News State Queensland Queensland electoral commissioner resigns after ‘serious allegations’ made

Queensland electoral commissioner resigns after ‘serious allegations’ made

queensland electoral commissioner walter van der merwe
Queensland electoral commissioner Walter van der Merwe has quit. Photo: ABC
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Queensland’s electoral commissioner Walter van der Merwe has resigned two days after “serious allegations” were levelled against him.

Mr van der Merwe had been stood down pending an investigation into the allegations on Monday.

He delivered his resignation to Governor Paul de Jersey on Wednesday morning, Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said.

In his letter to to the Governor, Mr van der Merwe said he intended to stand down from official duties soon due to ill health, despite having several years left on his contract.

But he said he brought his resignation forward in light of the allegations against him.

“As a consequence of the stress of dealing with these matters and the effect that they are having upon my family, and are likely to have upon the officers of the Commission, I have come to the conclusion that an earlier resignation than one I was originally planning is the best course of conduct,” Mr van der Merwe wrote.

Ms D’Ath said the investigation would continue as planned.

Qld electoral commissioner stood down
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said the allegations did not suggest interference in the outcome of elections. Photo: AAP

A recruitment process to replace him will begin shortly, while Assistant Commissioner Dermot Tiernan continues as Acting Commissioner.

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

Mr van der Merwe was suspended with full pay on Monday over unspecified allegations, which could amount to misbehavior 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 on Monday.

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

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

Section 25 of the Electoral Act legislates against “misbehaviour of physical or mental incapacity”.

A senior electoral officer could be sacked under the section for nominating for election or becoming a member of a political party.

It also covers 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 also results in termination, as well as undisclosed direct or indirect pecuniary interest.

The electoral commission on Monday said Queenslanders could be assured it would continue to operate as normal.

Several calls to the commission by The New Daily have gone unanswered.

 -with AAP