Shortly after the 2004 Gold Coast City Council election the story gradually emerged that a group of candidates had been secretly organised and funded to gain control of Council. It became evident that a substantial amount of funding had been secretly gathered from developers or companies with development interests – and these funds had been provided to certain selected candidates who professed to be independent. Community concern about the election and the subsequent representation of community values in the elected Council was high.
The discontent continued unabated and in July 2005 the Minister for Local Government publicly called for information that would assist in identifying and addressing those concerns.
In response to that, in July 2005 Peter submitted to the Minister a document in which he made her aware of the circumstances leading up to the election, and drew attention to the relationship between Councillors and developers and some of the decisions of the Council. He argued that the election had been distorted by the secrecy that was deliberately played out by Councillors and candidates, and that public confidence in the Council had been severely undermined.
The CMC conducted a public enquiry in the period November 2005 to January 2006. The final report of the Commission, released in May 2006 and entitled Independence, Influence and Integrity in Local Government, found that secrecy, deceit and misinformation during the Gold Coast City Council election of 2004 corrupted the electoral process, that two Councillors had played leading roles in creating a secret bloc, that they had acted inappropriately in dealing with developers, that conflicts of interest were not being appropriately dealt with, and that ethical standards had not been adhered to. Prosecutions were recommended.
The CMC stated “It must be seriously questioned whether the integrity of any electoral process could withstand the barrage of secrecy, deceit and misinformation that this inquiry has found occurred during the Gold Coast City Council election of 2004.”
Following the CMC investigation, the State Government introduced a raft of legislative reform to try to improve the accountability of candidates, councillors and local governments. A special ethics advisor was appointed to keep watch over the Council’s planning decisions for some time.
During this period, no allegations of wrong doing were made against Peter, and as a key witness to the hearings he required legal representation at a cost of $80,000. This was paid by himself and others in the community who believe in the truth, accountability and a fair go for the people. Other councillors against whom allegations of wrong-doing did exist were entitled to publicly funded representation…
Peter was also sued by a former Councillor who had played a leading role in the establishment of the secret funds and how they were distributed to ‘like-minded ‘candidates. Peter was sued for $600,000 plus costs. This matter was settled out of court.
Peter has never shirked from his belief that we need strong ethical people to stand up for the community. He has faced many challenges and stood firm. You can rely on this man of quality.