News State QLD News Queensland electoral commissioner stood down over ‘misconduct’ allegations

Queensland electoral commissioner stood down over ‘misconduct’ allegations

Qld electoral commissioner stood down
Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said the allegations do not suggest interference in the outcome of elections. Photo: AAP
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Queensland’s electoral commissioner Walter van der Merwe has been stood down while “serious allegations” are investigated.

He was suspended with full pay following an executive council meeting on Monday, Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath announced.

Ms D’Ath said the unspecified allegations could amount to misbehaviour under Section 25 of the Electoral Act.

“The allegations, whilst serious, do not suggest inappropriate interference in the outcome of elections,” Ms D’Ath told reporters.

She said she was made aware of the allegations on Thursday.

Walter van der Merwe, Queensland electoral commissioner
Walter van der Merwe has been stood down with full pay pending an investigation. Photo: Queensland Electoral Commission

“I will not go into details, other than to say they are serious allegations that warranted me taking immediate action,” Ms D’Ath said.

“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 will advise the Governor in Council on whether misbehaviour has occurred following the investigation.

Assistant Commissioner Demrot Tiernan will lead the agency for the duration of the investigation.

Mr van der Merwe, who earned almost $300,000 last year, was appointed in 2014 by the former Newman government.

Section 25 of the Electoral Act

The Governor in Council can terminate a senior electoral officer “for misbehaviour of physical or mental incapacity” under Section 25.

The appointment must be terminated if the officer nominates for election to an Australian parliament or becomes a member of a political party.

An officer must also be stood down over bankruptcy. Mr van der Merwe did not appear in a bankruptcy register search by The New Daily on the Australian Financial Security Authority website.

Extended absence without reasonable excuse and engaging in paid employment outside duties without approval also results in termination.

The commissioner would also need to be stood down over a direct or indirect pecuniary interest without disclosure and reasonable excuse.

The electoral commission declined to comment, but said Queenslanders could be assured it would continue to operate as usual.