The Queensland Labor Party recently disclosed $28,000 in donations made by Walker Corporation companies during the first half of 2016.
As preferred developer of the Toondah Harbour Priority Development Area (PDA), Walker Corporation could benefit from various commercial and regulatory decisions made by the current Labor Government including:
- Rights to develop on public land and open space including Moreton Bay Marine Park
- Compliance with environmental and native title laws and regulations
Initial selection of Walker Corporation as preferred developer was made by the Redland City Council and the LNP State Government in September 2014.
After winning office in January 2015, the Labor Government reviewed the Toondah Harbour project and decided in June 2015 to continue with Walker Corporation’s plan for massive dredging works in environmentally sensitive Ramsar wetlands.
Donations listed in Labor’s donations disclosure for January-June 2016 include:
|17 March 2016||Walker Corporation Pty Limited||GPO Box 5384, Sydney||$5,000|
|31 March 2016||Walker Corporation Pty Limited||GPO Box 5384, Sydney||$5,000|
|16 May 2016||Walker Corp||GPO Box 5384, Sydney||$7,000|
|21 June 2016||Walker Group Holdings Pty Limited||21/1 Farrer Place, Sydney||$11,000|
The out of office LNP got $5,000 from Walker Group Holdings, back in August 2015.
Walker Corporation has a long record of making political donations to whichever party is in power in the states where it wants to do big projects. Many of these projects, like the Toondah Harbour PDA, involve development rights to be granted by a state government over public land and waters.
Kew Cottages in Melbourne
Kew Cottages was a large area of land near Melbourne set aside by the government in 1887 for intellectually disabled children. In 2004 the Bracks Labor government initiated a public private partnership process which resulted in Walker Corporation becoming the preferred developer of accommodation on the Kew Cottages site which was to include a community housing component.
The Government signed a development agreement with Walker Corporation on 26 October 2006 just before going into pre-election caretaker mode. A few weeks earlier on 4 September 2006 Walker Corporation donated $100,000 to the Victorian Labor Party.
More information about Kew Cottages is available on the Kew Cottages Coalition website.
Just before the 2010 South Australian election, Walker Corporation secured Government approval for an opportunity to develop 12,000 dwellings at Buckland Park.
Greens MLC Mark Parnell had previously criticised the development’s approval process saying in parliament:
Members should also note that the developer, the Walker Corporation, gave a donation to the South Australian Labor Party of $25,000 in 2005-06, the year the project was first announced; and Treasurer Kevin Foley was quoted in the Sunday Mail in June last year as saying, ‘We make ourselves available for the likes of Lang Walker.’
Two years later, Walker Corporation secured exclusive rights to prepare a redevelopment plan for the Adelaide Festival Centre carpark and Riverbank precinct. Following a process lacking transparency, in 2015 the Labor government surprised the community by giving Walker Corporation the right to develop a 24 storey office building on public land.
NSW and Operation Spicer
In 2009 the NSW Labor government legislated to ban developers from making political donations. Former NSW Premier Nathan Rees explained why he introduced these laws in the Sydney Morning Herald where he said that the people of his state were:
“… entitled to a planning and governance system free of innuendo and corruption. Nothing corrodes public confidence more than a belief that favourable decisions can be bought. It is the definition of corruption.”
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) recently concluded its Operation Spicer investigations into donations to the NSW Liberal Party’s 2011 state election campaign. According to the ICAC’s media release:
The ICAC found that during November and December 2010 the Free Enterprise Foundation was used to channel donations to the NSW Liberal Party for its 2011 state election campaign so that the identity of the true donors was disguised. A substantial portion of the $693,000 provided by the foundation and used by the NSW Liberal Party in the campaign originated from donors who were property developers and, therefore, prohibited donors under the election funding laws.
Walker Corporation was one of the property developers investigated by ICAC. The Operation Spicer Report states on page 74:
On 22 December 2010, Walker Group Holdings Pty Ltd drew a cheque for $100,000 in favour of the Free Enterprise Foundation. The cheque was signed by Lang Walker. Victor Yee, the financial controller for the Walker Corporation, gave evidence that Walker Group Holdings is a property developer. Based on Mr McInnes’ reconciliation, that donation to the Free Enterprise Foundation was sent back to the NSW Liberal Party on 23 or 24 December 2010. The Commission finds that this was a donation that was directly affected by the agreement reached with Mr Bandle that he would clear money through the account of the Free Enterprise Foundation and send it back to the NSW Liberal Party.
ICAC did not have the legal power to make findings of corrupt conduct for breaches of the Election Funding Act.
Queensland Labor has been compromised
The Queensland Labor Party has made an error of judgement in accepting financial contributions from Walker Corporation while there are many key decisions to be made about the Toondah Harbour Project.
Possibly in December, the Federal Government will decide how environmental assessment of the Toondah Project will be undertaken. Walker Corporation has requested that the assessment of federal environment issues be overseen by the Queensland Government. This notion was already concerning given the Queensland Government’s poor record in managing environmental issues.
It’s inconceivable that the Queensland Government should have this role now it’s known that the Queensland Labor Party is being well funded by Walker Corporation.
In the words of former NSW Premier Nathan Rees:
Nothing corrodes public confidence more than a belief that favourable decisions can be bought.