Queensland energy minister Mark Bailey has been stood aside after the state's corruption watchdog found he had raised a "reasonable suspicion of corrupt conduct" by destroying work-related emails from a private account.
The Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission's investigation followed claims the minister had used his private email to lobby unions over a multi-million dollar superannuation merger.
The Australian newspaper had submitted a freedom of information request for the minister’s emails to substantiate the allegations, but it was knocked back because the personal Yahoo account had been deleted.
In March, Bailey said he had deleted the account following a warning from premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, and to ensure he could only be contacted on his ministerial email account.
He argued the account - firstname.lastname@example.org - was about 20 years old and his first email address, well before his time in politics.
The CCC later retrieved more than 30,000 emails from Bailey's account, and yesterday said it considered "a number" of them to be public records.
While the CCC said it found no evidence to support the lobbying claims, there was "sufficient evidence" to raise "a reasonable suspicion of corrupt conduct" relating to the destruction of public record emails.
It has referred the matter to the state archivist for investigation.
More private emails
The CCC said it had come across other ministers using private email accounts for work matters, and warned politicians to ensure they are adhering to their obligations for retention of public records.
It said it considered the use of a personal email account for work purposes to breach the state's ministerial handbook and ministerial information security policy. The CCC does not have jurisdiction in these areas.
The watchdog said it hadn't identified any corrupt conduct in these cases of private email use, but said it "lacks transparency and is a corruption risk".
"The use by a minister of a private email account for ministerial purposes is not of itself corrupt conduct," it said.
"The CCC takes this opportunity to remind elected officials and the heads of public sector agencies in Queensland of the inherent corruption risks of using private emails for official business."