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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 2558

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (Wills) (09:39): I have expressed concerns on many occasions about the improper power of property developers to get what they want at the expense of ordinary residents through the use of campaign donations. I have expressed concern that it happens at both council and state government levels and that it has occurred under Liberal, National and indeed Labor party governments. I was therefore very troubled to read reports today that the property developer Philip Usher Constructions received approval from the Brisbane City Council to construct two massive towers—12 and 20 storeys high—after the Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman's re-election fund received donations from Philip Usher. Mr Usher made five $10,000 donations under five different company names to the mayor's re-election fund and it has now emerged that the fund also received a further $20,000 from two donors with links to the developer, so $70,000 all up.

Now the 206-unit towers—I repeat: 20 and 12 storeys high—were approved by Brisbane City Council after these donations were made, even though the tower's exceed height limits and overlook at heritage listed church and school. They were originally rejected by council officers in 2010 on the grounds that they were too bulky and dominant and failed to adequately respond to the immediate heritage context of the heritage listed Russian Orthodox cathedral and the St Joseph church and school set up by Mary MacKillop.

I well remember the corruption of the Bjelke-Petersen years in Queensland when planning and environmental decisions could be bought by bribes and campaign donations. No doubt many Queenslanders remember the state's tarnished reputation as a consequence of that time. The revelations that the Brisbane City Council has approved such a massive and lucrative development in the wake of campaign donations to Campbell Newman's campaign fund will fuel voter concerns about the forthcoming state election. No-one wants to see a return to the days when council and government decisions could be bought by donations and good planning, environment outcomes and the legitimate interests of residents overlooked. I am concerned that a donation to Mr Newman's campaign fund by a Mrs L. Christenson on 7 February last year was made from the same PO box address as Philip Usher Constructions, but there has been no personal declaration by a donor.

Residents are entitled to have a say in planning matters and to have their views respected. Twenty-storey and 12-storey towers can do great damage to the neighbourhoods in which they are built. Imagine having one built next to you. The fact that this decision came following $70,000 in donations leaves a nasty taste in my mouth and this kind of thing is a blot on Australia's reputation for honest government and as a clean place to do business.