Queensland electoral commissioner quits after ‘serious allegations’

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Queensland electoral commissioner quits after ‘serious allegations’

Queensland electoral commissioner Walter van der Merwe

The Queensland electoral commissioner has quit, two days after being suspended for alleged serious misbehaviour.

Walter van der Merwe was issued a show cause notice, after Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said she became aware of claims about his behaviour which could have been in breach of the Electoral Act.

Mr van der Merwe has pre-empted that by tendering his resignation to the Governor.

In a statement, Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said Mr van der Merwe delivered his resignation to the Governor this morning, and provided a copy to her.

“Acting electoral commissioner arrangements are already in place and a recruitment process will begin shortly,” the statement reads.

“In the meantime, the allegations against Mr van der Merwe will be investigated to finalise the issues raised.”

Ms D’Ath would not confirm the nature of the allegations, other than stating they were related to “misbehaviour” under the Electoral Act but “do not suggest inappropriate interference in the outcome of elections”.

A special meeting of executive council was convened on Monday.

“It’s a show cause process and I will be providing the electoral commissioner with the allegations, and giving him adequate time to respond to those allegations before making a final decision,” Ms D’Ath said at the time.

“It is my decision, again recommending to Governor-in-Council whether misbehaviour has occurred and there should be a termination of his contract.

“The Governor has today approved my recommendation on all of the information that I have relied on to make my decision and that information was put before the Governor today in his consideration.”

The current assistant electoral commissioner, Dermot Tiernan, has been the acting commissioner.

Electoral Commission ‘secretive and authoritarian’

A review of the 2016 local government elections, conducted by former Brisbane lord mayor Jim Soorley and tabled in State Parliament last June, described the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) as a secretive, authoritarian organisation with many management, communication and technology problems.

“There was a cavalier culture in the Electoral Commission — there were broken systems and poor management — that’s a recipe for disaster,” Mr Soorley said.

“The evidence collected points to a management style and culture that is secretive, authoritarian, silo-based and non-consultative.”

Mr Soorley said the review panel was unable to meet with electoral commissioner Mr van der Merwe on his own, as he was always accompanied by the assistant commissioner, Mr Tiernan, who took the lead on responding to most issues.

“Their interactions and behaviour has the semblance of ‘good cop, bad cop’ management style,” Mr Soorley said.

Topics:

government-and-politics,

electoral-system,

state-parliament,

brisbane-4000

Contact Josh Bavas

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