Racetrack "murky back-room dealings" under the microscope
CONTRACTS for racetrack works in regional Queensland will likely come under the microscope as the Queensland Government orders an inquiry into allegations of "golden handshake payouts" and "murky back-room dealings".
The Commission of Inquiry, announced on Monday, will be directed to investigate Sunshine Coast firm Contour Consulting Engineers which was allegedly awarded 37 contracts through the former Labor Government with only one put out to tender.
The firm completed track work at Caloundra's Corbould Park, was project manager for the $7.9 million upgrade to the Ooralea racetrack at Mackay completed last year and carried out work at Callaghan Park in Rockhampton.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the inquiry was a response to serious allegations raised in recent weeks about $150 million "being thrown around" between the former Labor government and the former Queensland Racing bosses.
He said he believed former Labor premier Anna Bligh and treasurer Andrew Fraser should be questioned over deals made, especially contracts made without a tender process, in the dying days of their reign.
But Mr Bleijie said he would leave the decision to call them, and whether to examine contracts in regional Queensland, to the commissioner he was yet to appoint.
"The terms of reference are sufficiently broad enough that if the commission, upon recommendation, wants to head off in another direction, they're completely able to do so," he said.
"I wanted to make it sufficiently broad enough so that if there are regional areas that have particular concerns, those concerns can be heard by the commission of inquiry."
Racing minister Steve Dickson said this inquiry was important because there were 30,000 people directly employed in the industry.
"This is the tip of the iceberg; there is a lot of investigation that must take place," he said.
"There are important questions which must be answered about alleged financial mismanagement which may stretch into the hundreds of millions, infamous 'golden handshake' payouts, and numerous instances of very murky back-room dealings."
The three-month inquiry will begin on July 1 and is expected to cost $3 million.
It is the fourth inquiry Mr Bleijie has called and follows the child protection inquiry, which cost $9 million, the health payroll bungle which is coming in "well under" the $5 million budget and the CMC inquiry which cost $311,000.
"What price do you put on justice?" Mr Bleijie said of the cost.
"We're trying to get to the truth of these matters.
"The only way to get to the bottom of these matters is independent inquiries."
The inquiry will also examine the former Labor government's decision to transfer $20 million to RQL's infrastructure account in February, 2010, just before the caretaker period for the State Election.
Potential conflicts of interest between racing directors, the Tatts Group and other agencies will also be scrutinised.
Mr Bleijie said they had an obligation to taxpayers to see how their money was spent and ensure it did not happen again in the future.