Anti-corruption boss Alan MacSporran says the success of CCC’s investigation into Ipswich council was largely down to secrecy.
Anti-corruption boss Alan MacSporran says the success of CCC’s investigation into Ipswich council was largely down to secrecy.

Why CCC’s Ipswich probe was so successful

Anti-corruption boss Alan MacSporran has seized on the CCC's Ipswich probe as an example of why he will not back away from pushing for controversial laws gagging the publication of complaints made to the watchdog.

Mr MacSporran has used the successful Crime and Corruption Commission's Operation Windage investigation into Ipswich council to highlight why it will not give up on pressing for a blanket prohibition on complaints being made public before they were dealt with.

He said the push had been "unfairly maligned" by being tied to the government's hastily abandoned Bill in August, which he said did not mirror the CCC's recommendation.

The Palaszczuk Government in August introduced laws into parliament threatening up to six months' prison for publishing complaints made to the CCC during an election campaign.

It argued it was acting on the CCC's advice, but departed from the CCC's recommendation by limiting the gag to election campaigns and allowing exceptions for political candidates.

The government backflipped a day later, withdrawing the Bill amid a wave of criticism.

Former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale pleaded guilty to more than 30 criminal charges arising from the 2016 investigation, which Mr MacSporran said had been so successful because it had been kept covert.

He has argued the case showed the importance of laws to guard against the publication of allegations mid-investigation, with suspects potentially taking steps to avoid being caught.

"The price you pay for the freedom to go public is that you might undermine the whole purpose of going public," he said.

"All you are doing is saying: 'Okay I exposed it, but I can't prove it because the crooks got wind of it and destroyed the evidence'."

He said the covert nature of the Ipswich council probe meant the CCC had been able to inject "significant resources across a whole range of issues without the suspects becoming aware".

"We were able to do that because it didn't become public before or during the time it was with us," he said.

"So the whole thing was able to be controlled by us on our terms with the use of our many powers, including telephone intercepts, surveillance devices, coercive hearings - all of those tools could be employed tactically and strategically under our control, without the suspects ever being aware that they were even being looked at.

"And that maximised our prospects of getting to the bottom of what it was."

He will have to convince both major parties, who have said any such change is off the table and are instead considering shield laws to protect the confidential sources of journalists.

Pisasale, 69, was sentenced to 7½ years' jail last week. He is the seventh person jailed from the investigation.