Watchdog bites back over ‘inappropriate’ request


QUEENSLAND'S legal watchdog has revealed his commission was asked to cover the flight costs of candidates interviewing for his position amid an extraordinary public stoush with the Palaszczuk Government.

Acting Legal Services Commissioner Bob Brittan revealed to The Courier-Mail that he rejected the demand for funds, saying it would have been "inappropriate" to siphon money from his investigations budget.

His comments have added fuel to a bitter spat with Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath which has spilt into the public after Mr Brittan accused her of using questionable selection processes to replace him.

Bob Brittan outside the Brisbane city law courts. Pic: Peter Wallis
Bob Brittan outside the Brisbane city law courts. Pic: Peter Wallis

The long-serving veteran of the Legal Services Commission has revealed the initial selection panel for his position was disbanded after he obtain advice from the Integrity Commission that questioned Ms D'Ath for using representatives from legal bodies to help pick their own watchdog.

Ms D'Ath fired back by insisting she had new Integrity advice and yesterday branded Mr Brittan a "disgruntled" figure who has sought to besmirch the reputation of every panellist in an effort to obtain the position full time.

She then accused him of requesting he be appointed as the commission's deputy without a merit-based process.

Mr Brittan revealed the commission received an invoice from the Department of Justice and Attorney-General (DJAG) for the candidates' flights but he rejected the attempt to bill his statutory authority for the costs.

"It has never happened previously in the time that I have been there and I have been there for 15 years," he said.

"Asking us to pay for someone to attend an interview to go through a selection process is inappropriate.

"I am not the employer of this person.

"This budget is for the complaints, handling and investigations process and to conduct the business dealings of the commission, not undertake a recruitment process through DJAG."

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath at parliament. Pic: Annette Dew
Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath at parliament. Pic: Annette Dew

Ms D'Ath yesterday defended the current selection process as "robust and rigorous" and that new Integrity Commission advice was that the panel was "appropriate" with no ethical concerns.

"Every step of the way I've done everything in my power to protect the integrity of the process," she told parliament.

"The same can't be said for the disgruntled former applicant for the position who has tried to … influence the selection process."

Ms D'Ath said Mr Brittan tried to influence who was on the panel in the lead up to original interviews, in which he was an applicant.

He criticised not only members of the Bar Association and Law Society, but senior officers from the DJAG, she said.

"What candidate gets to choose who the selection panel is for such a senior position," she said.

She said she was 100 per cent confident the best candidate would be selected.