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Queensland: Premier appoints Tim Gartrell to assist in cleaning up the electoral fraud scandal.



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PETER CAVE: The Queensland Premier has appointed a fix-it man to halt the damaging electoral fraud scandal which is threatening to cripple both his and Kim Beazley’s election chances. Tim Gartrell will stand aside from his position as Assistant National Secretary of the ALP to clean up the growing mess in Queensland. Kirsten Aiken reports from Brisbane.

 

KIRSTEN AIKEN: Tim Gartrell is facing an uphill battle. His job is to improve the electoral stocks of the ALP in Queensland which have been severely damaged by continuing allegations of rorting in both state and federal seats. His appointment as Executive Director of the Queensland ALP was finalised late last night, after talks between federal Party Secretary, Geoff Walsh, Queensland Secretary Cameron Milner, and Premier Peter Beattie.

 

PETER BEATTIE: As Executive Director, Mr Gartrell’s role will be to oversee the administration of the branch in the lead-up to the next election and to assist with the implementation of my eight-point plan to clean up this rorting.

 

KIRSTEN AIKEN: Tim Gartrell has been the Assistant National Secretary of the ALP since April. He’s from the Left, has worked in trade unions and was a political staffer to a couple of ministers during the Keating years. Party sources say he’s known as a competent and efficient administrator and is prepared to move to Queensland within days to take up his new full-time, if short-term, position.

 

Former party secretary, Bob Hogg, had been the frontrunner for the Mr Fix-it job until the opposition revealed he had been found guilty, in 1991, of failing to lodge a correct electoral return. But Peter Beattie has decided that hasn’t tainted Mr Hogg’s ability to also play a troubleshooting role and has appointed him special adviser to Mr Gartrell.

 

PETER BEATTIE: The return matter was many years ago. It related to some trivial matters involving raffle tickets. Now, frankly, I know Bob’s experience in terms of administration, his skills and as an adviser I think he will provide very effective advice.

 

KIRSTEN AIKEN: The opposition, however, is continuing its attack on the Queensland Premier, saying it’s not enough for Mr Beattie to talk up his role of reforming the electoral and party systems. Leader, Rob Borbidge, believes Mr Beattie must have known about the allegations of electoral fraud before they were raised in the public arena, and failed to act.

 

ROB BORBIDGE: It is simply incomprehensible that someone can be intimately involved with a political party for all of their working life and then when things go wrong claim to have no knowledge in respect of the practices of that particular party.

 

KIRSTEN AIKEN: Aren’t your claims that you knew nothing starting to look a bit shaky?

 

PETER BEATTIE: No.

 

KIRSTEN AIKEN: Do you think the public will believe you?

 

PETER BEATTIE: Yes, I do.

 

KIRSTEN AIKEN: How can you be so confident?

 

PETER BEATTIE: Because it is the truth, and anyone who knows my history in the party will know that. These matters started in the early 1990s when I was in the political wilderness.

 

KIRSTEN AIKEN: Do you admit, though, it might be a bit hard for the public to swallow, given that your deputy has fallen victim?

 

PETER BEATTIE: I have made it clear that I would, and did, insist on high standards. The fact that my former deputy has gone is proof of my high standards.

 

PETER CAVE: The Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie.