Senate debates

Tuesday, 25 February 2020


Queensland: Local Government

9:27 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I address the Senate tonight about corruption in local government in Queensland. As a Senator for Queensland I am deeply concerned for people's wellbeing. My connection with Queensland includes being a former candidate in the City of Ipswich and I am a strong supporter of local government. So you think democracy exists in Ipswich, in Logan and in Moreton Bay? Let me explain why it has failed for voters in these areas.

Mayor Pisasale in Ipswich was widely approved by voters. He was even loved. Voters were deceived. He was a crook and is now in jail. Videos and video crews following in his wake making propaganda does not constitute good governance. Corruption does not constitute good governance. Being in jail does not constitute good governance. Some voters have been supporters of the Local Government Association of Queensland, the LGAQ. The evidence is in now of their involvement with the corrupt practices of corrupt councils around Queensland. Operation Belcarra in Queensland highlighted the corruption in local government in my home state of Queensland, and none more so than in Ipswich, Logan and Moreton Bay city councils. These are three of the largest city councils in our state.

There was a common thread to this corruption, and this is the Local Government Association of Queensland, the LGAQ. In Logan, the LGAQ advised the elected councillors to ignore the directives of the Crime and Corruption Commission. Can you believe that? The council then sacked their CEO, Sharon Kelsey, who was exposing the corruption. That's what they do at local governments in some cities in Queensland with people who want to restore democracy. The LGAQ chief executive officer, Mr Greg Hallam, said in correspondence in support of those dodgy councillors that he would 'back them to the gates of hell'. The investigation after that resulted in the arrest of seven of the councillors and the mayor, who are facing charges over a total of 14 criminal offences. The council was then sacked by the Queensland government in 2019.

In Moreton Bay Regional Council, while the council was under investigation in March 2019, the mayor issued a contract to a company owned by a colleague and a former executive of the LGAQ to conduct a review—by a mate. The company, Grassroots Connections Australia Pty Ltd, was a preapproved company to supply management services through the LGAQ Local Buy system. This system has sent many local companies broke because they can no longer get work from local governments.

Former state MP for Cairns Mr Rob Pyne showed his courage. He tabled documents in state parliament in 2016, claiming the LGAQ was a 'rehoming service for dodgy and sacked council CEOs and officers'. In June 2019, Moreton Bay councillor Mr Adrian Raedel was arrested and charged with official corruption. In December 2019, the Mayor of Moreton Bay Regional Council was arrested and charged with misconduct in public office. In Ipswich, the entire council was sacked and the mayor gaoled, and the subsequent mayor was found guilty of serious misconduct.

The LGAQ funded personal defamation cases on behalf of councillors against people who criticised those councillors when those councillors were exposed as being corrupt. Why? Because they wanted to shut down any dissent and any complaints about corruption. The LGAQ intimidated. The LGAQ were again involved through a company set up by the jailed Mr Carl Wulff and his also-jailed associate Mr Claude Walker. The LGAQ used to be just a group of councillors in an organisation lobbying federal and state governments for funds and services. Now the LGAQ is a billion-dollar organisation run as a purportedly private not-for-profit political organisation. What a sham! The LGAQ, in the 2020 Queensland election coming up next month, have not changed. They are still trying to destroy candidates who don't agree with their corrupt policies, and they are involved in or have set up social media troll pages to defame and discredit candidates. They want to influence, corruptly, the outcomes of the elections. There should be a full investigation into all local government associations in Australia, as currently they appear to operate outside the law and operate as unelected government entities.

I can understand what the voters and electors in these local council areas must be thinking—deceived, let down, betrayed. Some voters will be feeling angry, frustrated and disappointed. So what needs to be done? Voters need honesty and to be heard and served. Voters want good governance and service. But the simple answer rests with the voters. Corruption can be weeded out by ensuring voters exercise their democratic choices when voting in the forthcoming local government elections. Their choices must be well informed, and the candidates need to show a sound track record of integrity and a strong history of fighting corrupt practices.

One such person is Mr Gary Duffy from Ipswich, who can be trusted. He has worked hard—despite physical, emotional and legal intimidation—along with his wife, Conny, and they have exposed the corruption. Many people from Ipswich have trusted him and come to Gary. Mr Duffy, a long-term Ipswich local community member, has provided valuable support in identifying and calling out those whose conduct was both deceptive and, in some cases, criminal. Some of these persons were councillors and some were working closely with those councillors.

In the future, I will seek leave to tender the responses of Mr Duffy to a discussion paper issued by the Queensland state government entitled 'Council's reporting of budget versus actual figures'. Mr Duffy examines and comments on the lack of transparency that may occur in local government spending when budget figures do not reflect actual figures. That's putting it politely. His paper and his comments relate directly to the lack of transparency when these councils have made questionable decisions in an attempt to cover their tracks. Here's a little trick that apparently—I'm told by people in Ipswich—the Labor Party use. In a division within the local government area, the Labor Party will put up a candidate, and then four affiliated people will be candidates as well and direct their votes to the Labor Party. Labor are absolutely terrified that they will not continue to manage that council, because if new management comes in then it will dig deep into the corruption and expose it.

The facts that I have presented today are true and remain an ongoing concern. I believe in democracy. This is where politicians represent the interests of their constituents and then act accordingly. Transparency is one of the ways to counter corruption. Put in it the open. Voting carefully, armed with facts and a belief in the integrity of your preferred candidate, is another way to exercise our democratic rights. People want to be heard. They want good governance. In local government, people want low rates and good services. They want honesty and they want trustworthiness. The forthcoming Queensland local government election next month will give Queenslanders an opportunity to exercise their voting power and replace those shown to be corrupt—replace them with good men and women. This is democracy in practice.

Senate adjourned at 21:37