NO DONATION, THAT’S A TIP
Trad wants union funding exempt from inquiry
DEPUTY Premier Jackie Trad wants unions exempt from the proposed donations inquiry, despite their massive contributions to Labor’s coffers and benefiting from government decisions.
Earlier this week Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the inquiry would not be limited to examining the Newman government, saying Labor administrations could also come under the microscope.
Ms Trad yesterday suggested union donations would not form part of the inquiry, saying it would be focused in- stead on the awarding of tenders and government decisions.
She also conceded that the Crime and Corruption Commission could “theoretically” say no to the inquiry, while defending the nature of the probe.
“It’s not a witch-hunt – it is about ensuring that the public has confidence in the way in which government decisions are made,” she said.
Ms Trad said Labor’s “commitment at the election (was) that (it) would conduct an inquiry into the link between donations to the Liberal National Party and government decisions by the Liberal National government of the day”.
She yesterday pointed to the Karreman Quarries controversy that occurred under the LNP, as well as the role mining company Sibelco played in the 2012 election, as examples of matters that could be investigated. Both issues have previously been referred to the state’s crime and corruption watchdog.
Asked whether the inquiry would also examine union donations to Labor, the Deputy Premier said: “Let’s be clear – the commitment was about government decisions made.
“Now I don’t know how many unions make decisions on behalf of government, but my guess would be zero.”
“It was about donations to the Liberal National Party and decisions made by the Liberal National government in relation to work being given to potentially donors.”
Ms Trad questioned “how many government decisions are made by unions” and “how many decisions are made that are actually about giving unions tenders”, adding: “It doesn’t happen.”
Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the proposed inquiry was an “appalling abuse of power”.
PERHAPS it will become clearer as time goes by, but at the moment the Queensland Government’s plan to have an inquiry into political donations is as confused as some of the responses on this topic from Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Ms Palaszczuk said prior to the last election there should be a probe into donations, seeking presumably to cast doubt on the legitimacy and intent of some donations to the LNP.
Asked about the proposed investigation following the appointment of a new chairman for the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC), the Premier said any inquiry would question whether there was a connection between a donation from the New Hope energy group and the LNP’s approval of stage three of the Acland Mine.
The donation from New Hope – which was made to the federal Liberals and not the Queensland LNP – is supposedly associated with 28 donations to the LNP from unnamed sources amounting to $100,000.
Ms Palaszczuk says “you only have to listen to radio stations” to hear of alleged improprieties involving political donations and this was enough to call on the CCC to investigate these and other donations which could be linked to “awarding of contracts and tenders”.
Most people who tune in to mainstream radio programs would be hard pressed to nominate instances where people have presented evidence of wrongdoing that can be linked to political donations. We can only assume Ms Palaszczuk is referencing the bombastic Sydney-based show of Alan Jones – who is constantly making unsourced claims involving Acland Mine. This is the thinnest basis for an official inquiry – complete with coercive powers – into unspecified events.
If Ms Palaszczuk or other ministers have material that ties the LNP or any ministers in the Newman government to donations from miners or developers and the awarding of contracts or the goahead for projects, they should present it to relevant authorities, whether it is the CCC or police. As it is, we have “alleged improprieties” that are sourced to unnamed people calling into an unspecified radio station – hardly the stuff of serious consideration by a specialist crime and corruption body.
The other concerning aspect of this is Ms Palaszczuk’s intention to call on the CCC to undertake this inquiry.
After the Premier gave the impression such an investigation would be imposed on the CCC, Deputy Premier Jackie Trad clarified that the Government would just be making a request for the organisation to probe these issues.
Either way, this is a bad precedent for a Government that preached transparency, accountability and respect for institutional independence when in opposition.
Politicians should not be using the CCC to litigate against or inquire into actions of opponents.
The last politician in Queensland to do this was former Labor premier Anna Bligh, who called for a corruption probe into Campbell Newman – a move that backfired spectacularly when she admitted having no evidence against her then opponent.
What we are left with is a confused proposal to set up a vague inquiry into allegations that can’t be specified.
This sounds very much like the illfated Senate inquiry into the Newman government by Clive Palmer and his colleagues – with the support of Labor and the Greens. That inquiry did nothing, proved nothing, and made no substantial findings.
Ms Palaszczuk prides herself on her integrity and probity, which are central to her appeal with Queensland voters.
This kind of political stunt masked as an inquiry into alleged improprieties will unnecessarily damage her standing.
She is better than just another politician who takes the easy and low road to score political points. And Queenslanders are sick of the default grandstanding tactics of modern politics. The Premier also should realise this kind of fishing expedition could quite possibly backfire spectacularly.
If Labor has any evidence it should be presented to authorities. Otherwise, they should beat a retreat and leave this folly alone.