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Thursday, 26 June 2014
Page: 4148

Senator O'SULLIVAN (Queensland) (18:46): I rise tonight to speak in response to a speech delivered in this place last evening by my Senate colleague Larissa Waters concerning issues that she has raised about the integrity of process and the integrity of individuals involved in a number of approvals for coal seam gas developments in my home state of Queensland. Disturbingly, during the course of her address, Senator Waters referred to no fewer than 38 allegations and assertions of impropriety and posed questions about the integrity of some very senior and well-respected members of the Queensland government, including but not limited to our Premier, Mr Campbell Newman, the Director-General of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet—the most senior public service post in our state government—the Premier's chief of staff, and a nephew of the director-general, one Mitch Grayson. Imputations were also made against the chair of the Criminal Justice Commission in my state, Dr Ken Levy. These imputations, by extension, brought into question the integrity of the Queensland Gas Company and Santos—two very substantial corporations that have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in my home state, that are responsible for enormous amounts of employment and that make a great contribution to our economy.

My issue is not with the ability of the senator to make these assertions, particularly if a person is in possession of evidence that requires airing, that requires exposing, when it has to do with assertions of impropriety at the highest level. And, under the structure of government in our nation, the Premier of a state is certainly at the highest level of our government. The good senator relied upon the assertions being made by a man named Drew Hutton and a woman named Simone Marsh. What the senator failed to declare is that Mr Drew Hutton is also a member of the Greens party in my home state of Queensland. Indeed, he has, fortunately, unsuccessfully contested representation at all three levels of government—local, state and federal.

When one is using the privilege of this place to air and expose serious allegations, there is an additional responsibility to ensure that the allegations are presented in the real context of their origins, and the genesis of this is from a very close and intimate political colleague of the senator in this place making the allegations. The assertions and allegations made in the senator's speech referred to some meetings that are said to have been improper, principally because of the context of the time in which these meetings were held relative to a complaint that had been made to the Crime and Misconduct Commission in our state. Incidentally, the Premier indicated that had the complaint not been made by Mr Hutton and Ms Marsh, he would have made the complaint himself when the allegations were aired on a TV program. The senator stated:

We only know that the meeting occurred, not what was discussed.

There is talk of time proximity again, when the senator further states:

… the Premier met with Rob Millhouse, the vice president of QGC, which is one of the CSG companies the complaints were about.

For those who are aware of the level of activity that is occurring in our state with investment in the coal seam gas sector, I would submit it would be unusual if the Premier of our state were not meeting with the principals of some of these investment enterprises on a regular basis. I quote from the speech:

Secondly, the Attorney-General met with top resources industry lobbyist Michael Roche from the Queensland Resources Council…

Again, this is an allegation of time proximity. I would be very disappointed if senior members of our government in Queensland were not meeting with members of peak industry bodies such as the Resources Council on a regular basis.

Questions were raised and left unanswered. Did the Premier or QGC exert any influence or other encouragement for the CMC to abandon their investigation? I can tell you that today the Crime and Misconduct Commission have themselves come out and refuted these allegations publicly. For these assertions—if you were to link them and put them into context—to have any weight, you would haveto accept that you have here before us, as a result of this speech, a conspiracy on a level not seen before—in fact, not the subject of allegations anywhere in this country. If you take any one of the following people out of this cycle of conspiracy, then this speech simply falls flat: the Premier; the Premier's Chief of Staff; the executives of two large, well-respected corporations; the Attorney-General; the head of the Resources Council; the CMC; or the head of the CMC, Dr Levy. Incidentally, the allegations related to projects whose approval process was under the former Labor Party at a time and over a period where the Premier had little or nothing to do with them—even if he were inclined to persuade his departments or his Coordinator-General to take an approach that might not satisfy the guidelines set down for such things.

I have personally witnessed Mr Newman come under this sort of attack before. It occurred in the lead-up to the 24 March 2012 election in Queensland when the Premier went on to win the greatest landslide result in a state election campaign in this country. Pound for pound, I am told, it was one of the most outstanding results received in the developed world where we have democratic elections. In February 2012, the then Premier, Anna Bligh, made personal attacks on Mr Newman, only to admit in March 2014, leading into the last week of the election, that she simply had no evidence to support the allegations she made. I would submit to you that the performance last night of Senator Waters was identical to that tactic applied by Anna Bligh at that time.

While the Premier and I share the same political party, it is well known that we have not always seen eye to eye. But I can tell you this about the Premier of Queensland: he is a man of high integrity; he is a man who has set the highest standards for himself and those around him; he is a man who has served our state now in public office for 10 years—first as the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and now as our Premier; and he would tolerate none of this.

Senate adjourned at 18 : 56