Politics Opinion

Mayor Tom Tate is Robbin' the 'Hood

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Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has been found guilty of misusing public funds — again. This is the modern tale of Robbin' The 'Hood!

The story that follows is a tale of how Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate stood up against morality and integrity by stealing from the poor (the ratepayers) to give money to the rich (himself).

This would be funny, it if wasn’t true. 

Earlier this week, the Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT) announced that Mayor Tom Tate was found guilty on eight out of 11 charges of misconduct and unethical behaviour related to illegally spending over $20,000 of city funds in his role as mayor.

The offences, which occurred between early 2016 and mid-2018, involved Tate donating large sums of money to various pet projects and community groups, and purchasing sporting tickets and audio-visual equipment for personal use, from his private accounts. After completing the transactions, Tate then sought to claim this personal expenditure back from the council as either incidental or official mayoral expenditure.

The charitable donations included $5,000 to Christian radio station Juice FM (on which he regularly appears), and almost $8,000 in donations to his personal charity, the annual Mayoress’ Ball. The Mayor also purchased over $300 worth of tickets to Titans NRL matches and $1,200 worth of headphones and TV equipment in the same period.

Now, while these amounts may not seem large, according to council expenditure regulations, the total is ten times over the legal amount allowed.

How much is a vote worth?

To put this spending into perspective, analysing the period when this money was spent is important. In mid-2016, Tate had just been re-elected in one of the dirtiest election campaigns witnessed on the Gold Coast, polling over 64% of the vote. The mayor’s office, overseen by chief of staff Wayne Moran, was pushing for Chinese investment in casinos and local real estate on the back of Tate’s “trojan horse”, the cruise ship terminal (CST) on the Spit.

Arrogance and intimidation oozed from the Mayor’s office daily throughout this period as both Tate and Moran sought to enforce their mythical “mandate” in any way they could. This included a vicious social media campaign involving various fake profiles, and by creating and supporting fake community groups to antagonise and oppose local volunteer community groups who opposed their nefarious plans.

This campaign was ably supported by Peter Gleeson, former editor of the Gold Coast Bulletin and then editor of the Courier Mail (both owned by News Corp). News Corp’s financial survival is based purely on real estate advertising (and Harvey Norman catalogues), and it recognised early on that Tate, a property developer, was good for business.

To support Tate, News Corp had started its own protection racket, much like the Mayor’s Office, whereby any dissenting comments or commentators that opposed Tate were blocked online and Tate’s opponents were presented negatively in any stories from both papers. Similarly, online surveys conducted by Newspoll, particularly around the CST issue, were skewed positively towards Tate. 

Tate played this News Corp support to the full and began appearing everywhere online and in print, and with the development and real estate industries backing, became untouchable as a result, insufferable to much of the community, outside the big players in town, who were, of course, receiving his largesse (on behalf of the residents). As we now know, if Tate was to attend your function, the donations flowed, particularly from property developers and Tate himself.

The only problem was, with Tate, it wasn’t his money to spend when buying other people’s votes and robbing the rich to give to the poor only works if you follow through with it (and it’s your money to begin with).

By 2017, Tate’s CST was looking shaky. The state was starting to question his dealings prior to the 2016 Election and how his election campaign was funded. The ABC’s Four Corners had released its ‘All that Glitters’ report that had exposed Tate’s links to donations from developers. For the first time, cracks started to appear in his public persona and Tate needed to pivot away from the constant negativity surrounding him. 

Enter, God

Sorry, first came some polyps. 

In late 2017, a routine check-up found that Tate had some polyps in his bum that needed to be taken out (rumour has it that a certain News Corp council reporter was also found up there and had to be removed). Around the same time, his wife, Ruth, had a heart attack. According to Tate, these two events were a sign from God (to some, it was karma at work), so he turned to the church and in early 2018, was baptised.

Bowel cancer and heart attacks are not to be taken lightly, so excuse my cynicism, but it’s not like Tate walked down to the local church, opened up the Bible and started studying and reflecting quietly. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Tate, with cameras and social media team in tow, was baptised in the lake at Evandale, behind the council chambers one Sunday morning by a Pentecostal mob that supports the Seven Mountain Mandate (7M). This is an extreme philosophy that believes in a God-given authority to take over the world in seven key areas of society: education, family, business, government, media, arts and religion.

From this church came Pastor Sue Baynes, Tate’s personal “spiritual advisor”, who was later appointed to an official role at council as “Pastor of the City” (complete with her own office and six-figure salary), without the knowledge of the other 12 councillors. Social and print media lit up and the religious community rallied around Tate after his conversion.

Tate, always the opportunist, hit the religious speaking circuit and it was here that he announced that “the evil one” had targeted his wife in relation to her heart attack, suggesting that the Devil was trying to get to Tate through his wife to stop him from his civic duties. The heart attack, of course, had nothing to do with the usual causes such as genetics, a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. But I digress...

Once set up on the books as the city’s own “spiritual advisor”, Baynes would go on to claim that the Home of the Arts (HOTA) cultural centre at Bundall was a demonic gateway that needed to be cleansed, while Tate, now proclaiming himself as the “father of the city”, would donate $5,000 of ratepayers’ money to the local Christian radio station in return for a weekly guest spot.

Make of that what you will. However, God does work in mysterious ways.

Robbing your neighbourhood

With God on his side and your money in his pocket, there is nothing or no one too big or too small that Tate won’t or can’t buy to secure a vote — after all, he’s on a mission from God.

With the developers’ vote always assured, the Christian vote in his back pocket, and News Corp running its protection racket for him in the media, Tate will continue to spend tens of thousands of his own dollars donating to causes, businesses and people about town to present himself as a Robin Hood super mayor. This is before days or weeks later in the middle of the night, switching out that “donation” from his own money and reimbursing himself using ratepayers’ funds.

Fraud and theft anyone?

He's robbing your neighbourhood to pay for power, as essentially the ratepayers are funding his election and goodwill campaigns and we don't even know about it.

The local sheriff is in on the gig.

If “spending other people’s money” was an Olympic event, Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate would be the gold medalist every four years, hands down. 

However, it is apparent that the authorities don’t care. Why else would it take almost six years for these crimes to be considered? I mean, if Tate was employed privately (or was a council employee) he would have been sacked on the spot for embezzling company funds in this manner.

Similarly, these latest charges come on the back of last year's findings of council misconduct, where he was ordered to make a public admission and pay nearly $3,500 in penalties.

This time around, he has been hit with a $2,322 fine and must publicly admit his wrongdoing and attend a training course for the “misconduct” and unethical behaviour. 

Mayor Robbin’ the ‘Hood is, of course, appealing the decision.

Again, make of that, what you will.

Darren Crawford is a surfer, environmentalist, sports coach/administrator and academic. He is also vice president of Save Our Spit Alliance. You can follow Darren on Twitter @Darrencanplay.

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