Tuesday, 6 March 2012

No Labor favours for Jim Elder on asset sale says Anna Bligh

March 06, 2012 1:34PM

Andrew Fraser and Jim Elder
OLD TIES: A fresh-faced Andrew Fraser (left) pictured in 1998 with former Labor state secretary Mike Kaiser and then Deputy Premier Jim Elder. Source: The Courier-Mail

LABOR has distanced itself from a former deputy premier-turned-lobbyist accused of working behind the scenes of a multimillion-dollar public asset sale.
A whistleblower has told The Courier-Mail former Labor deputy premier Jim Elder never declared his hand in lobbying for the $603 million sale of Forestry Plantations Queensland to Hancock Resources Group.

The allegations have been sent to the Crime and Misconduct Commission, which is assessing whether they warrant a formal investigation.

The whistleblower claims Mr Elder had contact with Treasurer Andrew Fraser in the lead-up to the sale and received a "success fee" for the deal.

Mr Elder quit Labor in 2000 after the Shepherdson Inquiry into Labor Party branch stacking.

But he had earlier worked for Hancock as a "strategic adviser", meaning he wasn't required to list the company as a client on the lobbyist register.

Mr Fraser on Tuesday told reporters he never met, spoke or otherwise dealt with Mr Elder during the transaction. "This was an allegation that was made two years ago," he told reporters in Rockhampton. "It was raised by the Liberal and National parties, and it was refuted then as I refute it now. "Anyone who suggests that I was about to do a favour for Mr Elder seriously misunderstands our relationship."

Premier Anna Bligh also distanced herself from Mr Elder. "Anyone who has observed Queensland politics for any period ... will know that Jim Elder resigned from the Queensland branch of the Labor Party in disgrace some ten years ago," she said. "Any suggestion that I or the deputy or any member of my government would be out to do a favour for Jim Elder is frankly laughable."

Ms Bligh said there was a simple reason Hancock was successful in its bid."That is because they made an offer that was almost $70 million more than the nearest competitor," she said.
"This asset was valued at around $500 million. Ultimately it sold for $600 million. "That was a great outcome for taxpayers."

Liberal National Party (LNP) leader Campbell Newman said Queenslanders tired of "Labor mates" stories should vote the party out of government.

"This story today in the media is just the same as all the other stories and scandals we have seen over the many, many years of Labor rule in Queensland," he told reporters in Brisbane. "If people want to see an end to that, it is very easy. Just vote one for the LNP and we will get this state back on track."

Mr Fraser says the entire sale of Forestry Plantations Queensland was overseen by an independent probity adviser, whose report was tabled in parliament last year.
He said the CMC had not contacted him or his office.

by Larine Statham, Kim Agius

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