Local Governments do not exist in the Australian Constitution, they only exist through Acts of Parliament in each State and therefore the Queensland Local Government Minister is ultimately responsible for the behaviour, decisions and outcomes of Local Governments throughout Queensland under the Local Government Act.
Local Government Act was altered to give Local Government Mayors unprecedented powers
During the period of Newman/Seeney LNP Government (2012-2015), the Local Government Act was altered to give Local Government Mayors unprecedented powers, allowing Mayors to bypass many previously established protocols, processes and checks and balances. The changes also allowed deeply-conflicted elected Council officials to remain in chambers and vote for the approval of sales/leases of Council public asset sales (parks, lakes and carparks) to private interests and development industry applications in which they, their family or their associates had vested business interests and/or from whom they had received gifts or donations.
This occurred under the Newman/Seeney LNP Government's misguided (or intentional) 'devolution of powers' arrangements. The results of these changes around Queensland have been disastrous for urban communities, farmers, small businesses, tourism operators and the environment.
In any other State but Queensland, the Gold Coast City Council (GCCC) would have been dismissed by the Minister for Local Government and replaced by an Administrator some time ago, given:
the secrecy of GCCC meetings and decision-making processes and outcomes; Councillor conflicts of interests; Mayor and Councillor acceptance of gifts and donations then voting on tenders and development applications despite the gifts and donations; Mayoral non-compliance with Queensland Electoral Act in relation to maintaining a separate 'campaign fund account' for his 2016 Mayoral campaign; systemic bullying of honest Councillors and Council staff including threats of and actual redundancies (sackings); systemic bullying of community members on social media by GCCC staff masquerading under aliases/fictional personas; private business being conducted interstate and overseas by elected officials while on Council duty; hiding and redacting of major portions of ratepayer-funded technical, environmental and economic reports; undue influence of foreign and local developers on Gold Coast City Council elected officials and senior Council staff.
The Mayor of the City of Geelong and his Council were sacked by the Victorian Local Government Minister in April 2016 and replaced by an Administrator for 4 years for reasons including, "significant concerns about conflicts of interest and bullying behaviour by several councillors."
Mayor has established a secret 'Technical Advisory Group'
And now we discover that the Mayor has established a secret 'Technical Advisory Group' filled with representatives from private-development lobby groups, real-estate speculators and private engineering firms to "provide extensive technical advice regarding the first major amendments to the Gold Coast City Plan 2015". These 'amendments' include changing the City Plan (which was only completed and passed in State Parliament in 2016) to allow 25-storey private/commercial high-rises on Philip Park and other State crown-land areas on the southern Spit where the City Plan currently designates either no commercial buildings or a 3-storey limit.
The ABC's 4 Corners team have obtained a secret GCCC document (which Mayor Tate declared publicly 'does not exist') that confirms a select bunch of Councillors in consort with Tate's development industry 'technical advisory committee' which includes two Urban Development Industry Association reps whose Gold Coast/Logan Branch management committee contains ASF China casino consortium Director Luis Chien (featured in the recent 4 Corners exposé on GCCC) and the Sunland Group, have secretly plotted to change the City Plan. The changes are indicated in a map they created outlining areas from Paradise Point along the western Broadwater to Main Beach and The Spit - including Philip Park - on the Gold Coast which they intend to alter from parkland and low-rise zoning to allow for future highrise developments.
Secret Spit High Rise Plan
Save Our Spit Alliance President, Dr Steven Gration, made the following prescient prediction in an interview following the 2016 Gold Coast City Council elections which returned Tom Tate as Mayor:
The community and media scrutiny of Mayor Tate and his 'bloc' of LNP 'like-minded' Councillors was put further under the forensic microscope by the recent ABC TV 'Four Corners' program "All That Glitters" (18th September 2017)
Bowls Club Disgrace
If a measure of a society is how we treat the vulnerable, the recent '4 Corners' program struck a nerve from the outset for many across Australia especially in relation to Mayor Tate's alleged involvement in the Surfers Paradise Bowls Club fiasco prior to him first winning Mayoral Office in 2012.
How did those bowling club members end up on the street without an asset?
"When did you find out?" "After they kicked us out"
4 Corners also revealed a large investment Windfall for Mayor Tate's 'long-time friend' and personal business lawyer, Tony Hickey
2016 Council Election Subterfuge
Mayor Tate and his 'long time friend' and personal business lawyer, Tony Hickey, had just returned from a Mayoral 'self-funded' trip to China in November 2012, when Hickey declared himself as ASF China's official Australian spokesperson and his firm, Hickey Lawyers, a 'major partner' with ASF. This followed Tate's first announcement that 'ASF Consortium' were the sole contenders for a private mega-resort, cruise ship terminal and casino development that required the takeover of 100 hectares of public land, waterways and beaches on Wavebreak Island, Broadwater and The Spit for their private benefit and profit.
Development lobbyist, Simone Holzapfel, who ran Mayor Tate's 2012 and 2016 Mayoral campaigns was employed during 2013 in the Mayoral Office on major projects like the ASF China Consortium proposal. When the Newman/Seeney LNP State Government took over the mega-resort project from the GCCC under their 'Integrated Resort Development (IRD)' process and awarded 'possible proponent' status to ASF China Consortium, Holzapfel left GCCC employment to work for ASF.
Prior to this, Holzapfel had changed her company's name from SHAC Communications to 'Coolabird'. Just weeks later, 'Coolabird' was put into administration owing $430,000 to creditors of which $350,000 was owed to the Australian Tax Office. It was later revealed that Holzapfel had donated $114,000 to the Federal LNP Member for Fadden, Stuart Robert's campaign slush account, the "Fadden Forum". When questioned recently during the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission's 'Operation Belcarra' investigation into potential corruption of the 2016 Gold Coast Council elections, Holzapfel claimed that the $114,000 was her "own money".
Yet, Save Our Spit had previously revealed in ASIC documents that we furnished to a journalist at The Australian, at the time of her donations of her 'own money' to the Fadden Forum fund, Holzapfel owed the ATO $350,000.
Later, Stuart Robert admitted to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) that he had financed the campaigns of two 2016 GCCC candidates (both worked in his electorate office) with $30,000 each from his LNP Fadden Forum fund, even though the two candidates campaigned as 'Independents'. Stuart admitted to the CCC that "there should have been more transparency in using LNP funds for candidates who portrayed themselves as independent candidates".
Under the Qld Electoral Act, candidates must declare whether they are 'Independent'; 'Members of a Group'; or belonging to a 'Political Party'. Given the time delay between the Holzapfel donations to Robert's LNP Fadden Forum campaign fund, the CCC could not establish whether Holzapfel's donations of her own money were used to finance the 'Independent' candidates who worked in Robert's LNP Electorate Office. But it was not disputed that these 'Independent' candidates received funds directly from a Federal LNP campaign slush fund.
What was established is that Holzapfel not only worked for Tate (a Liberal Party Life-Member) on his 'Independent' 2016 Mayoral campaign, but that she also worked on the campaigns of several other 'Independent' GC Council candidates during the 2016 GCCC elections. Most of these 'Independent' Councillors have since voted in a 'bloc' for all and sundry of the Mayor's pet-projects, including the selling, leasing or giving away of Council parks, lakes and carparks to private developers and a horse-racing company.
Did these 'independent' LNP candidates declare the cash value of the 'support-in-kind' contribution by Holzapfel to their campaign in their Electoral Commission returns as required under the current Queensland Electoral Act or not? Did they fully disclose any 'in-kind' support they received from Robert's LNP Fadden Forum fund for the costs of printing, brochures, stickers, T-shirts etc? If not, why haven't they been referred to the ECQ by the CCC?
April 26th 2017 Tom Tate questioned by ABC 7:30 over his knowledge of other clients of lobbyist Simone Holzapfel See full video at ABC 730
Holzapfel also assisted ASF China Casino Consortium to set up and fund a fake community group, "Better Our Spit", in order to infiltrate the recent Qld Government 'Spit and IRD Community Consultation' process conducted by the Dpt. of State Development. Senior DSD public servants gave 'Better Our Spit' endorsement as a legitimate community group and proceeded to inform the head of the independent community consultation company, Donaldson Consulting that 'Better Our Spit' were to be included in the State sponsored community consultation process.
Under community pressure at the State Government funded community open day conducted by Donaldson Consulting at Southport High School (26/03/17), the people operating the 'Better Our Spit' stall admitted they were members of the Qld LNP and were funded by ASF China and assisted by Holzapfel's SHAC Communications.
Further research by SOSA revealed that 'Better Our Spit' were not an Incorporated Association under Queensland law and are therefore, a non-legal entity with no members.
In our opinion, 'cooperation' between a senior Public Servant in Minister Seeney's LNP Dpt. of State Development (DSD), Senior Staff in the Gold Coast City Council's Dpt. of Economic Development and Major Projects (EDMP), the Mayoral Office and ASF China Consortium (and their local 'spokesperson' Tony Hickey) began as early as 2012.
This 'cooperation' between Local and State Public Officials appears to have been systemic since that time as seen by the support given to ASF by GCCC through the favourable reporting of ASF's mega-casino resort proposal in official GCCC publications and media releases over the past 4 years.
The same Senior Public Servant from the Seeney DSD who now serves in the Lynham DSD and the same Council EDMP Senior Staff were also responsible for constructing the 2017 push-poll 'integrated resort development' community consultation survey questions. This biased survey was intended to result in an outcome favouring ASF's proposal.
These same Public Servants (sic) also excluded Philip and Muriel Henchman Parks from 'The Spit parklands' component of the DSD community consultation, clearly as a favour to Tate and ASF to clear the way for Tate's announcement of an 'oceanside cruise ship terminal' proposal off Philip Park.
The Senior State Government Public Servant has since recorded in official DSD documents that he and another Senior Staff member spent over $23,000 on a taxpayer funded trip to China in the 2015-2016 financial year, one of their stated reasons being:
to establish business relationships with those partners [ASF and Aquis] to provide comfort to them in relation to future Queensland investments. (DSD Overseas Travel 2015 - 2016)
The same Senior Public Servant also used taxpayer funds to pay $165 for ASF Director, Luis Chien, to attend the Australia China Business Council's Chinese New Year Dinner, at Sofitel Brisbane.
4 Corners Reveals
In 2016, GCCC commissioned an $865,000 ratepayer-funded feasibility study ($2800 per page) for an ocean-side cruise ship terminal (CST) at Philip Park, a State-owned public park on The Spit. The State Government was not even informed that such studies were being conducted despite the location being Crown-land and State-controlled foreshore and ocean.
Under community pressure, the CST Feasibility study was released by the GCCC with the equivalent of 56 pages redacted and the 'Risk Assessment' chapter entirely blacked-out.
Since 2012, the GCCC has a history of hiding or not releasing Council documents and publicly funded reports. In 2016, the Queensland Information Commission conducted a 'compliance review' into the GCCC owing to the inordinate number of expensive and time-consuming Right to Information (RTI) requests received from Gold Coast community members trying to access what should have been publicly available information.
The review concluded that the Council of the City of Gold Coast (COCGC), "applied the [RTI] legislation unevenly, resulting in non-compliance, and creating inefficiency and unmanaged risk for COCGC."
It appears the Mayor and GCCC have blatantly ignored the Information Commission's recommendations to be more transparent in making documents and reports available to the public as evidenced by their initial reluctance to release the 'Oceanside CST Feasibility Study" and the heavy redactions to the study when it was released following community pressure to release it.
The Information Commission can be informed of the GCCC's continued unwillingness to be transparent and honest and a follow-up review of Council encouraged by asking the Commissioner to do so through accessing the online form on this link:
CST Feasibility study: huge navigational safety problems, engineering difficulties, construction costs and lacked a solid economic or viable business case
The 4 Corners team eventually obtained an un-redacted version of the original CST Feasibility study which revealed that the Mayor's ocean-side CST at Philip Park presented huge navigational safety problems, engineering difficulties, construction costs and lacked a solid economic or viable business case.
Despite the Mayor and the 'bloc' Councillors having this information, they voted for the GCCC to commit an additional $2.5 million of ratepayer-funds towards 'further feasibility studies'. The recipients of the CST feasibility contracts are three companies that are concurrently listed as major partners with the ASF China casino consortium (PwC; AECOM & MacroPlan Dimasi) who continue their efforts (with the assistance of Mayor Tate) to acquire public land on The Spit and Broadwater.
Councillor Glenn Tozer voted against spending a further $2.5 million expressing a view that the CST was not viable and not worthy of ratepayer funds being invested.
Cllrs McDonald and Young also voted against spending $2.5 million - it has now become clear that the figure is $5 miillion.
In any other State but Queensland the Auditor General would have conducted an investigation into the community's perception that a gross 'mismanagement of public funds' has taken place with over $5 million of GCCC expenditure on Mayor Tate's 'ocean-side cruise ship terminal feasibility studies'.
In other States, Auditor Generals have sacked Councils and replaced them with Administrators for far less than what we are experiencing in relation to the perceived mismanagement of public funds by the current Gold Coast City Council.
The QUEENSLAND AUDIT OFFICE (QAO) supposedly encourages the public to report financial mismanagement of public funds. Their website states:
"Members of the public are encouraged to raise issues about known or suspected financial waste or mismanagement. Submissions need to relate to public sector entities or money being spent on public services."
However, the QAO recently left a phone message with Dr Gration to ask SOSA to take down their web-link which we had posted in a SOSA web article. Dr Gration returned a voicemail message stating that 'in a Democracy SOSA has a right to alert the public to the appropriate government authorities for their complaints as outlined in the Audit Office statement above'. So here is the appropriate link again!
The Crime and Corruption Commission has recommended A BAN ON DEVELOPER DONATIONS IN QUEENSLAND. The CCC found widespread non-compliance with legislative obligations relating to local government elections and political donations. This non-compliance is largely caused by a deficient legislative and regulatory framework. The CCC - has now published its final report into the matters canvassed at the public hearing. Its 31 recommendations will strengthen equity, transparency, integrity and accountability in local governments throughout Queensland. The investigation of some allegations is still being finalised.
Gold Coast Deputy Mayor, Donna Gates, revealed at the 'Operation Belcarra' Public Hearings that despite accepting over $180,000 in donations from developers for her 2016 GCCC electoral campaign (despite the fact she was uncontested in her Council Division), she voted over 30 times on developments involving those who donated to her campaign.
Cllr Gates claimed that by declaring 'a potential or real conflict of interest' she could then stay in the chamber to vote on proposals 'in the public interest.' Gates asserted that by staying and voting she could influence the outcome by insisting on stricter conditions for the development. Gates completely ignores the question regarding whether a development should have been approved in the first place. And how are we to know that some 'restrictions to the approval' she instigated were not a pre-arranged agreement with the developer to give the appearance that Gates was not biased and therefore 'voting in the public interest'?
Where is Mayoral Accountability for Overseas Trips?
In relation to his Mayoral style and duties, Crime and Corruption Commissioner, Alan MacSporran QC, made the following statement about Tate in an ABC interview:
We have in public exposed his [Mayor Tom Tate] behaviour which frankly as you put it, is appalling. (ABC TV News - 5th October 2017)
The community is also very aware of the Mayor's numerous overseas trips which remain substantially unaccounted for; in particular, his many supposedly 'self-funded private trips' to China (2012-2017). In any other State but Queensland, the Integrity Commissioner would have investigated the 'private' versus 'public' nature, expenses, meeting lists, itineraries and purpose of all Tom Tate's overseas trips during his reign as Mayor.
advertised in Beijing as 'The Mayor of the Gold Coast'
For instance, the 4 Corners "All That Glitters" program revealed that during Mayor Tate's recent Chinese 'self-funded, private trip' he was advertised in Beijing as 'The Mayor of the Gold Coast' at the official 'Forise Gold Coast Tower' launch. Forise, a Chinese National company, was given 'delegated authority' approval for its 'tallest building on the Gold Coast' on the Surfers Paradise foreshore by Tate, Cllr Caldwell (LNP member and part of the 'bloc') and the Divisional Councillor at the time, Lex Bell.
Mayor Tate's 'long-time friend' and personal business lawyer, Tony Hickey, who has accompanied Tate on numerous trips to China including Mayoral 'Trade Missions', announced himself as Forise's spokesperson in Australia and Hickey Lawyers as a partner with Forise prior to the 'delegated authority' approval of the Forise tower.
Through 'delegated authority' approval, Forise avoided GCCC Planning Staff and Planning Committee scrutiny. Councillors were not aware of the Forise development approval and were denied an opportunity to debate and vote on the Forise proposal.
The head of the CCC, Alan MacSporran, summed up community feelings in his statement to the ABC that the Queensland Local Governments he investigated are:
certainly at the very least a hotbed of perceived corruption...
How then does this Council remain in operation given the revelations of the recent 4 Corners program and following the evidence, reports and information furnished to the State Government and the CMC (now CCC) by the community over the past 6 years?
In any other State but Queensland the Auditor General by now would have conducted a forensic accounting investigation into the books and public expenditure of Gold Coast City Council?
And why haven't the Attorney General, CCC and/or Federal Police investigated Mayor Tate's numerous 'self-funded, private trips' to China while using his official Mayoral title over there?
Will the CCC investigate the 'cosy relationship' between the Mayoral Office, Senior Gold Coast Council staff, State Government DSD Senior Staff and the foreign developer, ASF China Consortium? If not, why not?
Mayor Bans ABC and Threatens Lawsuit
Surely the Gold Coast is not North Korea. Or is it?
When Mayor Tate refused to be interviewed by the ABC 4 Corners team and the 'All That Glitters' program was broadcast, it was no surprise that Tate banned the local ABC crew from covering his weekly media conference and then threatened the ABC with litigation.
Tate also issued a verbal litigation threat to Cllr Peter Young, who had the courage to be interviewed by 4 Corners and detail his experiences of working in the current Council under Mayor Tate compared with his previous 13 years as a Councillor under three different Mayors.
Comparisons were made between Tate's behaviour and the Joh era by veteran journalist, Terry Sweetman:
"On Monday night the ABC, through its Four Corners program tried to hold the Gold Coast City Council to account with its report on the relationship between developers and elected councillors and Mayor Tom Tate.
"To that report I can add nothing but tip my lid to a piece of riveting journalism, giving Tate private and public opportunities to answer the claims...
"But Tate's sulky reaction is in a fine old Queensland tradition of payback... [with] savage use of defamation writs...
"The media's role is to help people find the truth".
On a positive note, the Local, National and International Film and Television Industry brings enormous Job and Economic Benefits to the Gold Coast.
One of their preferred film locations is the Broadwater and Spit. While debate was raging around Mayoral and Councillor behaviour during the recent making of the 4 Corners program, the television industry was filming a 22-part series at Philip Park, the very location where Tate wants to put his 'unviable' cruise ship terminal and private-commercial high-rise buildings.
The children's series, "The Bureau of Magical Things", is a home-grown Queensland production due for international release after a 20 week shoot. The makers have previously been involved in Gold Coast-based shoots of top-selling series "Mako" and "H2O" which have been sold to over 170 countries.
SOSA President, Dr Gration, spoke to the BOMT film crew during their shoot at Philip Park and they openly expressed their love of the Spit and Broadwater as film locations and their determination to keep them as natural as possible. They encouraged Dr Gration to be vigilant in protecting The Spit and Broadwater.
The crew also clarified that the Film/TV industry supports hundreds of specialised and general jobs for Gold Coast locals in front of and behind the camera in addition to the international money and investment it brings. These jobs involve: caterers, actors, technical crew, tradies, writers, directors, designers and income for local hospitality and accommodation operators.
Denis Doherty of the GC Sun revealed that The Spit has been used for the equivalent of $1 billion in local Film/TV productions including major films, 'Pirates of the Caribbean 5', 'Kong - Skull Island', 'Pacific Rim 2' and most recently, 'Aquaman'.