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Mr Shelton Privileges Committee referral

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Tags: Integrity, Pork-Barrelling, Conflict of Interest

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I seek leave to move the following motion -

That the House notes:

(1) -

(a) that the Member for Lyons, Mark Shelton MP, and three members of his family are longstanding members of the Bracknell Public Hall and Recreation Ground committee;

(b) this committee's direct involvement in deciding the concept, scope, design and budget for a project to build a new hall at Bracknell; -

Mr SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, you have moved into the substantive motion. You need to move to seek leave.

Ms O'CONNOR - I seek leave that we move a substantive motion to refer the member for Lyons, Mr Shelton, to the Privileges Committee and to suspend standing orders on the seeking of leave.

(c) that Meander Valley Council applied for a merit-based grant for this project but was notified that this grant was unsuccessful on 5 October 2020.

(d) in mid-2021 the council recognised they were unable to complete the project as planned unless additional funding was secured;

(e) on 2 July 2021, Mr Shelton met with the council's general manager to discuss project funding requirements;

(f) on 15 July 2021 council's general manager wrote to Mr Shelton requesting state government funding for the project;

(g) shortly afterwards, the council was advised they would receive $400 000 funding for the new hall;

(h) a grant deed for $400 000 was subsequently signed between Communities Tasmania and the council;

(i) the code of conduct for MPs states members must take all reasonable steps to avoid, disclose or manage any conflict of interest that arises between their personal interests and official duties.

(2) Agrees Mr Shelton allowed his personal interest to override the public interest to secure funding for Bracknell Hall.

(3) Agrees Mr Shelton's conflict of interest through his personal involvement in arranging funding for Bracknell Hall constitutes a breach of the code of conduct.

(4) Refers this matter to the Privileges Committee.

Mr Speaker, as elected members, we all have a responsibility to appropriately manage, disclose and avoid any conflicts of interest in these roles we hold in trust as public officials. We are elected to represent the interests and concerns of all our constituents and to put aside our personal interests in the work we do.

The ABC's Allie Humphries has today reported very serious information about the member for Lyons, Mark Shelton, in relation to significant sums of public funding for a new hall in his home town of Bracknell. This is a matter requiring urgent consideration and action. The allegation, which has been reported in the national media, is that the member for Lyons, Mr Shelton, allowed his personal interests and his family's direct involvement in the redevelopment of the Bracknell Hall to override the public interest and his professional responsibility to the people of Lyons. There is more than $1 million in public funding involved here - $400 000 of that state funds. This $400 000 was granted without proper process to the redevelopment of the Bracknell Hall, a project Mr Shelton and a number of members of his family were directly, intimately, involved in.

It is worth reminding members that Bracknell is a town of less than 500 people. I am sure there are communities all over the beautiful electorate of Lyons who will have an interest in this matter. All over Lyons there will be town and community organisations crying out for public funding to improve their public facilities. Unfortunately for them, Mr Shelton does not live in their neighbourhood.

In light of today's revelations, Tasmanians will be rightly be asking how an MP with a direct personal interest in the project can be the avenue through which $400 000 of taxpayer funds can be quietly arranged to build a new hall in Bracknell, particularly when the need for community infrastructure across Lyons is real and significant. And they will be watching how all of us respond to what is an obvious breach of both the Code of Conduct for members and of community expectations. At the centre of all of this is the member for Lyons, Mark Shelton MP, a life member of Bracknell Football Club with a host of family members on the committee. The member for Lyons arranged $100 000 for the club through grants at three consecutive state elections and another $80 000 for the hall attached to the footy club rooms too.

Mr WINTER - Point of order, Mr Speaker. I have just read the motion and I want to confirm that you are planning to stay in the Chair for this debate, because this is substantially and entirely about yourself.

Mr SPEAKER - This is a seeking of leave debate, so I intend to stay here on the seeking of leave. I was about to remind Ms O'Connor that it is not the substantive debate. This is seeking of leave debate to indicate to the House why this is more important to deal with than any other business we have.

Mr WINTER - Mr Speaker, if this motion carries then we will be dealing with you exclusively as part of this motion. My question is whether you think it is appropriate that you stay in the Chair given that you will be the casting vote in the likely event. Are you planning to stay in the Chair for this debate?

Mr SPEAKER - I am planning to stay in the Chair. This is a procedural motion. I will be here for the procedural motion.

Mr WINTER - Mr Speaker, I dissent from your ruling and will wait to hear the Clerk's advice.

Mr SPEAKER - I have indicated what I am doing. I have not made a ruling on anything and I am sitting in the Chair. You cannot dissent from a ruling until we get around to the vote. It is a procedural motion and I can stay in the Chair.

Ms O'Connor can proceed but I indicate to her again that we are now on the question of seeking leave.

Ms O'CONNOR - As a member of the Bracknell Public Hall and Recreation Ground committee, Mr Shelton and multiple other family members who are also on the committee have been heavily involved in the project to build a new hall next to the footy field at Bracknell. A range of documents show the hall committee's significant role in delivering this project, including through direct input on the design, successfully pushing for an expanded scope and budget and overseeing community engagement.

Mr Shelton's involvement was not a problem until big buckets of taxpayer dollars came into the picture, with $600 000 of federal government funds diverted with the approval of then prime minister, Scott Morrison, no less, from another project to the Bracknell Hall build. The hall committee probably thought everything was good to go, but inflation is a thing and estimated costs for the new hall kept rising. To help manage these costs, council suggested splitting the hall's construction into stages. The idea was not popular with the committee. They were upset and disappointed, but given the funding shortfall a staged redevelopment was starting to look likely until mid-2021.

RTI documents we obtained from Treasury show that on 28 June 2021 a budget Cabinet meeting approved $20 million spending on the Local Communities Facilities Fund. These documents also show the Liberals believed $5 million of this sum was unallocated and therefore up for grabs for other uses. Dr Woodruff will be back.