LNP supporter Paul Darrouzet granted dredging approval after $150,000 donation
PUBLISHED: 8 hours 14 MINUTES AGO |
UPDATE: 2 hours 36 MINUTES AGO
Paul Darrouzet, who denies there is any link between the
donation and dredging approvals, is one of the new breed of political
donors who have so far avoided the public spotlight. Photo: Russ Benning
in the past year, former coal baron turned marina operator Paul
Darrouzet, gave $150,000 to the party a week before gaining approval to
dredge near the Great Barrier Reef.
As the Independent Commission Against Corruption in NSW casts a
spotlight on the murky world of political donations, an investigation
by The Australian Financial Review can reveal property and construction companies continue to help fill the LNP coffers.
Unlike NSW, Queensland does not have a ban on property donations and
the Newman government recently lifted the threshold for donation
disclosure from $1000 to $12,400 – in line with federal rules.
The LNP has raised twice as much money as the Labor Party since the
2012 election, $42.7 million compared with $20.5 million, as big
business, including property developers, continue to back the Newman
government ahead of next year’s state election.
Mr Darrouzet, who denied there was any link between the donation and
dredging approvals, is one of the new breed of political donors who
have so far avoided the public spotlight.
He made his fortune when he and some associates sold a majority stake
in the Foxleigh coal mine to global giant Anglo American for more than
$700 million at the height of the coal boom in 2007.
Two instalments via PondcoteHe bought the Abell Point marina at Airlie Beach in North Queensland
for $27 million in April last year, with plans for a $12 million
expansion to the 500-berth marina. But the expansion of the marina,
which is within and adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage
Area, required approval from both the state and commonwealth
Mr Darrouzet’s $150,000 donation was made in two instalments last
year via his private investment company, Pondcote – $100,000 on August
21 and then $50,000 on August 23.
A week later the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage
Protection approved an amendment to the environmental authority to allow
further maintenance dredging at Abell Point marina.
Federal approval for the dredging, which will result in between
100,000 and 200,000 cubic metres being removed from the marina to a
nearby disposal pond, was granted in September just before the
Coalition’s federal election victory.
Although Mr Darrouzet’s $100,000 donation was reported to the
Electoral Commission Queensland by the LNP, as required under the
special reporting event laws, the businessman has still not individually
declared the $100,000 or $50,000 donations.
Mr Darrouzet has long been a donor to the LNP, giving money to
both the state and federal campaigns, including to federal Health
Minister Peter Dutton’s campaign in the Brisbane seat of Dickson. He had
made another sizeable donation of $100,000 in September 2009 and
$20,000 in December 2010.
Supports conservative politicsMr Darrouzet said he was a big supporter of the conservative side of
politics and had been donating to the party since 1980. He said there
was no link between the donations in August last year and the approvals
for the dredging.
The dredging was completed late last week, he said, adding the marina
was about 1 kilometre from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
“We are not putting one litre [of dredge waste] into the ocean. It
all comes out into contained landfill, which will then be covered and
used to create a five-acre community park,” he told the Financial Review.
“It increases access to the marina and makes a more pleasant environment for people to stay.”
A spokeswoman for the Queensland Department of Environment said the
approval for maintenance dredging at Abell Point was standard practice
for marinas. “In the case of Abell Point, this meant allowing the
company to manage the way they carry out their dredging operations while
ensuring they met strict environmental standards,” she said.
“All dredge spoils from the project is disposed on land sites only.
Minor amendments to the environmental authority also allowed the
company to update the sites it uses to dispose of dredge spoil to
remove a site that had been decommissioned.”
Any breach of the environmental conditions would result in significant financial penalties, the spokeswoman said.
Labor approved first dredgingA spokeswoman for Environment Minister Andrew Powell said dredging
at Abell Point was first approved under the Labor government in 2003 and
maintenance dredging had been standard practice for many years.
“Amendments to this environmental approval were made by departmental
officers and were subject to time frames set out under the
Environmental Protection Act. The Minister had no involvement in the
approval process,” the spokeswoman said.
Other big donors to the LNP in the past year, which peaked before the
federal election, include Taiwanese-born lawyer David Lin ($134,064)
who is the principal at Davellin lawyers in the Brisbane suburb of
Mr Lin, who is the former president of the Australian Taiwanese
Chamber of Commerce Queensland unsuccessfully ran as the LNP candidate
in the seat of Rankin at last September’s election. He made the
payments to the LNP in two instalments: $80,000 and $54,000 in August
last year. This avoided the $100,000 threshold for special reporting
events, required by the state electoral commission.
The country’s biggest privately owned waste management company, JJ
Richards & Sons, donated $101,500 to the party over the past two
years. It would have benefited from the Newman government scrapping the
former Bligh government’s waste levy. The family is worth some
$390 million, according to the BRW Rich list.
Billionaire apartment guru Harry Triguboff donated $50,000.
David Devine’s Metro Property Group donated $25,000 to the LNP.
The Financial Review reported last week that Mr Devine will
book a $24 million profit in just over six months, after selling a site
that it bought from the Newman government for $22 million, to a Chinese
Miners big donorsThe Zupp Property Group, formed out of the Zupp car sales company
headed by John Zupp, has donated almost $108,000 to the LNP since 2012.
Big mining companies – including Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Coal and
coal haulers Aurizon and Asciano – and gaming company Echo Entertainment
all made contributions to the LNP over the past few years.
Other big donors to the LNP in its first term in office include,
ironically, mining magnate Clive Palmer, who donated a total of $180,000
before he quit the LNP in November 2012.
Even more bizarrely he donated a further $43,000 in early 2013 – for
an LNP fund-raising dinner – before he eventually formed his own
political party, the Palmer United Party in mid-2013.
ALP state secretary Anthony Chisholm admitted the LNP had a distinct
fund-raising advantage over the ALP, which has traditionally been able
to draw upon its investment vehicles, Labor Holdings and Labor
“No doubt the LNP will heavily outspend us at the next election with their slick fundraising machine,” he said.
LNP state director Brad Henderson said the party has had to campaign
in state, federal, local and two by-elections over the past two years.
“The unions still have plenty of money collectively and they are actively integrated into Labor’s campaigns,” Mr Henderson said.
The Australian Financial Review