Today I rise to talk about a clever question that was asked of me by a good friend—Henry Pike, who is the LNP candidate for the state seat of Redlands. He asked me on Saturday: 'Which Labor scandal this week was the most disgraceful
?' Was it the Queensland Premier's chief of staff being rehired after he got a $297,000 golden handshake? Was it ramming through legislation to lower the Paradise Dam wall against the wishes of the local agricultural community? Was it millions of wasted dollars in a junked SPER—the State Penalties Enforcement Registry—debt recovery system? Or was it Minister Miles, the health minister, using parliamentary privilege to attack a journalist who exposed scandals within his portfolio? It's really hard to tell. So I thought I would, with the help of this chamber, go through a little bit about each of those scandals and let this chamber decide which of the four takes the cake.
The first one is the payment to Mr Jim Murphy, the former Queensland Treasury undersecretary. He resigned from his position—note that word, 'resigned'; he wasn't made redundant and wasn't fired. He resigned to take up another career opportunity and moved to Sydney in August 2018. He got a nice big cheque for $297,000. He went to join a management company which seemed to involve itself primarily in Labor aligned political activities—that's possibly a question for another day. And as he jumps backwards and forwards from the public sector into jobs with his Labor mates and back out again, each time he seems to do rather well out of it for himself.
In 2013 he left his then position as deputy secretary in the money markets of the federal Treasury to take up the position of Kevin Rudd's chief of staff in the lead-up to the 2013 federal election. He swings in and out of the Public Service around election time, and that's got to work out rather well for him. But now he's been appointed to this role for our great state of Queensland, which is more than $70 billion in debt. I reckon that this bloke, who wasn't made redundant, who wasn't fired and who wasn't treated poorly at work, but who simply decided to go and pursue something else, should pay back to Queensland taxpayers that $297,000 golden handshake he got from his mate Jackie Trad the Treasurer. It could go to important things like paying off Queensland's debt or maybe funding the repair and restoration of the Paradise Dam, which brings me to the second point: the Paradise Dam.
This should be the biggest infrastructure scandal of our age. Building Queensland indicated in a report in 2016 that the Paradise Dam needed extensive repair work. It branded it a priority proposal—it's on page 21 of the Infrastructure pipeline report, if anybody wants to check up on this. It was built in 2006 and it is the second-newest dam in the country. It cost $240 million of taxpayer money. Well, four years ago, in 2016, that repair work was identified and not a thing was done—not a thing! Now, all of a sudden, there is urgency. It's urgency that means Labor has rushed legislation through the Queensland parliament, effectively to allow them to demolish the Paradise Dam—a dam that was 75 per cent full. At a time when the Bundaberg district is as dry as can be it has been emptied down to 42 per cent, simply wasting 32,000 Olympic swimming pools worth of water. That's water which is desperately needed by graziers, by macadamia farmers, by avocado farmers and by our cane farmers. I could keep going! And the worst part is that they did it without even asking any of the users, any of the people who depend on that dam for the viability of their agricultural enterprises. It's just not good enough.
They called an independent inquiry into the Paradise Dam late last year, to be headed by the well-respected Justice John Byrne of the Supreme Court, and it's due to report in April. So why the big old rush to tear the thing down before we even have the full information about what's gone wrong? Here is what we do know: many documents—the ABC estimates there are 23,000 documents—show that the structural faults and safety issues with the dam over the past five years are being withheld from disclosure. We note that the mayor and Sunwater say that it's not about damage sustained during the floods but that it's about problems with construction. And we know that Dr Lynham, the responsible minister, simply says that it is commercial-in-confidence whenever he is asked to be held accountable for what should be the biggest infrastructure scandal of our time. But the Queensland state government think they're not really accountable and that they can do as they please.
The third Labor fail he gave me to choose from was that the Queensland's State Penalties Enforcement Registry's ICT reform of the fine recovery system was given the big old thumbs down by the Queensland Audit Office. The Office of State Revenue implemented this registry over the course of five years and at the massive cost of $58.8 million. The Auditor-General said that it was not effective from its inception. It didn't work from the very start. Meanwhile, Queensland has a total of $1.294 billion—not million, billion dollars—in unpaid debts, in fines, and no system that this government seems to be able to put together to manage it adequately. That's good news for fine dodgers but it is pretty bad news for the taxpayers of Queensland.
The fourth issue is health minister, Mr Miles, and his technical bungles with the ICT system once again. When it comes to technology and health, boy, Queensland Labor have a shocker of a record. They introduced in the health department a $1.2 billion system called the IEMR—the integrated electronic management record system—designed to manage patient records electronically. So far, 16 hospitals have moved onto the system and another 14 are to follow. But according to the ABC, which undertook a right-to-information request, 95 patients have been physically harmed as a result of glitches in this system, including one child in the Queensland Children's Hospital who was accidentally given 10 times the amount of insulin they required to deal with their condition. It's out of control. This is life-and-death stuff that comes down to the incompetence of Minister Miles yet again.
In October last year, a draft briefing note came to light. The health minister requested that Queensland Health not conduct any patches or upgrades to the system during sitting weeks—that could cause awkward moments for him—and, when he was called up on it, he denied he had made the request. But, like the dodgy poll conducted to change the name of the Lady Cilento Hospital, this too was proven to be untrue. The minister had made the request that upgrades to the management system not be undertaken during parliamentary sitting weeks—another bit of dodgy spin that we've come to expect from Queensland Labor. I find this a little bit like my two-year-old toddler, hiding behind a curtain or a towel and pretending she can't be seen. So it is a tough call, isn't it?
Henry Pike, the candidate for Redlands in Queensland, has come up with four corker options for the best Labor fail of the week. It is pretty hard to choose. Probably Paradise Dam wins for me. But if that is what Queensland Labor can mess up in just one week in Queensland, just imagine what they've done over the course of this term. Well, I'll hold my vote for now and wait and see what manifests in the coming weeks because I've no doubt that this incompetent crew will keep topping themselves week after week after week. That's why they have to go.