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Racing inquiry to look at Labor's $150m deals

UPDATE: ATTORNEY-GENERAL Jarrod Bleijie believes former Labor premier Anna Bligh and treasurer Andrew Fraser should be questioned over $150 million of racing industry deals in the dying days of the Labor government.

But he said he would leave the decision to call them to the commissioner he is yet to appoint for his latest Commission of Inquiry.

Mr Bleijie said serious allegations raised in recent weeks about "money being thrown around" between the former Labor government and the former Queensland Racing bosses prompted his decision to call the inquiry.

The three-month inquiry will begin on July 1 and is expected to cost $3 million.

It is the fourth inquiry he has called and follows the child protection inquiry, which cost $9 million, the health payroll bungle which is coming in "well under" the $5 million budget and the CMC inquiry which cost $311,000.

"What price do you put on justice?" Mr Bleijie said of the cost.

"We're trying to get to the truth of these matters.

"The only way to get to the bottom of these matters is independent inquiries."

The commission will be directed to investigate the Sunshine Coast firm Contour Consulting Engineers which was allegedly awarded 37 contracts with only one put out to tender.

The firm completed track work at Caloundra's Corbould Park, was project manager for the $7.9 million upgrade to the Ooralea racetrack at Mackay completed last year and carried out work at Callaghan Park in Rockhampton.

Horse racing at Corbould Park. FILE IMAGE
Horse racing at Corbould Park. FILE IMAGE Cade Mooney

Racing minister Steve Dickson said this inquiry was important because there were 30,000 people directly employed in the industry.

"This is the tip of the iceberg;  there is a lot of investigation that must take place," he said.

"There are important questions which must be answered about alleged financial mismanagement which may stretch into the hundreds of millions, infamous 'golden handshake' payouts, and numerous instances of very murky back-room dealings."

Mr Bleijie said the inquiry had a broad scope to investigate other allegations that might arise in regional Queensland.

"The terms of reference are sufficiently broad enough that if the commission, upon recommendation, wants to head off in another direction, they're completely able to do so," he said.

"I wanted to make it sufficiently broad enough so that if there are regional areas that have particular concerns, those concerns can be heard by the commission of inquiry."

The inquiry will also examine the former Labor government's decision to transfer $20 million to RQL's infrastructure account in February, 2010, just before the caretaker period for the State Election.

Potential conflicts of interest between racing directors, the Tatts Group and other agencies will also come under the microscope.

Mr Bleijie said they had an obligation to taxpayers to see how their money was spent and ensure it did not happen again in the future.

Bleijie, Dickson announce inquiry into racing industry

THE Queensland Government will establish a wide-ranging Commission of Inquiry into the state's racing industry amid claims contracts worth millions were awarded by Labor without tenders.

One of the companies at the centre of the inquiry is Sunshine Coast-based firm Contour Consulting Engineers.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said serious allegations had been raised with the Newman government in the past few weeks that had convinced him an inquiry into the industry was necessary.

"We heard almost daily more allegations of more money being thrown around by the former Labor government and the former bosses of Queensland Racing," Mr Bleijie said in a statement Monday.

"I am concerned about the lack of appropriate processes in awarding contracts in the racing industry.

"For example, I have heard of one company that won tens of millions of dollars' worth of work, however only one of its 37 contacts allegedly went to tender."

"There have also been allegations that the former Labor government approved more than $20 million worth of payments to this company in its dying days in what seems to have been a last minute cash dash before the election.

"Queenslanders have the right to know where their tax dollars are being spent and deserve to know what is happening in this important industry and through this inquiry, I intend to find out."

The Commission has been directed to examine, among other things:

•         The tender process, including how contracts were awarded, in particular to Contour Consulting Engineers Pty Ltd; Contour is based at Kawana.

•         Adequacy of Racing Queensland's corporate governance and financial controls, including whether conflicts of interests, both actual and perceived, were identified and acted upon;

•         The reported renegotiation of employment contracts of Senior Executives of Racing Queensland;

•         Potential conflicts of interests between any of the directors of Racing Queensland Limited, Queensland Racing Limited, Queensland Product Co Limited and Tatts Group regarding arrangements for revenue collection;

•         The transfer of $20 million by the former Government to Racing Queensland Limited infrastructure account in February 2012 immediately before the caretaker period for the State Election.

Racing Minister Steve Dickson said he had inherited an industry which had been brought to its knees by the former Labor Government.

"The Newman Government has been unwavering in its commitment to restore accountability and integrity to the state's racing industry," Mr Dickson said.

"After rebuilding a solid, accountable governance structure from the ground up, we must now look at the serious allegations regarding the integrity and conduct of those once entrusted to run racing in our state.

"There are important questions which must be answered about alleged financial mismanagement which may stretch into the hundreds of millions, infamous 'golden handshake' payouts, and numerous instances of very murky backroom dealings.

The Inquiry is expected to start in July 2013 and run for approximately three months.
 

Topics:  jarrod bleijie, queensland racing, racing, steve dickson


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