What happened to honest politics in Queensland? Scott Driscoll shames Newman

Scott Driscoll with Campbell Newman during the election campaign in 2012. Source: The Courier-Mail

Scott Driscoll with Campbell Newman during the election campaign in 2012. Source: The Courier-Mail

By David Marler

April 7, 2013

The Queensland State election of 2012 delivered the traditionally safe Labor seat of Redcliffe to Scott Driscoll of the Liberal National Party (LNP).

Driscoll was born in Redcliffe and was involved in a number of community groups which helped raise his profile in the electorate. He became president of the Queensland Retail Traders and Shopkeepers’ Association (QRTSA); a lobbying group which represented the interests of small retail businesses, and was a patron of the Redcliffe Community Association of Moreton Bay (RCAMB), a community group which helped the homeless and those with mental illness.

He was also the largest single donor to Premier Campbell Newman’s election campaign, donating  $55,000.Upon entering Parliament, he was appointed a member of several Parliamentary committees, the State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee and Health and Community Services Committee.

In February this year The Courier Mail revealed that Driscoll had not disclosed his pecuniary interests in the community groups. It alleged that he had been directing QRTSA and RCAMB throughout 2012 whilst an MP, and that donations and disposed assets of QRTSA had not been properly accounted for. This prompted former employees of Driscoll’s to come forward citing sexual harassment claims.

It then emerged that Driscoll had used his electorate office for meetings of his extra-parliamentary interests and had staff working on QRTSA and RCAMB projects, and had had approached Woolworths and Coles on behalf of QRTSA to seek donations for lobbying on their behalf. Both companies declined his offer, and Woolworths reported the approach to the Liberal Party hierarchy.

Norsefire, a company owned by Driscoll’s wife Emma, was paid by both QRTSA and RCAMB for consultancy work. Emma was also added to the RCAMB payroll as HR administrator.

Driscoll denied all financial improprieties in a parliamentary speech, but would not speak to the media. He resigned his directorships and updated his pecuniary interest register claiming an ‘oversight’. He also significantly updated his pecuniary interest register to include several properties and sent flyers to his constituents informing them that all allegations were false, including the sexual harassment claims.

RCAMB subsequently collapsed due to lack of funding. Twenty three staff were stood down owed 2 weeks wages. During 2012, RCAMB had received $1.4 million in funding from both State and Federal Governments. Two weeks earlier, Queensland Minister for Communities Tracy Davis told Parliament her department was working with RCAMB to resolve the financial problems, but RCAMB staff told the media no one had been in contact.

QRTSA is now largely defunct, and a new association was created in its place called the United Retail Federation (URF).

At first Premier Newman backed Driscoll, stating it would be up to voters to decide at the next election and calling for an end to trial by media. He defended Driscoll in Parliament, calling the allegations an Easter egg hunt.

Ultimately he was forced to suspend Driscoll from the LNP. He referred Driscoll to the Parliamentary ethics committee but stopped short of referring him to the Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC). Newman then adopted a ‘Sgt Shultz’ defence, saying he knew nothing about the allegations and could do no more as Driscoll was no longer a member of the Government.

Queensland LNP President Bruce McIver had been warned about Driscoll’s attitude pre-election but took no action.  To the 2013 allegations, he told the media all information had been passed to the relevant authorities – but would not specify exactly what information or to which authorities – and that he had not informed Newman.

McIver then attended the Redcliffe branch of the LNP and spoke of his fears of losing the seat should something be found wrong with Driscoll, and that the scandal had jeopardised the Liberal’s chances of taking the Federal seat of Petrie from Labor at the upcoming Federal election.

The Driscoll affair currently involves six investigations:

  • Queensland Health has commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a forensic investigation into RCAMB.
  • The CMC is assessing the documents by the RCAMB whistleblower.
  • Driscoll has been referred to the Ethics Committee over pecuniary interest declaration.
  • Another complaint on ‘ghost invoicing’ at RCAMB was received by Queensland police.
  • Complaints relating to RCAMB have been received by the Queensland Auditor-General.
  • The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission is investigating complaints received on QRTSA.

The details of the saga with links are at Norsefire burning.

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  1. Joy Cooper says

    Well said, David. A very murky, shonky business indeed. It is a repeat of the Joh-styled government with, as David said, “Sgt Schultz” Newman claiming he knows nothing, yet again.

    How many MPs & Ministers has Newman lost in just over 12 months in office? Blind Freddie could have seen this coming but the Qld electorate had been stirred into such a frenzy of hatred towards the Bligh government by the Murdoch-led MSM they left their commonsense outside the polling booths. The same thing happened in NSW & this was on display for all to see but no one noticed.

    The same tactics are in evidence for the upcoming .Federal election. Do hope people will have learnt their lesson by then.

  2. J.Fraser says

    Single biggest donor to newman’s campaign … now that has not been reported in Queensland.

    Trust the money will be paid back by newman if it turns out to be obtained fraudulently.

  3. If not for the RCAMB whistleblower Dirty Driscoll would still be Newmans right hand man,for the $55,000 Dirty contributed toward Newmans campaign he and his wife embezzled $1.4mill. Not a bad earn over eighteen months,ask any financial adviser.And to steal from government funds meant for the homeless and the mentally ill,”how low can anyone get”?.
    Driscoll had gotten away with lowlife behaviour for so long with Newmans acceptance he assumed he could do what he pleased when he pleased.As i stated above if not for an honest,brave whistleblower Driscoll would never have been investigated and he and his wife would never have had to answer for the stolen booty.It must be pointed out her company charged and he signed for hundred of thousands of dollars for services which were never delivered.These people should be locked up and the key thrown away.

    • katthebrat says

      Well put doctorrob. Stealing from the homeless and mentally ill is low. Both he and his greedy wife should be locked up! I live and work in Redcliffe and if dodgy Driscoll or his equally dodgy wife ever come into my shop they will given the bums rush!

  4. Laid Back Sceptic says

    There may be more to Driscoll’s problems than the article discloses. It’s summary at the end suggests that it could all be a bit of a beat up. Afer all Driscoll was only Patron of the community organisation. That’s the position you find Governors and retired Chief Justices holding: nothing like being CEO or even Chairman or President.

    As for not listing some interests in his declaration to Parliament, including some trivial directorships of non-profits, have you ever heard of such quite frequent embarrassments for MPs ever amounting to a row of beans in the end?

    He may have done some shoddy shonky things, even criminal, but the article doesn’t give much reason for it.

    So, it’s news, but it’s lucky that it hasn’t had to consume newsprint.

  5. Laid Back Sceptic says

    Why have my comments been omitted? Not complimentary enough to your author?

  6. There is a follow up from the Courier Mail:

    LNP bureaucrats knew of MP Scott Driscoll’s consultancy

    NEWMAN Government bureaucrats knew seven months ago of LNP MP Scott Driscoll’s inappropriate involvement in a taxpayer-funded community association that gave his wife’s consulting company Norsefire tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees.

    The allegations raise questions about the Newman Government’s willingness to investigate the serious matters raised about the behaviour of Mr Driscoll, who has been suspended from the LNP.