Had Premier Annastacia Palasczuk not reneged on her promise to hold a public inquiry into favourable decisions for donors, her partner Shaun Drabsch (pictured here behind the Premer) may have been called been called to give evidence from his time working as a lobbyist during the Bligh Government (Image screenshot YouTube)

The Queensland Premier went back on her promise to hold an inquiry into political favours for donation — was this, like the Adani veto, something to do with her partner, Shaun Drabsch? Richard Carew reports.

BEFORE Independent MP (now Speaker) Peter Wellington agreed to support Labor forming government in 2015, he exchanged letters with Premier Palaszczuk.

The Premier promised that Labor would hold a public inquiry into

'... donations to political parties and the awarding of tenders, contracts and approvals.'

The Government promised Queenslanders a "royal commission style inquiry" and the Premier pledged that it would include her own administration as well as Campbell Newman’s. 

These promises were broken. There has been no inquiry into donations to political parties and links to favourable decisions.

Recently, the Premier promised to veto, if granted, a $1 billion Federal loan to Adani, following the remarkable revelation that her partner Shaun Drabsch was involved in Adani’s application for the loan. But if Labor wins the election and given the Premier still supports the Adani mine, will this promise be kept?

Interestingly, had the promised public inquiry into favourable decisions for donors occurred, Mr Drabsch may have been called as a witness relating to his time as a lobbyist employed by Rowland Pty Ltd. That company 'designed and implemented a public affairs campaign' for the Belgian-owned Sibelco to oppose the Bligh Government over its North Stradbroke Island sand mining policies.

From 2007 to 2011, Mr Drabsch was the General Manager of Government relations at Rowland. The sand mining public campaign began in 2010.

The campaign became very controversial.

To quote Minister for Mines Anthony Lynham, referring to the LNP:

“Sibelco became a significant donor in their 2012 election campaign. I am talking about a reported over $90,000 in donations and over $1 million in a political campaign opposing the previous Labor government.” (Hansard, 17 March, 2016).

The campaign intensified in the lead up to the 2012 election. It included full page newspaper and prime time television ads, and letters distributed in Campbell Newman’s electorate. Artificially, only the letters’ expenditure of $91,840 was declared to the ECQ.   

After being elected, Campbell Newman broke an election promise. He amended the Bligh Government sand mining legislation to potentially allow sand mining on Stradbroke to be further extended, from 2019 to 2035. Newman later misled parliament about his broken promise.

The circumstances indicated that Sibelco had been rewarded for its campaign against the Bligh Government.

In a dissenting report to Parliament in 2013, the now Deputy Premier Jackie Trad described the events as a cash for legislation deal between Sibelco and the Newman Government. There were calls for an independent public inquiry. 

The Sibelco case featured at a Brisbane corruption conference in February, 2015, before Labor formed government. Former NSW ICAC Commissioner David Ipp, former Queensland Integrity Commissioner David Solomon and prominent barrister (and IA contributorStephen Keim SC all commented on the circumstances, which called for a thorough investigation.

The Premier has not given a reason for breaking her Inquiry promise. Could it relate to her pledge to include her own administration? It would have been difficult for the Premier to resist an investigation of Labor’s own favours for donations controversy, surrounding the Toondah Harbour development proposal at Cleveland — where the ferries depart for North Stradbroke Island.

The proposal to dredge and "reclaim" protected wetlands for a high-rise development and private marina began under the Newman Government. Labor was expected to dump the proposal, but instead expanded the number of proposed units from 800 to 3,600.

The proposed developer, the Walker Corporation, has been a long term political donor. Investigative journalist Kate McClymont reported that between 1998 and 2014 Walker gave $2,253,480 in (declared) donations to the major political parties, mostly to the ALP. More recently, Walker increased its donations to the Federal Liberal Party. The Toondah Harbour proposal requires Federal Government approval. 

Incidentally, the ATO reported that last corporate tax year, Walker paid zero income tax on earnings of over $363 million. In the same year, Sibelco also paid zero income tax on earnings of $450 million. 

To deliver her 2015 decisions favouring Walker, the responsible minister, Jackie Trad, backflipped on her apparently strenuous opposition to Priority Development Areas and trashed Labor’s previous involvement in protection of the Toondah wetlands from similar proposals. Trad’s decisions also conflict with the Party’s policies. The proposed reclamation would also breach the international Ramsar agreement for the protection of listed wetlands, which only permits destruction of Ramsar wetlands for 'urgent national interests'

Walker stands to make a fortune from the sale of 3,600 waterfront units.

Labor’s Toondah Harbour decisions favouring the Walker Group are highly questionable. To avoid public scrutiny, did the Premier break her promises to hold an inquiry into political donations and State Government favours?

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