Mark Bailey concedes he’s lucky to be reinstated to Queensland’s cabinet after the state’s corruption fighting chief found his “foolish” email use had not, technically, broken any laws.
The Crime and Corruption Commission on Friday found there were no grounds to prosecute Mr Bailey following a six-month investigation into the use and subsequent deletion of the private account – [email protected]
The issue was first raised in January when Mr Bailey deleted the account, 10 days after The Australian filed a Right to Information request for emails it contained from Electrical Trades Union secretary Peter Simpson regarding a merger of union superannuation funds.
The CCC forced Mr Bailey to reopen the account, and found over a thousand emails relating to his ministerial duties, which they referred to the State Archivist Mike Summerell for further investigation.
Mr Summerell found 660 emails of those emails would have legally required his permission to be deleted, but because the email account was recovered, Mr Bailey had technically not breached the Public Records Act.
CCC chief executive Alan MacSporran said Mr Bailey was “incredibly lucky” not to be facing criminal charges, and urged government MPs to avoid using private email accounts because of the “perception of corruption”.
“Often the perception is as bad as the reality,” Mr MacSporran told reporters on Friday.
“If you think of it that way, the last thing you would be doing is using a private email account, and if you were, the very last thing you’d ever do would be deactivate it, because you’d be immediately accused … of trying to cover up some nefarious activity.
“I think he’s been very foolish.”
Mr Bailey acknowledged that on Friday, and regretted the whole affair.
“The accusation was that I was in some way doing something wrong with (the private account), and I wanted to remove that as a possibility, but I didn’t fully consider the type of criticisms that might occur,” Mr Bailey told reporters.
“It was an error of judgement, I should have consulted with other people before I made the decision, and I am sincerely sorry for that.”
The ruling prompted Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to immediately reinstate Mr Bailey to cabinet and his ministerial positions, including energy and main roads, ahead of the looming state election.
“I want him to get on with the job of being a minister in my government, to keep applying pressure to the Turnbull government when it comes to electricity prices in this nation,” Ms Palaszczuk told reporters in Rockhampton.
However, the state opposition said Ms Palaszczuk’s integrity was now “in tatters” for reinstating Mr Bailey, comparing his actions to stealing a car, then returning it and being let off.
“Criminal charge or not, Labor’s energy minister’s conduct is unconscionable and unethical and not befitting a Minister of the Crown,” LNP Deputy Leader Deb Frecklington said.
Despite apologising for his actions, Mr Bailey wouldn’t commit to releasing his emails publicly on Friday, instead suggesting journalists lodge a fresh RTI to obtain them.