Queensland election 2015: Tony Fitzgerald savages Newman Government for ‘nepotism’, says it would be ‘folly’ to vote for LNP

Exclusive by the National Reporting Team’s Mark Willacy

23 Jan 2015

Photo: Tony Fitzgerald has launched a scathing attack on Campbell Newman’s government (AAP: Steve Gray, file photo)

Related Story: Fitzgerald says Newman Government ‘arrogant fools’ over CMC changes

Related Story: Fitzgerald attacks Qld Govt’s ‘disdain for democracy’

Corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald has entered the Queensland election fray, attacking the Newman Government’s record and warning that it would be "sheer folly" to vote for a political party which "refuses to accept that there are limits on the proper exercise of democratic power".

In an opinion piece written for The Drum, Mr Fitzgerald accuses the Liberal National Party Government of rampant nepotism, treating the community with contempt, and of weakening the state’s anti-corruption watchdog and attacking the judiciary.

He also condemns the LNP’s refusal to commit to a package of good governance obligations.

It was revealed this week that Mr Fitzgerald was one of 50 prominent Australians who called on all parties contesting the Queensland election to commit to principles of "accountability and good governance".

The principles were accepted by all parties except the LNP, with Premier Campbell Newman refusing to say why his party did not sign up.

"Bizarrely, the Liberal National Party alone is refusing to commit to those constraints or to explain its reasons," wrote Mr Fitzgerald.

"In doing so, it has ensured that political standards are a critically important, indeed the most important, election issue. It is effectively telling voters that, if it is elected, it will do as it pleases."

In the late 1980s Mr Fitzgerald presided over the historic inquiry into systemic corruption in Queensland.

As well as a range of landmark reforms, it led to the jailing of the police commissioner Terry Lewis and three former Bjelke-Petersen ministers, and sparked the end of three decades of National Party rule.

This week three of the nation’s most respected corruption fighters told the ABC’s 7.30 program they had serious concerns about the use of cash-for-access fundraising in Queensland.

Fitzgerald Inquiry counsel assisting Gary Crooke QC, former Independent Commission Against Corruption head David Ipp, and former Supreme Court judge David Harper condemned the LNP’s Q Forum fundraising events, which have earned the party millions of dollars.

The Drum: Qld’s political ethics

With its single house of Parliament and history of political malpractice, Queensland is especially vulnerable to the misuse of political power, writes Tony Fitzgerald.

As part of their Q Forum subscriptions, businesses pay thousands of dollars to be part of lunches and dinners where they can mingle with ministers and senior government figures.

The ABC also revealed the Queensland Labor Party had revived its own pay-for-access fundraising activities after a five-year ban, offering businesses the opportunity to dine with senior figures including leader Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Labor is spruiking package deals ranging in price between $5,000 and $10,000.

The ALP signed up to the good governance obligations promoted by Mr Fitzgerald, which include a provision to "treat all people equally without permitting any person or corporation special access or influence".

Mr Fitzgerald has been a constant critic of the Newman Government.

He has slammed the LNP’s introduction of harsh anti-bikie laws, and accused the Courier-Mail newspaper of a pro-LNP bias.

"With its single house of Parliament and history of political malpractice, Queensland is especially vulnerable to the misuse of political power," he wrote.

"During its brief term in power, the present government treated the community with contempt. From behind a populist facade, it engaged in nepotism, sacked, stacked and otherwise reduced the effectiveness of parliamentary committees, subverted and weakened the state’s anti-corruption commission, made unprecedented attacks on the courts and the judiciary, appointed a totally unsuitable chief justice, reverted to selecting male judges almost exclusively and, from a position of lofty ignorance, dismissed its critics for their effrontery."

The ABC has contacted Mr Newman’s office for comment.