Local government candidates should be banned from receiving donations from property developers, a Queensland deputy mayor says.
Veteran Ipswich councillor Paul Tully called for the law to be changed after testifying at a Crime and Corruption Commission public hearing into last year’s council elections.
Mr Tully’s strong call was at odds with his mayor, Paul Pisasale, who earlier told the hearing donations did not influence his decisions.
“The community has a perception that developers make donations for a particular purpose,” the deputy mayor said on Wednesday.
“I think Queensland should follow the model of NSW where donations by property developers have been banned for both state and federal elections.”
Mr Tully said a limit on donations should also be brought in – $5800 for corporations and $2500 for individuals.
“I think those two measures alone, if the Queensland government is prepared to accept them, would make a great step forward,” he said.
Mr Pisasale received $220,000 in contributions during last year’s election from 76 separate donors, of which he said about $33,000 was from property developers, but he insisted that did not sway his leadership.
“People give to churches but they don’t expect divine intervention,” Mr Pisasale said.
“It’s a shame that people get judged on perception rather than reality.”
Mr Pisasale said he treated everyone the same, whether they were a donor or not.
“At the end of the day I feel sorry for developers, they just want strong leadership,” he said.
“Anybody who thinks that as a mayor we’re going to lower our principles for the sake of a donation can forget it.”
Mr Pisasale said local government should receive the same funding for elections as state and federal.
“We’re forced to go out and find the money to run a campaign. Stop it, give us the same rules and you won’t have development contributions,” he said.
Mr Pisasale also brushed off questions why he hired his daughter Lisa Pisasale’s company Zimmi Group to run his election campaign.
He said outsourcing the campaign to his daughter allowed him to focus on his mayoral responsibilities but she only did it on the condition he’d keep out of it.
When shown an invoice from Zimmi Group for $108,000 at the hearing, Mr Pisasale said he’d never seen it before.
Mr Pisasale said the apparent mark-up on the invoice of $32,000 was in keeping with his experience with businesses billing for a third of the total service.
“I told her to use full commercial principles because I didn’t want any favours,” he said.
The CCC launched Operation Belcarra in September following a spike in funding and disclosure allegations against candidates who ran in the Gold Coast, Moreton Bay and Ipswich council elections.
Up to 25 witnesses are expected to be called to testify at the public hearing over two weeks.