Another integrity scandal is engulfing the Palaszczuk government with explosive secret emails giving an insight into the government’s inner workings.
“Mike Summerell, the former state archivist, wrote a damning report in 2017, which lifted the lid on this Mangocube saga,” Queensland Editor Peter Gleeson said.
“Where the current Transport Minister Mark Bailey was conducting government business on private emails.
“It shows just the labyrinth, the tentacles that exist between government ministers and the union movement and the backers.
“It will be very difficult for the Queensland government today in parliament to defend them.”
By Sky News
Neil Breen sets government straight amid release of Mangocube scandal emails
Transport Minister Mark Bailey has been plagued by the scandal for years, over the use of his private email for government business.
A report into the saga was completed in 2017 by former state archivist Mike Summerell but has only now come to light at the request of the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee.
The investigation details conversations between Mr Bailey and then-Electrical Trades Union state secretary Peter Simpson about upcoming Cabinet issues.
There is no indication the Minister followed direction by the union.
The private emails also revealed Mr Bailey was sent a list of bureaucrats believed to favour the LNP.
Another chain showed concerns of losing voters if a project wasn’t approved.
In a statement provided to Breakfast with Neil Breen, a Palaszczuk government spokesperson said:
“The independent watchdog, the CCC, fully investigated and dealt with this matter in 2017.
“Minister Bailey was cleared of any wrongdoing.“
Neil Breen said while he was cleared of corrupt dealings, the use of a personal email account breached ministerial policies.
“They didn’t charge him with corruption but they said ‘hey, you did the wrong thing here’,” he said.
“So don’t listen to the government say he was cleared; he wasn’t cleared, he was admonished.
“If anyone thinks it’s cool for the ETU to know what’s going on in Cabinet, … if anyone doesn’t think that’s wrong, I can’t help you.”
State archivist's report into Mark Bailey's 'Mangocube' email saga reveals union boss 'appeared' to have knowledge of cabinet vote
A confidential report about a Palaszczuk government minister's deletion of a private email account raised concerns at the time a union boss "appeared" to have knowledge of an upcoming cabinet vote and suggested how the MP vote.
- The state archivist report into Minister Mark Bailey's private email account has been released, five years after it was written
- The report revealed a former union boss hinted to the minister they helped get him elected
- The corruption watchdog has cleared Mr Bailey of wrongdoing
The 2017 report by then-state archivist Mike Summerell to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) looked into then-energy minister Mark Bailey’s private email saga.
The report raised a number of matters of "potential interest" to the CCC, including potential inappropriate lobbying of the minister.
Mr Bailey came under fire for his use, and subsequent deletion, of the private email account firstname.lastname@example.org, sparking an investigation by the CCC which later found "no evidence" to suggest he wanted to "conceal corrupt conduct".
In the 2017 report, which was made public yesterday afternoon, then-state archivist Mr Summerell, identified 1,199 public records within the email account at the time of its deletion, more than 600 of which were required to be retained for periods ranging from two years to permanently.
Mr Summerell's view was that Mr Bailey's actions were likely to have resulted in multiple breaches of the Public Records Act.
However, because Mr Bailey reactivated his private email 26 days after he deleted it, Mr Summerell questioned whether it would be in public interest to attempt to prosecute him.
"The State Archivist's view is that Minister Bailey's practices have potential to be widespread and action against Minister Bailey may well be deemed as scapegoating," the report said.
Union expected Minister to be 'on their side'
The report highlighted matters of "potential interest" to the CCC, including potential "inappropriate lobbying" and a breach of protocols around the management of cabinet-related material.
Mr Bailey's relationship with the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) was highlighted as a matter felt to be of "particular interest and relevance" to the CCC.
Mr Summerell attached emails from then-ETU boss Peter Simpson, and said some were "trivial in nature" but some related to board matters and significant disputes with government-owned corporations (GOC) that Mr Bailey was a shareholding minister for.
"They are frequently of a lobbying or advocacy nature and at times derogatory of the GOC officials and others," the report said.
"The content of some of the emails explicitly and implicitly implied an expectation on Minister Bailey to always be 'on their side'.
"Minister Bailey frequently responds in purely acknowledgement terms but on occasion does indicate he or others will follow up on the matters raised by the ETU."
Mr Summerell wrote that Mr Simpson's correspondence in many cases is simply aggressive, but arguably appropriate advocacy on behalf of his members, but at other times the correspondence "would seem to extend beyond simple advocacy."
Transport Minister Mark Bailey told state parliament today he had been cleared by the CCC after their investigation into the deletion of the email account.
"The independent watchdog, the CCC, fully investigated a complaint made by the [LNP] Member for Clayfield in relation to me in 2017," he said.
"The matter was finalised in September, 2017 and I was cleared of any wrongdoing.
"I apologised in 2017 and I stand by that."
Queensland ministers were banned from using personal email accounts in 2018.
Union appears to lobby on vote
A 2015 email exchange showed Mr Simpson, who died in 2020, appearing to lobby Mr Bailey about how to vote at an upcoming cabinet meeting related to WorkCover changes.
"You're apparently getting three options to vote upon tomorrow for the WorkCover changes," Mr Simpson said in the June 2015 email.
"A is the only one acceptable given we argued so strongly against what he did, even if B is the final position, the 'Reparations' should ultimately be what the worker would have lost under common law.
"An important one mate, we obviously hope you go for A."
Mr Bailey replied: "Will give you a call in the morning comrade."
In his report, Mr Summerell said there were a number of emails that arguably direct Mr Bailey as to how he should act in cabinet or in his role as a shareholding minister.
"Whether Minister Bailey took heed to these directions is something that the State Archivist has expressly avoided exploring," he said.
"The seeming ETU awareness of what Cabinet was discussing or about to discuss, sometimes in detail, was alarming."
'The amount of strings I pulled'
The state archivist characterised one 2015 exchange, titled "An Angry Email from a (REDACTED) Angry Man", as an email thread where Mr Simpson raised concerns that, in spite of the strings he pulled and effort to get Mr Bailey into parliament, he is failing to deliver in resolving a dispute between the ETU and Select Solutions/Ergon energy.
"I've spent the past five months or so talking up this government and our star recruit, you, telling all and sundry how you were going as our new minister, that all was tickety-boo," Mr Simpson wrote.
"My pride, given the amount of effort and strings I had to pull to get you there have all kept me in defence mode, well not tonight!
"I joked with a few of our guys about how long it would take the new crew to convince themselves that they got themselves into parly and into the ministry without any assistance from the union movement.
"Now we're starting to see lip service in a range of areas and disappointingly now yours."
Cabinet's budget notes circulated
Another email included in Mr Summerell's report is a 2015 missive from union member Noel Morris, outlining a list of what he called "LNP supporters from within the bureaucrats".
Also included is a 2016 thread from now-Deputy Premier Steven Miles to private accounts of ministers Jackie Trad and Mark Bailey, titled "Cabinet in Confidence — EHP CBRC".
The state archivist characterised it as notes circulated for an upcoming meeting of the Cabinet Budget Review Committee relating to Environment and Heritage Protection. Mr Miles was environment minister at the time.
Mr Summerell raised concerns in the report about breach of protocols around the management of cabinet-related material, and the management of ministerial records in general.
Mr Miles's email included "Key Points" outlining that "recent government decisions" required the Labor government to "rebuild credibility on the environment" and advocated for more spending.
Mr Miles wrote: "By spending the same, or in some cases less than LNP, we send a message the environment is not a priority for Labor."
"Post Adani decision, it is critical that we develop and resource climate mitigation strategy and programs.
"Doing good work on this will buffer us from criticism of resource projects, we can't say Adani emissions aren't our responsibility when we don't properly fund efforts to address the emissions that are our responsibility."
Whistleblower says he was barred from finding against Premier
Former state archivist Mike Summerell has alleged departmental interference throughout the entirety of his investigation into David Barbagallo’s missing resignation letter that led him to make a CCC complaint.
He told The Sunday Mail senior public servants continually “sought to protect the interests of the Premier and Government, even if no protection was required” at the expense of his statutory role “to ensure they controlled my investigation and actions”.
“Whilst this was potentially unethical and a breach of the Act and code of conduct, it was unlikely to be deemed corruption by CCC under their legislation,” he said, drawing to attention the limits of the CCC in dealing with such complaints.
Mr Summerell began his investigation in late 2019 after a Right to Information request returned only an unsigned, electronic copy of the July 27 letter sent in September, after Ms Palaszczuk publicly announced he was leaving during a CCC probe.
Mr Summerell said interference began when a senior Department of Housing and Public Works official redrafted a media release quoting him without his permission “to essentially clear the matter without my investigation”.
Mr Summerell claimed his investigation was frustrated when departmental staff:
- Instructed he only correspond with the CCC through the department’s integrity unit, which he ignored
- Required he run the terms of reference and scope of the investigation by the department
- Told him he could not speak directly to Mr Barbagallo, his lawyer, or the office of the Premier directly, although this was described as “ridiculous” and overturned by a senior member of the Department of Premier and Cabinet
- Denied Mr Summerell legal advice on how to proceed once the investigation was complete.
The former state archivist said he determined there had been a technical breach of the Act to keep records for seven years and the Premier was accountable after just two weeks.
Had he been empowered to complete his investigation, he said he would have sent Ms Palaszczuk a letter outlining the breach and asking for new processes to stop it happening again.
“Barbagallo provided a response via his lawyer stating categorically, in my view, he had provided a signed, physical letter of resignation and it had been left for his staff to file,” Mr Summerell said.
“The Office of the Premier then confirmed they had lost the letter. “My view was that the letter existed (and) was likely accidentally lost.”
A spokesman for the Premier said the matter was finalised in June 2021 and that any questions should be directed to the department.
Mr Summerell said Crown law advice was that he had no power to determine whether further action was taken, with the same legislative deficiencies uncovered during the Mark Bailey mangocube investigation still unresolved.
He said Crown law recommended the department create a committee to make a decision on further action, but one was never formed and the matter was still unresolved when his contract wasn’t renewed in March 2021.
Before he left, he claimed he was asked to write a letter saying no action was appropriate, but refused and complained to the CCC as a potential breach of his independence. Asked about the referral, the CCC declined to comment.
A June 2021 letter was signed by his predecessor, acting state archivist Irene Violet, saying “there is no unequivocal evidence” Mr Barbagallo had left a hard copy of the letter or that anyone disposed of it without lawful authority and “the department considers its inquiries completed and does not intend initiating any action against any individual”.
The claims of interference were put to the Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy, which issued a statement that said: “The Barbagallo matter raised was investigated and finalised by the State Archivist. Anyone who has further information they consider relevant should raise their concerns with the appropriate authorities.”
Ms Palaszczuk announced Mr Barbagallo’s resignation just weeks before a year-long CCC investigation found he did not fully declare his non-pecuniary interests, even as one of his companies secured $267,500 of government investment to develop a cruise ship app. The CCC said he would likely have been disciplined over his behaviour had he not already quit.
By The Mercury
Palaszczuk Government is Australia's 'most secretive, paranoid' administration with 'a Kremlin-like attitude to transparency'
The Queensland government has adopted "a Kremlin-like attitude to transparency" as it hides behind a non-existent gag order of the Supreme Court, writes Peter Gleeson.
The Palaszczuk Government has become the most secretive, paranoid administration in Australia, adopting a Kremlin-like attitude to transparency.
Despite pledging an open and transparent approach to governance, Queensland Labor has done the opposite, plunging the Sunshine State into the Moonlight State 2.0.
Not content with a dysfunctional and obsessive public service – now the subject of a major investigation by former QUT boss Peter Coaldrake – the government is now using a “mystery’’ gag order to stop the release of public information about former deputy premier Jackie Trad.
The government is hiding behind a non-existent gag order of the Supreme Court to avoid questions on whether taxpayers are funding Ms Trad’s legal bid to suppress a Crime and Corruption Commission report.
Ms Trad was kicked out at the last election. The Australian newspaper is chasing the CCC report – believed to be critical of Ms Trad – into the hiring of public servants.
It is understood the decision to pay Ms Trad’s legal bills, said to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, would have had to be signed off by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman.
Ms Fentiman is a close factional ally of the left’s Trad. The government is now using “legal indemnity’’ guidelines to stop it from publicly saying whether it is funding the Trad legal bid.
This is outrageous. Not only are taxpayers likely funding the bid to stop the release of information, it is clear that whatever is in that report does not bode well for this government.
So much for its pledge to be open and accountable. Over the past 12 months, the Palaszczuk Government has consistently, repeatedly, nakedly tried to stop controversial or damning information from seeing the public eye. It has encouraged a public service to be secretive and obsessive. It hides and pretends.
Integrity matters in governance. This mob have none.
Annastacia Palaszczuk questioned over private email account
Before ban on use for government business
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has refused to say whether she used a private email account for ministerial business before a ban on using personal accounts for government work came into effect in 2018.
- The Premier initially told estimates she couldn't recall if she had a BigPond account
- Fiona Simpson said the LNP was furnished with an email by a whistleblower
- Ms Palaszczuk said she had not used the account for work since the ministerial code was updated
Queensland ministers were banned from using personal emails accounts and apps to discuss official business after then-energy minister Mark Bailey came under fire and sparked a Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) investigation for his use and deletion of a private account.
During an estimates hearing on Monday, Ms Palaszczuk confirmed she had a private email account, but said it had not been used since she implemented the changes two years ago.
When asked by the Opposition during estimates if she had a BigPond account, Ms Palaszczuk at first said she did not remember having a private email address, but soon after confirmed she had used the account.
"I don't recall having a BigPond account, I may have — I'll have to check," she said.
"I have said previously that I have had a private email account.
"I have said that publicly. I said I had a private email address, the policy has since been changed for everybody.
"When the report [CCC] came down we updated the ministerial handbook and I've been very up-front with saying I've had a private email in the past."
Email 'furnished by whistleblower'
In the hearing, Opposition MP Fiona Simpson said the LNP had received an anonymous email that showed correspondence between Mr Bailey and Ms Palaszczuk using the personal accounts discussing a potential government appointment on April 22, 2015.
"During the break, the Opposition has been furnished with an email by an anonymous whistleblower," Ms Simpson said.
Ms Simpson asked the Premier whether she used a private email account for work purposes.
Ms Palaszczuk replied: "Not since the code has been updated."
A statement from the Premier's office would not verify the email the Opposition presented in estimates, but said the use of emails had already been investigated by the CCC.
"Unsurprisingly, the Premier has no recollection of an email from five years ago," a spokesman said.
"The CCC investigated emails from the mango cube account [the address used by Mr Bailey] and found no illegality.
"The Cabinet handbook was amended in 2018."
By Rachel Riga