CCC: We expect nothing in return for donations: Sharpless
WE expect nothing in return.
That was the emphatic response from Springfield Land Corporation (SLC) deputy chairman Bob Sharpless when asked at the CCC public hearing whether the organisation he is a 25% shareholder in expected anything in return for making donations to Ipswich councillors and political parties prior to the 2016 local government elections.
As outlined earlier in the QT, SLC and its associated companies made donations of more than $30,000 in total to Mayor Paul Pisasale, Cr Charlie Pisasale, Cr Andrew Antoniolli, Cr David Pahlke and both the LNP and ALP during the 2016 campaign.
Counsel assisting Glen Rice asked: "Do these donations come with the expectation of anything in return, Mr Sharpless?"
Mr Sharpless replied: "No they don't."
Mr Sharpless was then asked if the donations, in his experience, gave any form of improved access to councillors.
He responded: "No it doesn't."
Mr Sharpless then explained why he believed that was the case.
"You probably need to understand a bit about the Springfield project as distinct to other projects," he said.
"We have all the approvals for our projects. They are supported by an Act of Parliament and there has been significant negotiations with the different councils, state government and federal government to set up the platform for the project.
"In respect to our project, politicians play a very, very small role. The approvals are actually normally issued in delegated authority by the city planner.
"The CEO of the council and the city planner have more power in relation to the dealings that we have with our project.
"It is a bit of a misconception if people think that somehow these politicians have direct influence, or the ability to influence, our project.
"In the case of Springfield that is not the case."
Mr Rice asked if SLC was a "special case" and Mr Sharpless said it was the only case that he knew of "in terms of the underlying structure that exists" with the SLC.
Mr Sharpless confirmed it was likely that SLC would have development applications before Ipswich council in the current term. He said they would be dealt with by delegated authority, or "the city planner in most instances", and that he would not expect councillors to deal with them.
In the hearing Mr Sharpless said that all donations made in the 2016 Ipswich local government campaign were solicited by the councillors involved or their representatives.
He said he did not have a professional or personal relationship with any of the Ipswich councillors and that he rarely contacted them for professional or personal reasons.
It emerged that Mr Sharpless, in his earlier private conversations with CCC officers, had spoken of his wish that all political donations be banned.
"I would love to see that happen," Mr Sharpless said in the hearing.
"It comes back to what is the problem you (the CCC) are trying to deal with. There seems to be this perception that the making of a donation is creating a behaviour.
"To me, if you want to really do something about it why don't you ban political donations? It would make my life so much easier."
Mr Sharpless said his view was that there should be a funded model for political campaigns.
"Then property developers, and others, would not be accused of doing things that are supposedly not in the public interest when we try and help people who ask for our help," he said.