Recent revelations of Gold Coast betting scams with links
to police has again linked Queensland’s Newman Government in
Bjelke-Petersen style corruption allegations, writes Alex McKean.
RECENT REVELATIONS of Gold Coast betting scams
with links to former and current senior police have sinister overtones
for those who remember the history of police and political corruption in
The allegations have led to a further unraveling of the narrative the
LNP has desperately trying to sell around crime and the safety and
security of Queenslanders.
The Attorney-General, Jarrod Bleijie, has once again found himself mired in controversy and the Premier has again been forced to defend his unpopular right-hand man. Now the investigation has been referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission
(CCC), serious questions arise about the competence of the current head
of the corruption watchdog to properly investigate the matter.
Phil Dickie’s seminal work The Road to Fitzgerald and beyond
set out in painstaking detail the personalities and dynamics behind
police and political corruption in Queensland, referred to as ‘the Joke’, leading up to the Fitzgerald Inquiry.
The Joke in pre-Fitzgerald Queensland (Image via ancors.uow.edu.au)
Dickie worked for the Courier Mail — then a very different
type of news organ whose leadership fearlessly exposed corruption in
this State, instead of adopting a supine pose, whenever they are not
acting as cheerleaders for the Newman regime.
Dickie and Chris Masters of the ABC’s Four Corners,
reported that certain easily detectable criminal enterprises were
flourishing, apparently as a consequence of their operations being
protected by police.
The repeated denials of police and government figures that such
activities could be taking place appeared increasingly ridiculous as
reporters were able to easily uncover the illegal gambling dens and
brothels the police said they could not find and the politicians said
did not exist.
Along with tenacious investigative journalism, the eventual exposure
of ‘the Joke’ depended on the courage of several former members of the
police. These extraordinary individuals were willing to recount
experiences of being offered bribes, or being told by senior officers
that investigations into certain individuals should not be proceeded
It now appears corruption has continued to flourish on the Gold
Coast, with many of the same elements being present. Again, gambling is
involved, as is the suggestion that police and politicians have
conspired to protect the illegal enterprise.
Allegations have recently been aired on the ABC 7.30 involving a former police officer running betting software scams using a variety of fronts on the Gold Coast:
a former fraud squad detective and head of the Surfers Paradise CIB, is
reported to have continuing links to senior police officers on the Gold
The controversial Acting Chair of the CCC, Dr Ken Levy, is now said to have a personal involvement in the investigation into not only Featherstone’s activities, but also his connections to those senior police officers.
Ian Leavers, president of the Queensland Police Union, has publicly declared
that claims of police involvement in the scams will be found to be
‘baseless’, while at the same time saying he is not aware of any of the
details of the individual under investigation.
It is difficult to see how Mr Leavers can express this degree of
certainty about the outcome of the continuing CCC investigation, given
the history of police corruption in this State. It is also difficult to
share Mr Leavers’ faith in the (unnamed) officers who are currently
Now the trouble-prone Attorney-General has been drawn into the fray.
On the most recent occasion when there were public calls for Mr
Bleijie to resign, in the wake of the Stafford by-election catastrophe,
Premier Campbell Newman backflipped
on some of the boy A-G’s dimmer thought-bubbles, defending his bumbling
‘Boy Wonder’ sidekick by declaring that Bleijie had been responsible
for a 15 to 30% drop in crime across Queensland.
The Premier appeared to take the view that the mendacity,
incompetence and breaching of confidences, which have combined to put
the bar, the bench and the voters of Stafford and elsewhere offside, can
all be forgiven by reason of the Bleijie’s credentials as a
One can only wonder what the police minister’s thoughts were at
hearing that Bleijie was to take the credit for the (inaccurate and very
inflated) vaunted reduction in crime throughout the State.
But now it appears ‘Robin’ is not really all that flash in the crime-fighting stakes either.
(Image via Courier-Mail)
It has emerged that the betting software scams on the Gold Coast were
brought to the attention of the attorney-general some months prior to
the ABC breaking the story.
Back in June 2014, a victim of one of the scams wrote to his local
MP, who duly passed the inquiry on to Bleijie, as the Minister
responsible for the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). Bleijie wrote back to
the constituent, saying it was not possible for him or the OFT to intervene in the matter.
Bleijie now claims he said he could not help because there was no
power for the OFT to compensate the victim for his losses. The victim
however says he simply wanted the authorities to act to avoid other
people being victimised.
It seems clear that power to investigate the complaint did exist.
The Fair Trading Commissioner, who operates under the direction of the Attorney-General, has the function (under s11(e) of the Fair Trading Act 1989 (Qld)) of investigating
‘… fraudulent or deceptive practices in relation to matters that affect or are likely to affect the interests of consumers.’
In conducting an investigation, inspectors employed by the
Commissioner have broad powers (s89) of entry to premises, searching and
seizure of items found on premises. Inspectors also have the power
(s90) to require persons to provide information or records.
None of these powers were exercised.
The OFT publishes a document entitled Compliance and enforcement policy and standards, dated 2013.
The document says:
‘OFT is committed to deterring, detecting and remedying improper
practices that have the potential to cause serious detriment or
inconvenience to consumers and the marketplace.’
The OFT website has pages for warning about Scams targeting Queenslanders and for naming and shaming Businesses and traders to avoid. But there is no reference to the scams run by Mr Featherstone, or the companies associated with those scams on the pages.
Premier Newman, when called on to defend Mr Bleijie’s failure to
respond to the complaint, contradicted his earlier boosting of Bleijie
as a crime-fighter, saying it was not the Attorney-General’s job to investigate serious crime or fraud and it was more appropriate for the police or CCC to do so.
This response appears to ignore the existence of the major investigations unit of the OFT, which the OFT website
says handles large-scale investigations that involve serious misconduct
that causes large-scale loss for consumers and suggest that a business
is repeatedly offending.
The question then is: was the Attorney-General unaware of the powers
possessed by the OFT when he duck-shoved the complaint by a concerned
Perhaps he was too busy dealing with the ever-present threat of ‘vicious lawless’ bikies and shutting down tattoo parlours to bother turning over a few rocks to find scammers who are ripping off millions in Queenslanders’ life savings?
Now the matter is apparently being dealt with personally by another
of Bleijie’s outstanding success stories, Dr Ken Levy. Interestingly, Dr
Levy will be investigating alleged links between Featherstone and
‘senior police’ at the same time as the police commissioner is investigating whether Dr Levy has deliberately misled Parliament — an offence attracting a 7-year prison sentence.
The police commissioner himself has come under fire for backsliding
into the pre-Fitzgerald era practice of police publicly trumpeting
apparently positive crime statistics in the days leading up to the
In an example of blowback reminiscent of the ICAC carnage
currently taking place in the NSW Liberals, it appears links between
the betting scams and senior police were uncovered during the course of Taskforce Maxima, which was set up to investigate illegal activities of bikies on the Gold Coast.
It is interesting that Dr Ken Levy, when giving evidence
to the Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee (PCMC), which has
led to the police investigation into whether he misled Parliament,
referred to the fact that when he originally spoke to Des Houghton at
the Courier Mail, he said Mr Hougton had been interested in talking about links between bikies and police on the Gold Coast.
When an article on that topic was published the next day, Dr Levy penned his notorious opinion piece, backing the Newman government crackdown on bikies.
Mr Lee Anderson, Newman’s chief media adviser, gave evidence
to the PCMC on 18 November 2013 about a face-to-face meeting with Dr
Levy on level 15 of the executive building, which Dr Levy had never
revealed to the PCMC in any of his evidence.
Mr Anderson said he advised Dr Levy not to be drawn into any line of questioning from Des Hougton he felt uncomfortable with.
This included a line of inquiry Mr Houghton had apparently been
pursuing about links between bikies and police. Mr Anderson advised Dr
Levy he should respond to such questioning by saying the matters were
operational and he was not prepared to answer.
Given the significant doubts about the independence of each of the
Police Commissioner and Dr Levy, the public might have more confidence
in an investigation being conducted by a chair of the CCC who actually
holds bipartisan support, as promised by Premier Newman in the washup of the Stafford bloodbath.
It appears more certain each day that this government is staggering toward a conga-line of brickbats
in the election due early next year. One of the consequences of an
electoral drubbing, it is to be hoped, will be a public examination of
the corruption that this Government has allowed to flourish throughout
the State during their short reign.
Newman, Bleijie and their cronies have squandered the sacrifice of
those courageous few who broke ranks and told the truth about ‘the Joke’
to the Fitzgerald Inquiry. It seems a new generation of whistleblowers
will have to find the courage to stand up and expose the ‘the Joke’s’
new manifestations which are now flourishing in Queensland.
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