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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Australian Associated Press

Annastacia Palaszczuk laughs off questions in parliament about minister instructed by union

Queensland transport minister Mark Bailey
Queensland Transport minister Mark Bailey says he had ‘sincerely and fully apologised’ and been cleared by a standing royal commission. Photograph: Darren England/AAP

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, has laughed off questions in parliament about the trustworthiness of a minister who was told which way to vote in a cabinet meeting by a union leader.

The transport minister, Mark Bailey, described the incident as a “rookie error” made several years ago for which he had “sincerely and fully apologised” and been cleared of by a standing royal commission.

Emailed voting instructions from the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) secretary, Peter Simpson, to the then-energy minister in 2015 were part of a report published by a parliamentary committee on Wednesday night.

The previously confidential report to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) by Mike Summerell, a former state archivist, documents the conversation between Bailey and Simpson, for which Bailey used a private email account.

The CCC found no evidence of corrupt conduct in Bailey’s emails with the ETU, but said his use of private email for ministerial purposes was in breach of the ministerial code.

In the correspondence, Simpson told the minister that cabinet members will vote on three options to reform workers compensation laws, but added that “option A” is the only “acceptable” choice.

“An important one mate, we obviously hope you go for A,” Simpson said.

Bailey replied: “Will give you a call in the morning comrade, M.”

Summerell said in his report that of the 1200 emails he analysed, those with the ETU were “very different in nature and tone” from all the others.

He said Bailey seemed to have “difficulty managing” his relationship with the union, which could be in breach of the ministerial code of conduct.

“Unfortunately the interests of the ETU significantly interact with key elements of the minister’s portfolio and his role as a shareholding minister in a number of government owned corporations,” Summerell said in the report.

“These records and the relationship in general are potentially matters that should be considered by the CCC or the integrity commissioner in terms of potential breach.”

Palaszczuk shrugged off questions about Bailey’s trustworthiness in parliament on Thursday.

“Queenslanders can trust every member of this government,” she said.

“I’ll tell you who Queenslanders don’t trust – that guy,” she said, pointing at the Liberal National party leader, David Crisafulli.

In another 2015 email examined in Summerell’s report, Noel Morris, a Rail, Tram and Bus Union member, sent Bailey a “hitlist” of at least 13 public servants allegedly aligned with the Liberal National party.

Morris had warned the minister they could use budget estimates to apply a “blow torch” and “destabilise the Labor government”.

“This is a real risk from the LNP bureaucrats and backers in the senior ranks of the departments,” Morris said.

Bailey replied saying a person on the list was “def not LNP”.

In parliament on Thursday Palaszczuk denied knowing about the hitlist, triggering howls from the LNP benches.

“If you table the email, I’m happy to have a look at it, I’m happy to look into the matter,” she said.

Palaszczuk and Bailey said the minister’s use of private emails for government business had been dealt with in 2017, and he had been cleared of wrongdoing by the CCC.

On Thursday afternoon, Bailey said it was “not exactly unusual” for a union to support a Labor candidate running for office.

“Unions and the Labor party have had a relationship for 130 years, that’s not a surprise to anybody,” he said.

But despite that relationship, Bailey said ministers made their own assessments and came to their own conclusions.

“Politicians and ministers get lobbied by stakeholders, peak bodies, all kinds of people, all the time,” he said.

“That’s a normal part of the political process.”

  • Joe Hinchliffe contributed to this report.

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