Trad survives despite conduct that ‘should be a crime’

 

JACKIE Trad will today take over as premier after being stripped of her Cross River Rail role and condemned by the state's corruption watchdog over conflict-of-interest failures it recommended should become a crime.

In an extraordinary statement, the Crime and Corruption Commission yesterday found the Treasurer's repeated failure to declare her purchase of a Woolloongabba investment property near the $7 billion rail project was not a crime, but recommended that a new criminal offence be introduced for ministerial conflicts which are not declared.

"In addition to creating a corruption risk, failing to properly declare and manage a conflict of interest undermines perceptions of the integrity of processes, and creates a lack of confidence in processes and the outcomes they lead to," the CCC said.

"And the very legitimacy of projects can be undermined."

The scandal was sparked after The Courier-Mail revealed on July 18 that Ms Trad had failed to declare a property she and her husband purchased near where the new Boggo Road Station will be built under Cross River Rail.

The CCC indicated Ms Trad breached the ministerial code of conduct several times by failing to disclose her interest to Parliament and at key Cabinet meetings about the route for Cross River Rail.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced Ms Trad would be stripped of her role on the project and responsibility handed to Tourism Minister Kate Jones while also revealing chief-of-staff David Barbagello had resigned after a separate integrity scandal related to a taxpayer-funded handout awarded to a company he co-owns.

"I have told the Deputy Premier and Treasurer that she will no longer have responsibility for Cross River Rail," she said.

"Because she has breached the Ministerial Handbook she will not be having that responsibility.

"I want to reassure Queenslanders that everyone on my team will absolutely redouble their efforts."

While admitting the scandal had damaged her Government's reputation, Ms Palaszczuk revealed Ms Trad would act as premier when she flies out tonight to Switzerland and France on an Olympic Games fact-finding mission.

"I think Queenslanders have been just as frustrated as I have, in all frankness," she said.

"It has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks, and finally today there is a line in the sand.

"I accept and draw that line in the sand."

She committed to introducing the CCC's five recommendations, including making it a criminal offence when ministers fail to declare interests to Parliament and Cabinet.

But the decision not to sack Ms Trad has left divisions within Labor, with one figure last night saying the Premier had "blown a perfect opportunity to stand for something".

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington maintained Ms Trad should be sacked.

"Jackie Trad has clearly breached the rules and the only job Jackie Trad deserves is to be a backbencher," she said.

Ms Trad said she was deeply disappointed in herself and accepted the punishment "meted out".

"I'm glad the CCC has found no evidence of dishonesty or corruption, but that doesn't change the fact that I made a mistake," she said.

"The Premier has a right to expect the highest standards from all of her ministers and on this occasion I did not meet those standards."

Ms Trad also released the Integrity Commissioner advice she received on her conflict and promised to immediately sell the three-bedroom home at the centre of scandal.

Integrity Commissioner Nikola Stepanov said Ms Trad had a conflict of interest because a "fair-minded person" would not believe she could be objective.

"Given my view that you have a conflict of interest … I do not consider that it is desirable or appropriate that you participate in future Cabinet discussions or decisions that may materially affect the Boggo Road Station," she wrote.