Queensland Liberal MP Trevor Evans has warned the crowd at a candidates’ forum in his marginal inner-Brisbane seat about the “scary” outcomes experienced by some of those investigated by state anti-corruption bodies.
And despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s refusal to commit to setting up such an agency if the Coalition is returned to government after May 21, Evans — who publicly supports his party’s much-criticised model — said one was expected to be in place “this budget year”.
The Brisbane Powerhouse may have been decked out for a comedy festival, but it was politics that drew the crowd on Wednesday night with questions ranging from flight paths to climate change.
In the second question from the audience of about 100 people, one voter quizzed the candidates for the seat of Brisbane about where they stood on the issue of a federal anti-corruption body after Morrison walked away from his 2019 election pledge to deliver one.
Evans also drew on his leader’s playbook, saying the government’s proposal — described as the weakest in the country by the Centre for Public Integrity — had not been introduced to parliament because Labor and the Greens would have blocked it in the Senate.
The assistant minister for waste reduction and environmental management said money had been put aside in the 2022-23 budget “on the basis that we do expect to have an ICAC in place in this budget year”, despite Morrison recently refusing to back anything other than the Coalition’s intact proposal.
He then went on to caution that some of the state models had led to “some pretty unjust” and “scary” outcomes, pointing to Queensland mayors and councillors who “essentially had a shadow put over them for more than entire political cycle” with no charges laid, but offered no further elaboration.
While the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission is now the subject of an inquiry by renowned corruption buster Tony Fitzgerald after fraud charges against Logan councillors were dropped in 2021, it also led the investigation resulting in the downfall and jailing of former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale.
Evans claimed the model that had been put forward by the government was the only one on the table, however his own party colleague Bridget Archer backed a crossbench push to debate independent MP Helen Haines’ bill in November.
“Here’s my prediction: after the election, whoever is in parliament will be passing something that looks and feels very, very much like the government model that is on the table,” Evans said.
Greens candidate Stephen Bates responded by saying Evans’ response showed “you can have 300 pages [of draft legislation] and say nothing but bullshit,” drawing applause from the crowd.
Labor’s Madonna Jarrett said her party would have one “with teeth” in place by Christmas.
Brisbane is among a handful of marginal Coalition-held seats in the Queensland’s south-east corner, along with Longman, Dickson and Ryan. The capital’s namesake electorate is one of eight in the state that Labor leader Anthony Albanese previously vowed to target.
Shadow treasurer and Rankin MP Jim Chalmers has suggested the party could pick up electorates around the south-east, or those such as Leichhardt or Flynn in the regions, but not both. Defence Minister and Dickson MP, Peter Dutton, has said he “just can’t see” seats such as Brisbane falling.
The seat is the sole federal electorate encompassing a state capital CBD, or named after it, not held by a Labor, Green or independent MP. Before 2010, Labor had held the seat for all but five years since 1931.
After days of apparent Coalition conflict over climate change policies, moderator and ABC Radio presenter Rebecca Levingston put a question to Evans on the matter.
Asked if Nationals senator Matt Canavan’s comments that the pursuit of net zero emissions was “dead”, in support of Flynn candidate Colin Boyce, would hurt his chances in Brisbane, Evans said all parties experienced division and Canavan’s views were not those of the government.
Jarrett seized on the topic to suggest it was a major issue when she was doorknocking. “I think that we’ve spent 10 years having a lost opportunity when it comes time to climate change,” she said.
The rise of the Greens in state parliament and Brisbane City Council has led to speculation the minor party could help decide the outcome in Brisbane on May 21.
Written by Matt Dennien. Originally published on April 27 2022 in the Sydney Morning Herald.