Former minister stands aside from QBCC board

A FORMER high-profile Labor Minister has stood aside from his place on the Queensland Building and Construction Commission board and self-reported to the Crime and Corruption Commission.

Robert Schwarten was Queensland Housing Minister from 1998 to 2011.

He joined the QBCC board on December 1, 2016, as part of a revamp.

Mr Schwarten said he had not attended the last board meeting of the regulator and had self-reported to the CCC in December.

That action followed allegations raised in state parliament last October by LNP shadow Housing Minister Michael Hart, Burleigh, about Mr Schwarten's close relationship with failed central Queensland builder J.M. Kelly Group.

Robert Schwarten said he had decided to stand aside pending a decision from the CCC. Picture: Grant Parker
Robert Schwarten said he had decided to stand aside pending a decision from the CCC. Picture: Grant Parker

A Back Our Subbies campaign has revealed J.M. Kelly's history of alleged non-payment and delayed payment to subcontractors and the impact on their lives. But Mr Schwarten has strongly denied he ever took any benefit from the builder.

He said the CCC referral related to claims made by "that c ***nt Michael Hart" that J.M. Kelly had painted Mr Schwarten's Kinka Beach house.

Mr Schwarten late last year also tendered stat decs to parliament denying the allegations.

"Given my QBCC position I thought it best to refer it to the CCC," he said.

"I did so in December and have had no advice whether it intends to proceed (with an investigation).

"I didn't attend the last QBCC board meeting. I'm in limbo."

Mr Schwarten has denied the claims and said he had never had any work done on his house by J.M. Kelly boss Geoff Murphy (pictured).
Mr Schwarten has denied the claims and said he had never had any work done on his house by J.M. Kelly boss Geoff Murphy (pictured).

He said he had decided to stand aside pending a decision from the CCC.

Mr Schwarten said he had sought advice from the Integrity Commissioner before self-reporting.

"I've never taken a cent in my life from any c***t," he said.

"I've never taken a dollar off a builder. I come from a building family."

In parliament last year Mr Hart questioned why the State Government had done nothing while J.M. Kelly had "ripped off small subcontractors and suppliers.

"Members can imagine my surprise when a reliable source on the ground in central Queensland informed me that the previous Labor minister, Rob Schwarten, had approached the LNP while we were in government saying, 'We have to give J.M. Kelly some hospital work. They only make money from hospital work,' " Mr Hart told parliament.

The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin reported that Mr Hart told the parliament he had information that Mr Schwarten had major renovations done to his Rockhampton houses by J.M. Kelly in 2009 and 2011.

He said he was told that a JMK contractor had painted Mr Schwarten's Kinka Beach house at a cost of $26,000, which was not paid by him but added as a variation to a government contract.

"I've heard this from number of credible people in Central Queensland and both the government and Mr Schwarten have some very serious questions to answer about this," he said.

"These questions are deserving of a thorough and rigorous examination to get to the bottom of things."

Mr Schwarten yesterday denied the claims and said he had never had any work done on his house by J.M. Kelly boss Geoff Murphy.

The Kelly companies have also denied doing free work for Mr Schwarten.

QBCC staff have been told of Mr Schwarten stepping down.

Board chair Dick Williams said he also hoped Mr Schwarten would rejoin the body.

"Mr Schwarten advised me he had referred himself to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) and has asked the CCC to examine the allegations.

"Earlier today, QBCC Commissioner Brett Bassett assisted me in circulating an email to all QBCC staff to advise them of Mr Schwarten's decision.

"In my dealings with him as a member of the QBCC board, I have found him to have acted with the utmost integrity and propriety … I look forward to his return to the QBC Board as soon as possible.''



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