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Stuart Robert gone but questions over 'shady deals' remain

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Stuart Robert has been linked to several scandals during his time in politics (Screenshot via YouTube — edited)

Recent testimony by John Margerison, former business partner of Stuart Robert, lends weight to questions about Robert's financial interests while in the Morrison Government, writes Belinda Jones.

IT'S A SMALL world on the Gold Coast, especially if you’re a Liberal National Party of Queensland (LNP) member.   

The local Murdoch rag reports abitter fightbrewing in paradise once again — it’s the same every election. In fact, it would be more unusual if there wasn’t a bitter pre-selection factional fight in the Gold Coast LNP.

As serial candidates Cameron Caldwell and Fran Ward battle it out once again, this time, a three-way tussle has emerged with newcomer Dr Dinesh Palipana.

Caldwell and Ward are old political foes. There was the great corflute conspiracy back in 2016 when Ward’s then-campaign director, Roger Emmerson, complained to the Queensland Electoral Commission about Ward’s destroyed corflutes being inside Caldwell’s office bins. 

Coincidentally, that was the same local government election where former Federal member for Fadden Stuart Robert was caught bankrolling "Independents" — which became the subject of the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission’s (CCC) Operation Belcarra. Ward ran as an Independent in that same 2016 Election.

For those astute Independent Australia readers, the name Roger Emmerson may ring a bell — he’s the chairman of United Disability Care (UDC). Roger Emmerson is also Fran Ward’s husband.

Buried on page 19 of UDC’s '2018-2019 Annual Financial Report', it states that UDC’s 'principal place of business [is] C/- Sean Beasley' within a local gated golf course residential community. Odd place to carry out National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) work.

Sean Beasley has been John Margerison’s accountant for years.

John Margerison has been Stuart Robert’s business partner and friend for years.

Connecting the dots?

Of note: United Disability Care Pty Ltd received 14 Coalition Government grants valued at $5,893,538.05 between 2018-2021, including a $3.2 million grant almost immediately after Sean Beasley and John Margerison took over the existing business in 2018.

These grants magically stopped just before the 2022 Federal Election — UDC has received nothing since, even though it is still operating the same business from the same prestigious residential golf course address, carrying out the same operations. The only thing that has changed is the Federal Government. Coincidence?

To jog IA readers’ memories, John Margerison’s testimony last month to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA) likely prompted Stuart Robert’s decision to leave politics for "family reasons".

Margerison declared that Stuart Robert:

“... would still be a beneficiary of the discretionary trust, as a potential beneficiary..."

Perhaps Margerison was unaware of the significance of his statement, or perhaps it was said deliberately, but either way, Margerison said it under oath.

Firstly, Margerison’s statement confirmed the money trail of alleged corruption connected with Synergy 360. It also proved Stuart Robert had awarded a $3.5 million contract to a company in which he merited a financial interest.

Margerison – on a hat trick – also confirmed that he was aware of Stuart Robert’s personal financial interests (interests Robert had previously declared were in a 'blind structure [blind trust] that is independent of me'). 

This implies, as has been long rumoured, that Margerison may have managed Stuart Robert’s "blind trust” — because it begs the question: How would Margerison know whether or not Stuart Robert would still be a beneficiary of the discretionary trust?

If that is the case, it compromises Margerison’s claim to the JCPAA that his business relationship and friendship with Stuart Robert ended in 2018 and would put him in contempt of Parliament.

In his testimony to the JCPAA, Margerison confirmed that every cent he got as a result of the business dealings of Synergy 360 would be funnelled into the Australian Property Trust.

Said Margerison:

“FYI, anything that comes in from this in the future, I will end up sending to APUT the same amount that comes in.”

"APUT" stands for Australian Property Trust. 

Several minutes later, Margerison dropped the bombshell that Stuart Robert remains a beneficiary of APUT to this day. Likely, that was the moment Stuart Robert’s political career ended.

IA has, for years, been trying to unravel the details of Stuart Robert’s interests and connections. There was a stink that wouldn’t leave Robert, but it's been difficult to fathom some of the goings-on. 

Until John Margerison made his recent statement.

Margerison told the JCPAA he had ended his business relationship and friendship with Stuart Robert in 2018. Despite this, Margerison’s name remains inextricably linked with Stuart Robert and his scandal-ridden career.  

This past relationship may cause reputational damage to Margerison, who surely knew what he was doing when he dropped that bombshell? Being intimately acquainted with Robert’s finances, it's hard to believe he wouldn't understand the ramifications of his testimony. 

It came across as "friendly fire" designed to divorce Margerison’s reputation from his former friend: a futile attempt as Margerison's name will be forever linked to former Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Member for Fadden, Stuart Robert. 

DISCLAIMER: Belinda Jones is running as an Independent candidate for the Federal seat of Fadden in the upcoming By-election.

You can follow IA columnist Belinda Jones on Twitter @belindajones68.

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