Disgraced former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale leaves the District Court in Brisbane this week ahead of his jailing for extortion. It's a long way from the days sections of the Sunshine Coast business and development community hail him as the guru of growth.
Disgraced former Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale leaves the District Court in Brisbane this week ahead of his jailing for extortion. It's a long way from the days sections of the Sunshine Coast business and development community hail him as the guru of growth. GLENN HUNT

Coast's loose praise for the false messiah from Ipswich

OPINION - Bill Hoffman

BACK in 2012 when I had a swing in this column at a local ALP branch and the Caloundra Chamber of Commerce for inviting now disgraced former Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale as some sort of messiah to the Sunshine Coast twice in two weeks, I copped a bucketing.

Years later in 2016 when then Daily editor Jenna Cairney was to write a front-page headline saying "Piss off Pisasale" over revelations he had lobbied then Premier Campbell Newman to approve Sekisui's proposed Yaroomba development, again prominent individuals in this community were quick to his defence.

One wonders how many of those who once were loose with praise and quick to defend his virtues will now be visitors to provide the convicted stand over grub comfort, while he serves out the prison sentence he was handed this week.

I wouldn't count on it Paul.

I for one am certainly not expecting a call from anyone saying "hey you might have had a point".

Paul Pisasale, who ran his council with an authoritarian grip, making development decisions behind closed doors, faces further charges as his fall from grace as "Australia's most popular politician" continues.

How so many could be so blind for so long to behaviour that was to bring down a local government and result in both councillors and bureaucrats being dragged before the courts, remains difficult to understand.

I remember one contact in a position to know such things telling me in 2011 that when the LNP took government one of its first acts would be to run a fine comb through the affairs of the Ipswich council.

That didn't happen. Instead Paul Pisasale quickly became attached at the hip to Premier Campbell Newman, another who applied enormous pressure in a bid to secure quick approval for Sekisui's Yaroomba aspirations.

When the ABC broke the story of Pisasale's own Yaroomba lobbying efforts then acting Premier Jackie Trad passed up the opportunity presented her to censure the now convicted criminal.

It would appear both sides of politics in Queensland have a blind eye when it comes to pro-growth mayors whose agendas have a capacity to pump unsustainable air into their GDP numbers.

Jackie Trad of course is the latest in a long line of politicians seemingly incapable of understanding the demands of probity in office.

Ms Trad is now in hot water over property dealings the LNP is attempting to link to her Cross River Rail push and inappropriate weekend phone calls to the head of the Crime and Corruption Commission.

What's been missed in all this is that at the time she was buying property she was Planning Minister with the capacity at the stroke of a pen to change values.

There is no suggestion Ms Trad did that for her, or anyone else's benefit. But with politicians being well compensated for their efforts and cabinet ministers earning well in excess of $300,000 plus entitlements a year, surely whether as councillors, state or federal representatives they should not be able to run and play the game at the same time.

Perceptions are everything and for some time trust in our civic leaders has been alarmingly low.

Revelations this week that a prime piece of Caloundra waterfront was quietly changed from public to private ownership in 2016 would leave voters even more certain that political promises can't be trusted when it comes to real estate.

There is a lot more to come about what went on in the halls of power that led to a written contractual guarantee in 2009 that the Tripcony Hibiscus Caravan park would remain under government control being overturned in a process started just three years later.

Labor needs to explain why when it returned to government in 2015 it did not stop - despite Sunshine Coast Council objections - that process started under the LNP Newman regime. The LNP needs to explain why it started the process in the first place.

It is not the only time the LNP intervened on behalf of the SEQ Properties Pty Ltd group of companies which benefited in Caloundra. Then Minister for Local Government Jeff Seeney refused to sign off on the Sunshine Coast Regional Plan in 2014 until the council agreed to change the zoning of another SEQ Properties Pty Ltd caravan park in Maroochydore to medium density.

Were both decisions political or made on advice from the bureaucracy? That's one question among many that demands answer.

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