the CCC.
“As the State’s first law officer and the Minister responsible for the administration of the Corruption, Crime and Misconduct Act, I am left with no alternative in this dispute between the Legislative Council and the CCC but to seek guidance from the Supreme Court.”