A multi-millionaire mining magnate had a proposal fast-tracked and scored a meeting with Anna Bligh after donating to the campaign of a local Labor MP.
The Courier-Mail has learnt Joseph “Diamond Joe” Gutnick donated $12,000 to the campaign coffers of Mount Isa MP Betty Kiernan shortly before the March state election.
The donation was made by Mr Gutnick’s management arm, Axis Consulting, rather than through the company seeking approvals to mine phosphate deposits near Mount Isa, Legend Holdings.
Three months later, Mr Gutnick’s proposal won the right to be assessed through the Expedited Mining Projects process and avoided the need for a lengthy environmental impact assessment.
Mr Gutnick, a former Melbourne Football Club chief, also hired Ms Bligh’s former senior adviser Damian McGreevy as a lobbyist after the election and scored a personal meeting with Ms Bligh last month.
Following the meeting, Ms Bligh spruiked the international potential of the phosphate proposal and told media it was Mrs Kiernan who had pushed to get Mr Gutnick through her door.
The issue will again ignite the Labor mates debate that has dominated Queensland since Tony Fitzgerald warned the state was at risk of returning to its “dark past.”
The Premier has since moved to tackle concerns over cronyism and corruption by banning Labor MPs from the practice of pay-per-view politics, outlawing lobbyists from Government-appointed positions and ordering an audit of all accountability mechanisms.
In a statement, Ms Bligh said she would meet with anyone offering to bring economic benefits to Queensland and a prime example was her recent talks with billionaire Liberal National Party backer Clive Palmer.
“I don’t care who’s donated to who when it comes to attracting investment to Queensland – I’ll meet with any business looking to make a significant contribution to this state,” she said.
Ms Bligh said Mr Gutnick’s proposal, which could create more than 1000 jobs, was still required to pass all of the environmental hurdles.
Mrs Kiernan said she had championed the phosphate proposal before Mr Gutnick’s donation, as she did with other initiatives that would further the interests of her electorate.
“I have got nothing personal to gain from Joseph Gutnick,” she said.
Greens spokesman Drew Hutton said it was a scandal any mine in the Mount Isa region could bypass the EIA process due to the risk of water pollution from highly sulphidic soils.