More than a year ago, Peter Carne was stood down as the Public Trustee of Queensland over undisclosed allegations of 'misbehaviour'.
More than a year ago, Peter Carne was stood down as the Public Trustee of Queensland over undisclosed allegations of 'misbehaviour'.

Revealed: Why former Public Trustee was stood down

NOW WE KNOW

More than a year after Peter Carne was stood down as the Public Trustee of Queensland over undisclosed allegations of "misbehaviour," that he denies, we can reveal for the first time why he fell from grace.

It's a story of plenty of alleged wrongdoing by the long-serving top bureaucrat-and perceived betrayal by two of those closest to him in the workplace.

City Beat has exclusively obtained a copy of the "notice of suspension'' that Attorney-General Y'vette D'Ath dispatched to him in June last year. Here's the verbatim heart of what has long been a source of conjecture:

"The allegations relate to you being intoxicated in the workplace during working hours, being absent from the workplace during work hours when there appears to be no reasonable excuse to do so, being absent from duty without approved leave, conflict of interest, bullying some staff, inappropriate use of resources of the Public Trustee Office for personal gain and engaging in inappropriate behaviour towards staff and others, including conduct which may constitute sexual harassment and discrimination.''

That's not all.

Just days later, the Crime and Corruption Commission informed Carne that they were investigating allegations that were "potentially criminal in nature and relate to offences including fraud''.

"Those primarily relate to the use of PTO (Public Trustee Office) resources including staff to assist with the completion of personal university studies undertaken during the period 2016-2019,'' the email said.

The message refers to an executive MBA program that Carne completed at QUT, academic work he maintains was approved by D'Ath.

 

The former Public Trustee of Queensland Peter Carne.
The former Public Trustee of Queensland Peter Carne.

 

Both of these documents are included in a 110-page affidavit that Carne lodged in January with the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission as part of his low-key fight back.

The material was previously inaccessible thanks to a suppression order as he sought to respond to more than 1000 pages of supporting material for D'Ath's "show cause'' notice.

Since then, Carne has retired and declared his innocence, with his QIRC case now moot. The CCC has dropped the matter, deciding against laying any charges.

Carne, who remained on his $385,000 a year salary while stuck in limbo, said Wednesday he "strenuously denies'' the allegations made against him.

First appointed in 2009, he held the job for all but two years until 2019, overseeing a frequently-troubled agency managing nearly $3 billion in assets for almost 10,000 clients.

His affidavit, which strikingly does not address the substance of the allegations against him, points the finger of blame for his downfall at his deputy, Mark Crofton, and executive assistant Lesleigh Birrer.

"I was deeply impacted by the dawning reality that my two most trusted colleagues…had been recording notes about my movements, without telling me,'' Carne said.

"This covert behaviour had a devastating impact on me and grew over time and is still very live as (sic) unresolved as of today. Not only did I regard them as close work colleagues, I also regarded each of them as friends….The only conclusion I could draw was that Mr Crofton and Ms Birrer were working to facilitate my removal from office.''

Indeed, Carne alleges that it was Crofton who initiated the CCC complaint in mid-2018.

Crofton, a lawyer who spent 27 years at the Public Trustee's office, resigned in July last year and did not return a call on Wednesday. Birrer, who remains at the agency and has held her position since 2016, declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Carne, a long-time Labor identity and former law partner of late Premier Wayne Goss, made clear his "mental health deteriorated" through the ordeal as he came to terms with his fate.

"I have worked in Brisbane for over 45 years and I came to realize that all the work I had done over that time to build my good reputation was now destroyed,'' he said.

 

TIME TO CELEBRATE

Brisbane-born and raised entrepreneur Andreas Fouras popped open the bubbly last week after his start-up company debuted on the ASX and the share price more than doubled.

His firm, 4DMedical, raised nearly $56 million in the IPO at 73 cents per share.

It hit a high of $1.70 within days and closed Wednesday at $1.56, sending the market capitalisation north of $430 million.

Fouras, who grew up in the West End and remains the biggest single stakeholder, kept 25 per cent of the stock so do the maths and you'll see he's now sitting on a sizeable fortune.

 

Andreas Fouras
Andreas Fouras

Investors see huge potential for the business, which converts sequences of X-ray images of lungs into four-dimensional data that allow for better diagnosis and treatment of respiratory diseases.

The enthusiasm comes despite 4D remaining in cash burn mode, suffering a $6.5m net loss in the last financial year.

But the company has already snared highly-coveted approval from US regulators and there are now plans to expand elsewhere around the globe. Aussie regulators are expected to green light the technology later this year or in early 2021.

The global respiratory diagnostic market estimated to be worth a staggering $US31bn ($A45bn) a year.

 

MINING WATCHDOG

Queensland's rich history of digging up stuff out of the ground is also littered with numerous examples of companies abandoning old or uneconomical mines, including some that created a toxic mess.

So greenies had something to celebrate this week after Parliament passed legislation creating the new role of "mine rehabilitation commissioner''.

"The existence of the commissioner and their powers will help shunt the cost and liabilities of rehabilitation back onto mining companies where it belongs, rather than Queensland taxpayers,'' Lock The Gate's mouthpiece Rick Humphries said.

He noted that a new annual report documenting the industry's clean up performance and related issues would help boost accountability.

"To date there has been no one responsible for aggregating data and opening up the industry to greater transparency."

 

KICKING GOALS

It's a tale of he's losing and she's winning.

The travails of Graham "Skroo'' Turner and the king hit absorbed by his Flight Centre travel group as a result of the pandemic have been well documented.

Less well-known is that Skroo's better half, Jude, has been kicking goals despite the viral nightmare.

 

Flight Centre chief Graham Turner with his wife Jude Turner Picture AAPimage/David Clark
Flight Centre chief Graham Turner with his wife Jude Turner Picture AAPimage/David Clark

Indeed, her group of posh Spicers Retreats lodges have endured a mini-boom largely thanks to lockdown-weary consumers desperate for a change of scenery.

Jude revealed recently that her network of 13 luxury retreats have now turned a profit for the first time in 15 years and are enjoying their best-ever occupancy rates.

They include seven outposts in southeast Queensland, among them the Spicers Peak Lodge at Maryvale and Spicers Hidden Vale at Grandchester.

 

TO THE RESCUE

You might say it's a case of the Queensland brewery coming to the rescue.

Victorian beer maker Broo has been forced to shutter its operations down south, as a result of the lockdown.

 

 

So we learned on Wednesday that Broo has just inked a deal with industry giant CUB to churn out lager and draught coldies at its Yatala brewery.

The two-year deal will see CUB make at least 48,000 cases of the tasty stuff each quarter.

 

RETRO TIME WARP

Rock up to the registry of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission office in Brisbane and you'll be forgiven for thinking you're stuck in some retro time warp.

Incredibly, all record searches must be paid for with cash, cheque or money order.

There are no - repeat no - electronic payment options available. Don't even think about Afterpay.

Sheepish staff are painfully aware of the antiquated set up, which feels like time ground to a halt in 1973.

They even have to use a beat up old lockbox to keep cash and coins!

Originally published as Revealed: Why former Public Trustee was stood down



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