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Milking of sports grants process is whey of life for Nats

What is the link between the Sports Rorts affair and the Maleny Dairies complaints about the tendering process with Queensland Health?

Both of them involve the National Party in one form or another (now part of the LNP in Queensland).  But the National Party has a dangerous history of corruption in Queensland that culminated in the Fitzgerald inquiry that brought down the National Party’s three-decade rule.

The Sport Rorts Affair is a simple case of political corruption.  A process was in place to assess applications for grants in accordance with set criteria.  That is otherwise described as “merit”.  The then Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie decided to ignore the assessment of those applications and award grants based on political advantage to the Morrison Government.

The hilarious defence from the Government to this claim was that the number of Labor seats to which grants were awarded increased after the Minister’s intervention.  Sounds legitimate?  Think again.  The experience of the Labor member for Moreton Graham Perrett explains why this defence is a joke.  There was money handed out to a club in Mr Perrett’s marginal Labor seat in Brisbane’s inner south but he was not invited to the event in which it was announced.

Yes, more grants were awarded in seats not held by the Coalition, but this was done in such a way as to promote the Coalition candidate in that electorate.  In fact, it was the Liberal candidate for the traditionally safe Liberal seat of Mayo Georgina Downer (daughter of previous member Alexander Downer) who set the ball rolling on this scandal by presenting a novelty cheque to a bowls club in Mayo.

The failure to award a contract to the Maleny Dairies on the other hand was arrived in accordance with due process on the basis of merit.  Government procurement is undertaken on the basis of value for money, which differs from cost alone.  Whilst cost is a relevant consideration, value for money also includes other very important concepts, such as capacity.  Does the contractor have the capacity to deliver the service or product which they are required to deliver in terms of the proposed contract?  In this case, Maleny Dairies either could not or would not deliver in accordance with the strict criteria that is established for the awarding of the contract.

Let’s not forget this contract is with Queensland Health. That organisation’s primary aim is providing health care to Queenslanders.  Compliance with the terms of the contract and capacity to provide the services are therefore essential.  Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has jumped on this case and backed Maleny Dairies in an attempt to embarrass the Government about its Buy Queensland policy.  In so doing, Ms Frecklington is placing a rather confused and somewhat parochial understanding of Buy Queensland ahead of due process.

As we have heard from the Health Minister Steven Miles, the successful tenderer is located at South Brisbane, employs a large number of Queenslanders and purchases the raw product from Queensland dairy producers.  This is consistent with the Buy Queensland policy.  What’s more the successful tenderer can provide the services in accordance with the terms of the contract.

In this case the Opposition leader has proven that she is not fit to govern as she will put populist interpretations of policy ahead of compliance.  To take this concept a step further within the health sphere, would Ms Frecklington apply the same principle to the supply of surgical equipment?  Would a Frecklington Government override departmental advice to award a contract for the supply of surgical equipment to a local company even if it could not produce to the specifications that surgeons require to operate effectively?

This flippant disregard for process has a chilling similarity to the National Party governments of old.  Cronyism was rife and contracts were awarded to mates and donors rather than through due process.  Queenslanders should be very concerned by this demonstration of contempt for merit.