CCC calls for complete ban on developer donations

UPDATE: 

PREMIER Annastacia Palaszczuk has publicly declared the proposed ban on developer donations will extend to State Government after the CCC handed down its damning report, highlighting "systemic issues" at a local government level. 

 

INITIAL: 

THE state's corruption watchdog has recommended a complete ban on developer donations for candidates in local government elections.

The Crime and Corruption Commission handed down its report following Operation Belcarra, launched after a flood of complaints related to the 2016 local government elections.

The report, tabled in parliament today, lists 31 recommendations including the ban on developer donations to councillors across the state's 77 local governments.

A cap on donations has also been recommended.

The CCC found "systemic" issues during its investigation.

Among the more contentious issues raised at the 2016 elections were candidates running as groups, but without publicly declaring it.

Candidates running as 'independent' despite being closely affiliated with political parties was also raised as a major issue, alongside donations being re-routed via third parties, hiding the true source of the cash from the public.

Within the report on the Operation Belcarra investigation, in which a host of Ipswich personalities were called to give evidence, it states "there are considerable deficiencies in the compliance and enforcement framework for local government elections".

There were 15 allegations related to the Ipswich 2016 local government elections investigated by Operation Belcarra.

The claims included perceptions candidates had advertised or fundraised as a group without advising the returning officer, provided disclosure returns which contained information candidates knew to be "false or misleading", and failure to operate a dedicated bank account, as required.

Among those called to give evidence were the former mayor Paul Pisasale, veteran councillor Paul Tully, new councillors Kerry Silver and Kylie Stoneman who were elected in 2016, federal MP Shayne Neumann and the deputy chairman of Springfield Land Corporation, Bob Sharpless.

During the hearings in April, how-to-vote cards featuring more than one candidate were a hot topic. 

The CCC's report says it was alleged Labor Party aligned candidates advertised as a group, as a result of several publicly visible behaviours.

Those included;

  • the use of joint how-to-vote cards with other candidates
  • the funding of independent candidates by Federal ALP Member for Blair Mr Shayne Neumann
  • the use of ALP members as volunteers handing out how-to-vote cards for candidates on polling day.

During the hearings all those questioned offered explanations for these behaviours including cost efficiency and support for friends rather than political party members.

The CCC found there was evidence candidates were promoting other candidates, but has chosen not to take any further action.

A number of matters are still under investigation by the CCC.

You can read the full report here.

 

Summary of the key recommendations

  • Consider the introduction of campaign expenditure caps
  • Introduce real-time disclosure of electoral expenditure
  • Make all candidates' interests, including party political membership, known to voters before polling day
  • More clearly define what is meant by a "group" of candidates
  • Ensure all donations are known to voters before polling day
  • Make more information about donors and donations available to the public
  • Prohibit donations from property developers to local government councillors and candidates
  • Improve compliance by candidates and donors with disclosure obligations
  • Improve candidates' management of campaign funds
  • Improve how councillors identify and manage conflicts of interest
  • Strengthen regulatory responses to non-compliance