DIVISION 8: Steve Cooper campaigning in January.
DIVISION 8: Steve Cooper campaigning in January.

Cautious Bundy councillor repays donation

IN WHAT is a major grey area, councillors are erring on the side of caution when it comes to donations.

On Tuesday, The Courier-Mail reported that Bundaberg councillor Steve Cooper had returned a gift from a "potential prohibited donor".

Cr Cooper was voted in to council following a divisional by-election in January and, as expected during election campaigns, received a number of donations.

During his election period the State Government was reviewing legislation regarding donations from developers so, when he received a gift from a local builder, Cr Cooper didn't want to take any chances.

According to Electoral Commission disclosures, Cr Cooper received $1200 from Bundaberg builder Barry Hurst on December 19, 2017.

The donation was returned to Mr Hurst in June this because the legislation surrounding developer donations was still unknown.

"Barry Hurst is a personal friend of mine who made a political donation to my election campaign, as did others," Cr Cooper said.

"He's a builder and I wasn't sure whether he classified as a developer. He builds units and probably does one a year.

"We had to wait for the government to determine what the actual rules were ... and I was unsure so I erred on the side of caution and returned the money.

"I wasn't going to be hung over something I wasn't sure about."

Cr Cooper said he went above and beyond to avoid conflicts, detailing the lengths he took to remain transparent.

"I recently sold my unit and a normal thing a real estate agent will do is give you a gift voucher for a restaurant," he said.

"I said I would not accept that, I wrote back to them and said thanks very much but no thanks, I don't accept gifts, and returned it.

"My advice was I could've taken it ... but I just don't want to be caught out in that game ... everyone's been tarred with the one brush."

Mr Hurst said he made the donation to Cr Cooper's campaign as he was a close friend and he wanted to support his journey into council.

"He's a friend of mine and he told me he had to return the money because I'm a builder and they might class that as a developer," Mr Hurst said.

"He said 'even though you're not an actual developer, you're a builder,' and he returned it.

"It was just something he didn't feel comfortable with."