Tony Fitzgerald’s verdict: The Newman Government are ‘arrogant fools’
The Liberal National Party (LNP) stacked parliamentary committee investigating the proposed changes to the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) gave the green light to Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie’s revamp this week.
Among the changes, the reporting structure will be brought under the control of the Queensland Government, the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee (PCMC) will have the power to veto CMC decisions and long time bipartisan support for the appointment of the CMC chair will be abolished.
Tony Fitzgerald QC reacted instantly to the news. In an email to ABC News Queensland, Tony Fitzgerald QC described the Newman Government as “inexperienced, arrogant fools”.
Fitzgerald has been long outspoken against the Newman Government throughout its two-year tenure and described it as wielding a “gross abuse of power”.
The LNP MP for Stafford and Assistant Health Minister, Dr Chris Davis, was also ignored by his own party against implementing the changes and suffering a voter backlash.
“We can’t afford to really spend our political capital on things that are not really important to Queensland,” he said.
“I’m yet to be convinced that this is something that is essential to the future of Queensland, this change.”
Former Qld Premier Rob Borbidge, who had is own battles with Fitzgerald, backed the changes saying it was time to move on.
Campbell Newman argued that the changes would make the CMC more like the successful New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
However, as ABC 730 NSW host Quentin Dempster pointed out in a piece for The Drum: The star chamber that took down a Premier, the two were fundamentally different.
Dempster wrote: “In his 1989 report, Queensland’s Tony Fitzgerald QC, declined to recommend an ICAC as a standing solution to that state’s endemic political and police corruption. He recommended an ‘independent’ Criminal Justice Commission as part of a broader response and not an ‘autonomous’ ICAC model with its potential for abuse of its coercive powers. The NSW ICAC was established in 1988 after years of folklore about the political corruption infecting the state from the Askin era through to the Wran era.”
Campbell Newman and Jarrod Bleijie had once again shown ignorance and misunderstanding of the system they were charged with governing.
Newman attacks Palmer: The Qld conservative split
What started as a tame presser about the G20 on Sunday at Kangaroo Point above Brisbane City turned into an attack on Clive Palmer.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Premier Campbell Newman and Brisbane Mayor Graeme Quirk had assembled to call for “friendly, adaptable, committed and enthusiastic volunteers for the G20 summit in November”.
Overnight, Clive Palmer had recruited three new members from the Northern Territory for his Palmer’s United Party (PUP); Alison Anderson, Larisa Lee and Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu. The three had resigned from the territory’s governing Country Liberal Party (CLP) led by Chief Minister Adam Giles last month.
As the G20 business wrapped up, Mr Abbott asked for further questions. A member of the media asked for his thoughts on the new PUP recruits and Palmer’s accusations that Giles was a liar.
As Abbott was formulating his words, Mr Newman muttered, “That is what he says about everybody”.
Abbott prompted Newman to come forward and “make some observations”. Where Abbott may have chosen careful, slowly-crafted words to respond, Newman launched a full-blown combative rant.
He instructed the media to ask of Palmer “the hard questions” and then rattled off a shortlist of what they should ask.
A long time opponent to the carbon tax, Newman was suddenly asking why Palmer was not paying up.
He accused Palmer of not doing his bit to protect The Great Barrier Reef from his mining interests in Townsville.
Campbell Newman, the man who had sacked 15,000 Qld public servants asked: “What about the hundreds of people who lost their job at the Palmer Resort?”
What really inflamed the situation was Newman accusing Palmer of trying to buy his government.
“This is a guy who tried to buy a government, my government, and we said go away, we said we’re not for sale. As a result he’s gone on a rampage around Australia trying to buy other people and buy people’s votes.”
He demanded to know what inducements the three Northern Territory MLAs had been offered to join PUP.
“If I was a journalist, today,” he offered, “I’d be saying to Mr Palmer and I’d be saying to these three people, if indeed they are jumping ship, I’d be saying what was offered? What cash? What jobs? What financial support for elections? What offers were made to get them to jump ship? Because, you know, I reckon, if he’s consistent with the way that he operates around the nation he’s busy trying to buy votes and buy people, that’s what he does, he tried to do that with us, we said ‘no’ and as a result he’s now a firm political opponent of this government.”
No matter how much the LNP tries, they can’t escape Clive Palmer’s history as a major benefactor. If Newman’s accusations were true, then perhaps a better question for the media to ask the LNP might be; would they be refunding Mr Palmer’s donations they’d received in the lead up to the Qld 2012 election?
Palmer responded on Monday morning, denying the allegations and describing Campbell Newman as, “just an angry man, an angry ant”.
He pledged to sue Campbell Newman for defamation. Former Premier Anna Bligh had also made derogatory remarks about Palmer during her tenure but the matter was settled out of court. Reflecting on this, Palmer vowed that this would be a no settlement action.
Despite the warning on legal action, Newman Government Ministers renewed the ‘buying people, buying votes’ attack on Palmer by repeating the accusations to the media as they entered the Qld Executive Building.
Rookie MP and Minister for Local Government, Community Recovery and Resilience, David Crisafulli, said: “He’s bitter and twisted because he thought he had bought a government and Mr Palmer has got to learn a lesson that there’s two things money don’t buy, one is love and the other is the Newman Government.”
The Courier Mail loved it. It gave them a whole string of stories for the week.
Another rookie LNP MP, Michael Hart from the Gold Coast seat of Burleigh, made headlines when he revealed allegations that he’d been approached by an undisclosed PUP delegate to switch teams.
Hart said he was asked: “What can I offer you to come across to the Palmer Party?”
Assuming this was a cash offer, Hart closed the door on the conversation, texted Premier Newman and informed the police.
A short police investigation resulted in no further action.
Hart also claimed he had no idea how The Courier Mail came to find out about the event.
Hart also made headlines in 2012 when he claimed providing disability access to a to a public boardwalk in his electorate would be a “waste of money”. (This article has mysteriously disappeared from the Gold Coast Bulletin but we’ve used the Way Back Machine to retrieve it here: “Local MP under fire over disabled access”.
From there, the week descended into Qld conservative chaos as accusations and admissions were revealed from other MPs about offers to join PUP.
State PUP leader, Alex Douglas, urged LNP MPs to: “Please come and contact me as fast as you can because you’re with a ship that’s sinking.”
Katter’s Australian Party leader, Bob Katter, went public with his offer of a coalition with PUP to try to claim Opposition status from the Labor Party in the Qld Parliament.
Both parties had been founded in Queensland from disenchantment with the Liberal and National Party. However, KAP’s three and PUP’s two just wouldn’t be enough to beat Labor’s eight to give them Opposition status. They would need more LNP MP defections for that to happen.
Palmer was adamant,though, that there would be no coalition or merger.
“The Katter Party is over there to the right and we’re in the middle,” he told reporters.
Much to the frustration of state KAP leader, Ray Hopper, who told the media, “They’ve both [Clive Palmer and Bob Katter] got to wake up to themselves and realise that this has got to happen for the sake of Queensland.”
Exactly what, where and when remains up in the air but The Courier Mail certainly enjoyed the week.
Trouble ahead in the prison system
Prison guards are bracing for violence and suicide ahead of the Newman Govt’s ban on cigarettes in Qld prisons. The May 5 prohibition is likely to create a black market. Increased intimidation, sex for cigarettes and smuggling into prison are predicted by fearful guards.
Coupled with overcrowding in the Queensland prison system, ABC News revealed this week that the special 52-bed ‘bikie-prison’ at Woodford has only one prisoner.
Secretary of Together, Alex Scott explained to ABC News 24’s Tony Eastley how the Newman Government’s solitary confinement wing had been vacated simply by prisoners resigning from their bikie clubs and were then returned to the general population.
Environment Minister calls for boycott on Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream
To people outside Queensland it must have sounded like a joke but it was all too familiar silliness for Queenslanders. Environment Minister Andrew Powell announced a boycott of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream over their support for the Fight for the Reef campaign. He not only wanted Queensland to join him, but all of Australia too, over what he described as a “campaign of lies”.
Powell even made an online video with Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Small Business and the Commonwealth Games, Jann Stuckey.
— Andrew Powell (@AndrewPowellMP) April 28, 2014
UNESCO had long been warning the state government over the health of the Great Barrier Reef, in particular the dredging for ports along it. However, they’d always stopped short of declaring the World Heritage listed site ‘in danger’.
Powell is also a skeptic of anthropogenic climate change which Premier Newman labeled as “refreshing” when they formed government.
Yet, Powell doesn’t find Ben and Jerry’s refreshing and has now solemnly vowed to never eat their ice cream.
Police Minister announces six cars crushed
Who said the Newman Government wasn’t living up to its election promises? Police Minister Jack Dempsey was ecstatic this week as he delivered on his pledge to crush the cars of irresponsible drivers under ‘anti-hoon’ laws.
— Jack Dempsey (@JackDempseyMP) April 28, 2014