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Queensland: ALP State President says the party could not agree to demands by dumped Mundingburra candidate, Ken Davies

KATIE CRONIN: Queensland ALP State President, Bob Gibbs, says the party is standing by its decision to dump former candidate, Ken Davies, despite the devastating effect he's had on their by-election campaign in Mundingburra. Mr Gibbs says Mr Davies is a rat who doesn't stand for anything and that his antics since being disendorsed show the party took the right option in dropping him. The Liberal Party has upped the ante by calling on three authorities, including the Criminal Justice Commission, to investigate whether Mr Davies was offered inducements to surrender his ALP endorsement and go quietly. The ALP rejects the allegations saying it was Mr Davies who demanded a half million dollar package, including a plum job, a safe seat, and a job for his wife. Patrick Condren asked Mr Gibbs why the Labor Party said no.

BOB GIBBS: Well, we weren't prepared to be paying that sort of money to anybody on the basis that, you know, Davies I think was trying to use us. I would interpret his position as some sort of influence in terms of trying to extract something from the party. I was prepared to talk to him on the basis that I went up there on genuine good faith in that I felt some remorse for the man. I was overseas when the disendorsement took place. As a result of those negotiations, the discussions with him, I came back to Brisbane.

We were able to offer him what I believe was a very generous package to come in on the corporate side of the party, into our business affairs because he has the expertise as an accountant. He came back and said that he wanted a package of $150,000 a year, a car, he wanted fax machine expenses, telephone expenses. But I think even more disappointing, the fact that he then said that he wanted relocation expenses to move from Townsville to Brisbane. Now, that indicates to me a very clear intent that he simply had lost interest in Townsville, he didn't want to be there, and saw his future in the metropolitan area.

PATRICK CONDREN: Given the destabilisation that he's done to the Labor campaign in Townsville since he was dumped on 15 December, wouldn't half a million dollars be a small price to pay for remaining in government?

BOB GIBBS: I wouldn't countenance paying people that sort of money on any type of pay-off basis or anything else. The way it was put to me by Davies indicates to me very clearly that that was the demand, perhaps some veiled threat there that he may not nominate if we were prepared to come to the party on that basis. But ....

PATRICK CONDREN: Why didn't the Labor Party stitch up a deal with Ken Davies before they dumped him and before they nominated Tony Mooney?

BOB GIBBS: Look, I think people in the party probably did speak to Ken on the basis of: Look, get this matter out of the way because we were all keen to see that happen. You see, you can't go to a by-election with a person who has got legal proceedings hanging over their head, particularly if those legal proceedings could ultimately finish up in seeing that person declared bankrupt. But he rejected all those offers and at this stage now I simply have no sympathy or time for the man whatsoever.

PATRICK CONDREN: He's been described as a Labor rat. Is he a rat that's deserted a sinking ship?

BOB GIBBS: Oh, I don't think he's .. I mean, I'd certainly say, yes, a rat, but in terms of a sinking ship, no, I don't ascribe to that. I think that, you know, Davies' job now should be to get out there and convince people on a fair dinkum basis instead of acting like a spoiler and a person who just hasn't been able to cop a little bit of a set back in his political career. I mean, a lot of people get set backs in political careers, but you put your nose down, you persist with it, and you get in and do your job.

Now, in fact, I don't believe that we're a sinking ship. As I said, with two-and-a-half weeks to go, I think you'll find that, as we get closer, people are going to look at the issues more and more, they're going to ask: Why is it Frank Tanti hasn't come out in the open? Why is it Frank Tanti doesn't know or can't talk about Liberal Party policy? - because they have none. But the more important one of course is going to be: Do people want to see happen in Queensland what's happened in Tasmania and New South Wales where the Parliament is controlled by Independents? You can't govern in that way. An Opposition, even coming in, couldn't govern in that way. And I think the choice is very clear for people to make next month on the 3rd.

PATRICK CONDREN: Mr Gibbs, do you concede that the damage that Ken Davies has done to you so far and the damage that he can do to you over the next two-and-a-half weeks could be mortal?

BOB GIBBS: Well, certainly, I don't think it's helpful to our campaign. But, no, I don't accept that it would be mortal. I think that the people of Townsville, indeed the electors of Mundingburra, are starting to see the true stuff that Ken Davies is made of, and that's a very brittle person who doesn't stand for too much at all. As I said, a spoiler; a person who seems to cry wolf on every occasion; and a person whose credibility, quite frankly, I think has been absolutely shot to pieces.

KATIE CRONIN: Queensland ALP State President, Bob Gibbs.