Premier faces new pummelling over integrity

PREMIER Annastacia Palaszczuk is facing another gruelling day in State Parliament today after yesterday's acrimonious return to the House saw the besieged leader repeatedly defending the integrity of her government.

Weighed down by a dual integrity crisis, Mr Palaszczuk and her deputy Jackie Trad took heavy fire as the LNP ramped up efforts to see Ms Trad sacked over her controversial Woolloongabba property buy and the Premier's chief of staff David Barbagallo sacked over a business development fund co-investment now under review.

In the Opposition's latest tactics, Leader Deb Frecklington called into question the Ernst & Young audit ordered following revelations Fortress Capstone - a company part-owned by Mr Barbagallo - received a $267,500 taxpayer-funded co-investment under the lucrative Advance Queensland Business Development fund to develop a smartphone app.

It forced the Government to slap down suggestions of another conflict of interest.

"I refer the Premier to her director-general's decision to appoint Ernst & Young to audit the payment to her chief of staff," Ms Frecklington told the House during Question Time.

"I can now reveal that the partner from Ernst & Young was on the expert panel for Advance Queensland that advised on the establishment of the Business Development Fund at the time the grant was paid.

"How can Ernst & Young audit this grant given the clear conflict of interest."

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Deputy Premier Jackie Trad. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Deputy Premier Jackie Trad. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled

Ms Palaszczuk deferred to the Department of Premier and Cabinet which commissioned the audit.

A department spokesman refuted the LNP's claims.

"There was no one from Ernst & Young on the independent Business Development Fund investment panel," he said.

"Ernst & Young has advised this Partner had no involvement in the Business Development Fund and has no involvement in the current audit.".

Ms Palaszczuk continued to stand by both Ms Trad and Mr Barbagallo yesterday, repeatedly telling the House she wanted to wait until the Crime and Corruption Commission had reported back before deciding whether or not any action was needed.

"If the CCC finds that there will be an investigation, the Deputy Premier will stand down. That is the standard I expect of my ministers and that is the standard I expect of this government," she told the House.

"In relation to any issues around my chief of staff, he has assured me that he has done everything appropriately and has always sought integrity advice."

The Ernst & Young audit is due to be completed by the end of the month with the CCC pausing its assessment into the matter while the audit is under way.


Premier Annastacia’s chief of staff David Barbagallo
Premier Annastacia’s chief of staff David Barbagallo

Ms Trad also rejected Opposition calls for her to resign yesterday, pointing to the ongoing CCC assessment.

The Treasurer was taunted over the investment property as she made a ministerial statement to the house in the first sitting day since The Courier-Mail last month revealed the purchase had not been properly declared.

"Sell the House then," members of the Opposition frontbench interjected as the Treasurer attempted to deliver a ministerial statement spruiking Queensland's economic performance before they were promptly warned by Speaker Curtis Pitt.

Multiple further warnings followed when Question Time finally began as barbs continued to be traded with the LNP asking question after question of Ms Palaszczuk and Ms Trad about the integrity issues.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled

The Premier and LNP frontbencher Trevor Watts both withdrew their comments after a heated exchange in which Mr Watts labelled the Premier weak as she answered a question on whether or not she would sack Ms Trad.

She responded: "And you're pathetic".

Ms Palaszczuk also declared Mr Watts' colleague John-Paul Langbroek "not fit" to sit in parliament after he took aim at Mr Barbagallo.