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Monday, 20 July 2009

Is Queensland's government still too cosy with business?

A few days after former state health minister Gordon Nuttall was found guilty on 36 counts of receiving a corrupt commission, premier Bligh has questioned the ethicality of 'success fees' being received by ex-government employees working on behalf of business.

But that's not all. A couple of days ago a story ran in BrisbaneTimes.com.au detailing property speculation conducted by a company in which the wife of Ipswich-based federal member for Oxley Bernie Ripoll had made a quick and substantial profit dealing in land that was subject to state government zoning decisions.

Journalist Tony Moore reports:

A search of Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) records shows FFR Developments Pty Ltd was registered on March 28, 2008.

On April 1, 2008 FFR Developments bought two residential blocks of land in Bowen, one in Gregory Street for $269,000 and a second at Gordon Street for $230,000.

The State Government declared an Abbot Point State Development Area, on industrial land about 20 kilometres to the north of Bowen, on June 19, 2008.

Mr Ripoll said his wife's company had borrowed for the entire project and had put through a development application to build six units on the Gordon Street property.

That property is back on the market with a price tag of $395,000, after it was originally bought for $230,000. Mr Ripoll said there nothing untoward about the arrangement.

Ripoll bridled when questioned, saying that "it is a good idea and no-one should ever be excluded from doing that, if that is what they wanted to do". He suggested that the investors had not only employed a property expert but had consulted Google when making their decision.

Bowen is a regional town located halfway between Townsville and Mackay. It is situated near the Whitsunday Islands. Hayman Island and Hamilton Island are popular tourist resorts featuring high-end developments.

Ripoll insists that "anyone" who had done the same research as FFR Developments Pty Ltd would have come to the same conclusion.

According to the website of the Department of Infrastructure and Planning, state development areas are created under Section 77 of the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971.

They are designed to:
  • provide guidance and development certainty to industry
  • control development in a way that is considerate of existing industry and surrounding development
  • protect environmental values in the region
  • ensure an effective development assessment process.

They "represent a significant investment by the government in the long term planning and development of strategic land assets". In other words, they represent an area - in the case of the one in Bowen measuring about 12km by 20km in size - that is set to benefit from high levels of funding for roads, sewerage, electricity, communications, power and other infrstructure.

In the case of Bowen, the SDA includes both industrial and residential areas adjacent to the existing Bowen town area.

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