Conflict-of-interest chaos strikes heart of Premier's campaign

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with partner Shaun Drabsch and canine companion Winton. Picture: Jamie Hanson
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with partner Shaun Drabsch and canine companion Winton. Picture: Jamie Hanson

ANNASTACIA Palaszczuk's campaign has been thrown into chaos by more revelations her boyfriend worked on some of Queensland's biggest and most controversial projects during her time as Premier.

Ms Palaszczuk was yesterday forced to seek urgent advice over whether Shaun Drabsch's work on the Gold Coast Light Rail stage 3 and Rookwood Weir had caused more conflicts of interest as former Adani lobbyist Cameron Milner was rushed in to get Labor's shaky campaign back on track.

While Ms Palaszczuk claimed to be unaware of her boyfriend's "commercial-in-confidence" work at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), his input on the $600 million rail project and $230 million dam was publicly available on his LinkedIn profile.

She said she'd look into the issue after Mr Drabsch's six-page curriculum vitae surfaced, stating he "drafted a strategic business case for the Gold Coast Light Rail stage 3", "advised commercial options for (Rockhampton Regional Council) to participate in the development of the Rookwood Weir" and worked as a consultant for Aurizon.

The CV was last night deleted from the internet as a spokesman for Ms Palaszczuk said Mr Drabsch's work on those projects was only to advise councils and that PwC had no direct involvement with proposals to the state government.

He said this information was available publicly and the Premier's office had not sought further advice from the PwC or the Integrity Commissioner on Mr Drabsch's work on the projects.

Ms Palaszczuk earlier walked from a fiery press conference following her continued defence of her shock decision on Friday to veto Adani's $1 billion loan application to the Commonwealth Government's Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) to build a rail line for its mine.

Annastacia Palasczcuk and Shaun Drabsch at EKKA Peoples day this year. Picture: Annette Dew
Annastacia Palasczcuk and Shaun Drabsch at EKKA Peoples day this year. Picture: Annette Dew

The move was in defiance of the integrity commissioner's advice that she have no involvement in decision making because Mr Drabsch worked on the proposal.

The Premier admitted she did not seek the integrity commissioner's advice on vetoing Adani's loan application, despite her partner's involvement.

She said she did not need the advice, adding: "I am the Premier of this state. I make decisions. I've been sick and tired of people saying you don't make decisions. I have made a decision. I make decisions every single day."

But federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan questioned how her decision did not give rise to another conflict of interest involving Aurizon's NAIF application to build a rail line in the Galilee Basin.

"Aurizon has a proposal with NAIF to build a rail line and I would have thought that by vetoing the Adani proposal there was a conflict of interest because the Queensland Government has shares in Aurizon," he told The Courier-Mail.

"You can't have a rule for one and not the other."

He said the whole situation was a "circus".

"Clearly, there is a massive breakdown in the implementation of this policy," he said.

"Aurizon is potentially a conflict of interest."

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Education Minister Kate Jones said she had disclosed her husband's work with Aurizon and had always excluded herself from discussions, briefings and decisions on Aurizon and Adani.

LNP Leader Tim Nicholls said Ms Palaszczuk had needed only to follow the integrity commissioner's advice, but had instead bent to the anti-Adani campaign against her that dogged the first week of her campaign.

Ms Palaszczuk said she’d look into the issue after Mr Drabsch’s six-page curriculum vitae surfaced
Ms Palaszczuk said she’d look into the issue after Mr Drabsch’s six-page curriculum vitae surfaced

"She just wants to make a problem that she has go away and that problem is coming from the left wing of the Labor Party and the inner-city Greens that are threatening Labor and their vote," he said.

He said her decision was "overkill and it may well kill a project that would create 10,000 jobs in regional Queensland".

PwC's Brisbane managing partner Paul Lindstrom wrote to the Premier when Mr Drabsch started in June 2015 to say he would not be involved in state government work.

Ms Palaszczuk sought Integrity Commissioner Dr Nikola Stepanov's advice last week after Mr Drabsch's role in the Adani NAIF loan emerged.

It explicitly states that she should exclude herself from all cabinet "deliberations or decision making" on NAIF and that this was "best practice with respect to managing integrity issues".

Despite using the integrity commissioner's advice to announce the veto, Ms Palaszczuk yesterday said the veto was keeping a 2015 election commitment that no taxpayer money would go to Adani.

"In relation to the loan, in relation to Adani, I've made it very clear that our previous commitment was that not one single dollar of taxpayers' money will go towards that project and I stand by my commitment," she said.

"Therefore, we have put in place a veto."

But Treasurer Curtis Pitt has previously said the Government said the Commonwealth loan to Adani remained within that commitment because the state played only a constitutional and administrative role.

Topics:  annastacia palaszczuk labor qldelection2017

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