Pisasale up first at CCC public hearing today
AN UPSURGE in complaints about the conduct of candidates at the 2016 local government elections was noted by Queensland Electoral Commissioner Walter van der Merwe on the opening day of the Crime and Corruption Committee public hearing yesterday.
Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, Cr Kerry Silver and Deputy Mayor Paul Tully will appear today while Cr Kylie Stoneman and Blair MP Shayne Neumann will front the hearing on Friday.
"Compared to the 2012 (election) I believe the level of complaints were significantly higher," Mr van der Merwe said yesterday when questioned by council assisting the CCC inquiry Glen Rice, QC.
Those complaints were made about alleged funding and disclosure matters and how-to-vote cards they believe shouldn't have been used."
The thrust of Mr Rice's questions to the Ipswich public figures will be revealed today but the QT understands it will include the issue of "undeclared groups", based on the CCC's stated areas of investigation into the 2016 local government elections and on complaints made to this paper from unsuccessful candidates at the last election and statements made on their campaign social media sites. At least two of those candidates claim to have made submissions to the CCC.
Mr Rice said yesterday that "some candidates engaged in behaviours that were interpreted by others as evidence of the candidates campaigning as part of an unregistered or undeclared group".
"These behaviours included receiving campaign donations from the same source, using the same campaign resources... whether it be campaign managers or volunteers to hand out how-to-vote cards... issuing joint how-to-vote cards with other candidates, advertising alongside other candidates - for example on billboards - or having close personal and professional connections to other candidates."
"Some candidates who ran as independents were perceived to have been aligned with a major political party without appropriate transparency of any such alignment.
"These perceptions were based on behaviours such as candidates receiving donations from the party or its members, having worked for one of the party's members of parliament, being current or former members of the party, using party volunteers to hand out how-to-vote cards on polling days and distributing how-to-vote cards that contained the party's branding - for examples colours and logo or part of the party's name.
Mr Rice said "some candidates received a substantial amount of their campaign funding from property and construction companies, giving rise to concerns about real or perceived conflicts for councillors".
The QT understands the above areas will be lines of questioning asked of the Ipswich public figures.
Many candidates appeared on joint how-to-vote cards with Cr Pisasale at the top of the list.
UQ's Professor Graeme Orr, an expert in electoral law, earlier told the QT that "candidates X and Z recommending you vote for Mayor Pisasale is not evidence of a group and the CMC has already made that point".
"If the how-to-vote cards were the tip of a larger iceberg and people were meeting and co-ordinating behind the scenes, sharing monetary resources and discussing the potential of working as a voting block that would take you over the edge," he said.
"If you advertise as independents, but you are running effectively behind the scenes as a group, that can be an offence."
The last Ipswich local government election was the most vitriolic in memory with accusations flying thick and fast of corrupt behaviour from certain quarters.
In December the CCC recommended the government consider making it an offence for any person to publicise allegations of corrupt conduct against a councillor or candidate during a local government election period, without first notifying the CCC and allowing at least three months to find whether the allegations have merit.
Cr Pisasale said he was looking forward to his appearance today at the hearing and that he would back any legislation to stop candidates conducting smear campaigns during elections.
"I am very happy to appear and I think it is absolutely fantastic this is happening to clear up all the innuendo and cloud that hangs over this city due to failed candidates," he said.
"I am sick and tired of the lack of strong legislation to protect good candidates from people with axes to grind.
"I want to make sure that legislation protects candidates and their families.
"I ran my election as a fair independent and we ran our campaign straight down the line with a great crew of volunteers behind me."