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Wednesday, 26 February 2020
Page: 1904

Mr LAMING (Bowman) (19:45): I wish to outline a range of my concerns regarding the alleged conduct of Redland City Council Deputy Mayor, Lance Hewlett. In particular it regards the handling of cash donations, the damage of nonprofit property, destruction of financial records, engaging in what is now prohibited election collusion between candidates and, finally, the declaration of his political interests, gifts and fundraising.

Councillor Hewlett and his wife were chair and treasurer of the Redlands LNP branch in 2013-14 but resigned overnight after a failed preselection attempt. They subsequently failed to hand over office-bearer materials and party property in a timely manner. From that point onwards, they began a campaign of revenge against their former party—but this is not my reason for raising these matters.

The Hewletts had financial control in those two years of the Redlands LNP branch, when between $6,000 and $10,000 in raffle takings were minuted and even mentioned at the AGM but never banked. Attempts to resolve these matters were unsuccessful. Since that time, the Hewletts supported the campaigns of independent candidates—first Hewlett's wife and then his brother-in-law. Despite fairly low levels of support in those elections, their preferences led to support for the ALP MP in that area. Nor is this, though, the reason for me raising these concerns—although it hurt many people who trusted them.

My concern relates to the Hewlett method of fundraising, which over the years has allowed sponsors to buy tables legitimately by EFT, but then guests who attend on a complimentary basis are lent on prior to and during the event to purchase raffle tickets in cash. Proceeds of around $50 a seat, or per person, are neither reported nor banked. Profits from these events were publicised in the 6 June 2013 LNP AGM and minuted clearly as $9,900, and the second as $6,490. This was written by the Hewletts themselves prior to their resignations.

Sadly, financial records from that period are no longer available. When the receipt books were returned, they'd been sliced out by what appeared to be a Stanley knife and then recovered by a third party. The Hewletts claim that they were all intact when they handed them over, but, sadly, the damage is restricted to the period when they were running the books, making it hard to establish a motive for any other party to act in such a way. When these accounts were finally inspected by the new executive, the receipt raffles for that period amounted to $40.

These substantial amounts of cash may never be recovered, but it's possible that this retained cash found its way into other locations, like election accounts that are run by the councillor himself. That has never been revealed nor declared, and no detail has ever been provided. The register of interests makes no indication of these amounts. But, under recent legislation, this must now occur, and for this reason I'm calling on the Hewletts to release their official council bank accounts dating back to those periods to identify unexplained cash donations. Councillor Hewlett may not have accurately completed his register of interests. That's in contravention to legislation with regard to removing his wife's LNP membership and failing to add the bank account or even declare it, let alone his receipt of gifts. The committee deserves to know how this endemic practice of producing hampers for non-profits was funded. These were being sold to other councillors and receipts were not being provided. If they have a face value of over $500, that needs to occur.

The conclusions from 2013 and 2014 are that the organisational records for this period are both unrecoverable and irreconcilable. A $1,000 iPad was retained until after the election so it couldn't be used. Eventually it was left on a bin for recovery, and it turned out to be a 16G factory-wiped device with the serial number scratched off the back with a sharp implement and all information deleted. After opposing every subdivision, this councillor eventually approved his own subdivision of 318 square metres in his wife's name.

These matters come to light for one simple reason, and that is that Councillor Hewlett has refused to answer any of these questions for four years. He has remained unchallenged in his division, but last week, and contrary to new legislation and to an unwritten understanding, he started supporting candidates who are his friends from his own suburb to run against his enemies in other divisions. And Hewlett even sought guidance from council on how much he could interfere with other divisions without triggering the new state laws.

In conclusion, the community now sees him moving around with Labor-Party-supported councillors. There has been no transparency, dating back to 2012, and he is refusing to release these records. And he should. He will meet my allegations tonight with obfuscation and with indignation. But it's not about the charities that he has supported. It's about the financial probity around those activities. I raise these matters tonight simply to allow Redlanders to hear the full story and ask their own questions.