Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has no qualms with councillors receiving donations from developers and then voting on applications where they have declared a potential conflict of interest.
An ABC report on Monday linked the Gold Coast’s property boom to donations from developers to councillors, including Deputy Mayor Donna Gates.
Cr Gates has declared a “real or perceived conflict of interest” in relation to more than 30 development applications since last year’s election.
Under Queensland law, councillors are allowed to receive donations and vote on applications where they’ve declared a potential conflict of interest.
Cr Tate, who says he does not take donations from developers, says he is confident his council colleagues are acting morally when they remain in chambers to vote on matters where they have declared a potential conflict.
“Other councillors who remain in the room, have the best interests of the city at heart,” he said.
The report has led to calls for Queensland developer donation laws to be reviewed, a move Cr Tate says is up to the state government.
“When they change the laws then we will abide by it. Morally, it’s hard for me to judge because I don’t take any donations from developers,” Cr Tate told reporters on Tuesday.
“If they’re going to look at it, fair’s fair, if they’re going to ban developers’ donations, they should also ban the unions because they’re trying to infiltrate candidates here.”
Cr Gates said she was disappointed the ABC report had tarnished the city’s reputation and defended her actions, saying she’d done nothing that wasn’t allowed under legislation.
She admitted it was probably time for Queensland’s Local Government Act to be reviewed.
“But I would be very sad if they make them retrospective,” Cr Gates said.
“None of us would’ve ever taken a donation had it ever been illegal or it would preclude us from being in a debate.”
In NSW property developer donations are illegal while in Victoria councillors who receive donations of $500 or more from a person or company with a direct interest in a matter at a council meeting must immediately declare a conflict of interest and leave the room before any discussion or vote takes place.
Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt said the state government would wait until recommendations from a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation into several local governments was received before taking any action.
“Right now we don’t jump ahead of those investigations,” he said.