MPs, coun­cil­lors face jail un­der strict laws

The Queensland Times - - NEWS - SARAH VOGLER

EN­JOY­ING tea and scones with a de­vel­oper is fine but ac­cept­ing do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional flights or tick­ets to con­certs cost­ing more than $200 could land a lo­cal coun­cil­lor or state MP and the donor in jail un­der the Palaszczuk Gov­ern­ment’s pro­hib­ited donor scheme.

Coun­cils have been given ex­am­ples of what they can and can­not do when it comes to ac­cept­ing hos­pi­tal­ity from de­vel­op­ers and de­vel­op­ment in­dus­try groups un­der the new laws, which ap­ply equally to state par­lia­men­tar­i­ans as well.

Ac­cord­ing to the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion of Queens­land, which is charged with en­forc­ing the ban, light meals and re­fresh­ments, tea, cof­fee, wa­ter and morn­ing or af­ter­noon tea are ac­cept­able.

Flights, ex­trav­a­gant meals of more than $200 or tick­ets to ex­pen­sive events like con­certs that cost more than $200 are banned.

Elec­toral Com­mis­sioner Pat Vid­gen said the ECQ de­ter­mined the guide­lines based on a range of fac­tors.

“To de­ter­mine what hos­pi­tal­ity can be re­ceived, ECQ con­sid­ered the long-stand­ing prac­tices out­lined in Par­lia­ment’s Code of Eth­i­cal Stan­dards and the Queens­land Min­is­te­rial hand­book, which guide ac­cept­able be­hav­iour,” he said.

“We also looked to Queens­land’s Elec­toral Act which states fundrais­ing con­tri­bu­tions of $200 or less are not con­sid­ered a gift and we’ve ap­plied that same dol­lar value to to­kens of hos­pi­tal­ity un­der the pro­hib­ited donors scheme.”

Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion of Queens­land CEO Greg Hallam re­sponded favourably.

“We think it’s rea­son­able and lo­cal gov­ern­ment will abide by those rules,” he said.

is re­solv­ing an is­sue that was a ma­jor prob­lem.”

The ECQ moved to clar­ify how it plans to en­force the de­vel­oper do­na­tion ban fol­low­ing con­flict­ing le­gal ad­vice ob­tained by coun­cils over hos­pi­tal­ity.

Bris­bane Lord Mayor Gra­ham Quirk re­vealed last year he was re­fus­ing to eat when at­tend­ing de­vel­op­ment in­dus­try lunches, to en­sure he did not break the rules.

The do­na­tion ban was ini­tially in­tro­duced by the Palaszczuk Gov­ern­ment on the eve of the 2017 State Elec­tion be­fore it was rein­tro­duced and passed last year.

The ban did not of­fi­cially come into ef­fect un­til Oc­to­ber last year but it was made ret­ro­spec­tive mean­ing any dona“This tions from a de­vel­oper since Oc­to­ber 12, 2017, is il­le­gal.

Any­one who know­ingly makes or ac­cepts a pro­hib­ited do­na­tion faces fines of up to $52,220 or two years in jail.

WE THINK IT’S REA­SON­ABLE AND LO­CAL GOV­ERN­MENT WILL ABIDE BY THOSE RULES. THIS IS RE­SOLV­ING AN IS­SUE THAT WAS A MA­JOR PROB­LEM. GREG HALLAM

Photo: Nev Mad­sen

Bris­bane Lord Mayor Gra­ham Quirk.

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