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.