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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2360

Mr ROBERT BROWN(10.49) —I had reached abuse No. 16 in relation to Queensland. The Queensland Minister for Housing overturned a decision of the State Builders Registration Board and ordered it to register another builder, Mr Ivan Srnec. The Leader of the Opposition in Queensland, Mr Neville Warburton, claimed that Mr Srnec had `a very limited knowledge of the building industry'.

Case No. 17 concerns a low interest loan of $145,000 which was granted to Mr Michael Behan, the northern organiser of the National Party in Queensland, early in 1986 for his property, Bilbah Downs, in central Queensland. The Minister for Primary Industries, Mr Turner, had directed the bank to grant the loan after the bank had rejected Mr Behan's application. The Rural Reconstruction Board had also rejected a separate application. Behan was $702,000 in debt at the time. Behan put the property up for auction on 14 May 1987. When he defended the loan, Mr Turner said that Behan's land had been affected by a `pretty terrible drought'. Behan said in March 1987 that `the property was having one of its best seasons for years' and the loan `certainly was no detriment to us'. Joh described the $145,000 as a lousy amount of money which was not worth worrying about.

Case No. 18 also involved a builder. The Queensland Minister for Welfare, Mrs Yvonne Chapman, urged the Minister for Works and Housing, Mr Claude Wharton, that a personal friend of hers, Mr Allan Cartwright, a builder, should not have to pay about $15,000 in insurance money which the Builders Registration Board had directed him to pay. The liability was reduced to $5,000. As a result, no assistance could be given to 11 people with defects in homes which had been built by a company that engaged Mr Cartwright.

Case No. 19 involves the Queensland Builders Registration Board. The Board paid out $23,000 in insurance for defects in a Clermont home owned by the Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Vince Lester, even though the home was built without a contract having been signed with the builder. Case No. 20 also involves the Builders Registration Board. The responsibility of the State Builders Registration Board in Queensland is to protect the public from shoddy builders by requiring all builders to contribute to an insurance fund. In early March 1987 the Bjelke-Petersen Government disbanded the Board and sacked its Registrar and Deputy Registrar. The Board was reinstated only after a public outcry.

Case No. 21 concerns the developers. The most immediate beneficiary of the Petersen Government's decision in March 1987 to sell off the islands of the Great Barrier Reef would be the colourful developer Keith Williams, who is an acknowledged $100,000 donor to the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation. He has been trying to refinance his Hamilton Island resort development. Under the terms of the island sell-off, resort owners would be able to buy their islands at their unimproved capital value over 20 years interest free. The Deputy Leader of the Queensland Liberals, Angus Innes, said that the proposed legislation would give windfall profits to resort owners many of whom are foreign corporations. When the Hawke Government opposed his proposal, Joh said that Hawke was `trying to make something out of nothing'.

Case No. 22 involves a group called The Enemies. The late Mr Eric Robinson, a former Fraser Government Minister for Finance, was opposed in the Federal election of 1980 by an Independent National candidate who had the open backing of Bjelke-Petersen. The National Party also pressured Prime Minister Fraser to demote Robinson after the election. Robinson instead chose the back bench, and died of a heart attack in January 1981 at the age of 51. Of Bjelke-Petersen, Eric Robinson said:

He was a man who would go to almost any lengths to get his own way and to maintain his own personal power and position.

Case No. 23 also involves The Enemies. During his condolence speech in February 1981 following the death of Eric Robinson the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges), said of Joh Bjelke-Petersen that he was `one of the most dictatorial, ruthless, uncompromising, uncharitable and unfair men in Australian politics over the last four to five decades'. He did not go on to say that they were his most charitable comments.

Case No. 24 also involves The Enemies. In October 1986 Sir Roderick Proctor, one of the trustees of the Queensland National Party, attacked the cronyism of the State Government. He said that there was genuine concern among businessmen and that people were `frightened to speak out'. He said that tenders were called for major development projects when it was already `obvious who would win'. He was sacked as a trustee.