Who would have thought the Queensland Nats were up to it? They actually put in a half decent performance last week when they kicked off Question Time on Tuesday with a couple of queries on the Greg Maddock tapes. Have a dekko at the Hansard at the bottom of this package of recent Energex material.

There’s been remarkably little reporting on the Energex Annual Report, delivered on November 1. Unsurprisingly, the death of Greg Maddock and the impact of last summer’s weather dominated the power company’s document.

Energex claims its network reliability improved last financial year. It says standards, measured by average interruption duration, improved by 14.4 per cent if the impact of the summer storms is removed.

That’s a tribute to Greg Maddock. So are the financials.

“Accelerated capital expenditure on the electricity network of South-East Queensland is the highlight of the ENERGEX 2003/04 annual report released today,” the accompanying media release read.

“The record expenditure of $339.4 million in 2003/04 will be followed by ENERGEX spending a further $421 million on the electricity network this financial year.

” ‘This capital investment program will continue until we have delivered increasingly robust electricity and gas networks which are capable of absorbing the high levels of energy growth being consistently experienced across South-East Queensland,’ Chief Executive Gordon Jardine said today.

” ‘This major increase in capital expenditure leverages off ENERGEX’s strong financial performance in 2003/04,’ he said.

“ENERGEX posted an EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Tax) of $351.4 million in 2003/04, a 16.6 per cent increase on the previous year…”

The Energex dividends – and what happens to them – are the interesting thing, of course.

Greg Maddock was driven to his death after the Beattie Government took exception to him stating the obvious – that bleeding Energex dry was going to affect the utility’s service standards.

All which makes it odd that no one seems to have picked up on the statement in the Annual Report that Energex will continue to pay 95 per cent of its profits as dividends – $147.5 million of $155.3 m – to the Queensland Government. Seventy-five per cent would be regarded as generous by any equivalent government business enterprise.

Doesn’t anyone at the Courier Mail realise that this policy would be regarded as irresponsible and unsustainable by any public company with an expanding demand for its product? This policy caused the problems of network failure – and, ultimately, the tragic death of Greg Maddock.

Premier Pete and Co can’t be expected to know any better. Graduates from the Bill Ludwig charm school that is the Queensland ALP learn how to run something like protection rackets, not government businesses.

But why are the Directors of Energex allowing this policy to continue when they know the problems which have been caused by the degradation of the distribution network and resulted from the failure to retain sufficient earnings for renewal and expansion?

It couldn’t be that the Board is stacked by Labor hacks plus a couple of earnest souls who don’t really understand what is going on.

There are people like Sally Pitkin, a decent person who resigned when she realised what had happened – but she had no previous experience which would have allowed her to understand the implications of the policies Energex was pursuing.

It all seems like a case of plus ca change.

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE

Mr G. Maddock

Mr SPRINGBORG (10.30 a.m.): My question without notice is to the Minister for Industrial Relations. As the minister with the responsibility to prevent workplace bullying and intimidation, has he listened to the tapes of the interrogation of Greg Maddock? If so, can the minister confirm that these tapes reveal that Mr Maddock was indeed bullied and intimidated by Treasury investigators prior to taking his own life?

Mr BARTON: I have not heard the tapes of any discussions with Greg Maddock, nor should I. The very clear, short, succinct answer is no.

Mr G. Maddock

Mr SPRINGBORG: My second question without notice is also to the Minister for Industrial Relations. The minister has just admitted not hearing these tapes, but the Premier has claimed FOI exemption for them on the basis that they were taken to cabinet on 27 September 2004. The Premier has previously assured Queenslanders that material is taken to cabinet only for consideration by ministers. I ask the minister: were these tapes played or were they just taken to cabinet to hide the intimidation of Mr Maddock by those investigators from the Queensland public for a period of 30 years?

Mr BARTON: Let me be very clear: no cabinet minister comes into this place and details to the parliament the nature of discussions that take place in cabinet.

So… the tapes were taken to Cabinet but no one listened to them? So why were they taken there? To liven up the décor of the Cabinet Room?

Look how precious Sir Joh – sorry, Premier Pete – got when he was asked about the matter a little later on:

Mr G. Maddock

Mr SEENEY: My question without notice is to the Premier. I refer to the answer given by the Minister for Industrial Relations to the question that was asked by the Leader of the Opposition. In light of that answer, will the Premier now concede that his claim of FOI exemption for the Maddock tapes is indeed a farce? Will he concede that taking those tapes to cabinet was just part of his cover-up of the real circumstances surrounding Greg Maddock’s death?

Mr BEATTIE: The coroner is conducting a full investigation into the death of Greg Maddock and the coroner-

Mr Seeney: Are you going to give him the tapes?

Mr Horan: If he asked for it, he said.

Mr BEATTIE: Mr Speaker, could I be allowed to answer this question?

Mr Mackenroth: He already said that a while ago.

Mr BEATTIE: Can I be allowed to answer this question? The reality is that the coroner is investigating the death of Greg Maddock. That tragic death should not be the basis of a political game in this House. The coroner will have full access, as is his power, to whatever he wants. That includes the transcripts, that includes the full tapes, that includes any-

Mr Seeney: Why did you take them to cabinet?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! You have asked the question.

Mr BEATTIE: Mr Speaker, two things have happened here today-

Mr Seeney: It’s a cover-up. Just admit it was a cover-up.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Mr Horan: No-one listened to it.

Mr Seeney: How can you claim cabinet exemption if nobody listened to it?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The House will come to order!

Mr BEATTIE: The reality is this: the appropriate person to investigate this matter is the coroner, and everyone in this House should have appropriate and due respect for this process and let the coroner make a finding. There would be an issue if the coroner was not able to access either tapes or transcripts. He can access both. That is the appropriate thing-

Mr Horan interjected.

Mr Seeney interjected.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Mr BEATTIE: I made one point really clear in this House and I will repeat what I said previously. I am not going to allow the opposition to drag this tragic death through the mire any further than it has done already.

Mr Horan interjected.

Mr Seeney interjected.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member for Callide will cease interjecting. That is my final warning.

The member for Toowoomba South will cease injecting. That is my final warning.

Mr BEATTIE: Let me make it really clear-and I have said this previously: when the tapes and interviews were done by the Treasury officers-who, by the way, did a good job and should not be maligned in this House-I made it absolutely clear that every one of those people who were interviewed had an opportunity to correct the record. Tragically, Greg Maddock did not. The cabinet consideration of those matters is appropriate and I stand by it. I am not going to allow a transcript to exist-Opposition members interjected.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Mr BEATTIE: Mr Speaker, am I going to be able to answer the question? This is getting to the stage of being an absolute farce. The member has asked the question and I am able to answer it. The members opposite do not want an answer. All they are interested in doing is getting their ugly mugs on the 6 o’clock news. That is fine, but surely I should be able to at least answer the question.

Opposition members interjected.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The House will come to order!

Mr BEATTIE: Do the members opposite want me to answer the question or not? If the members opposite do not want an answer, then they should not bother asking the question. I am happy to give the members an answer. All I am asking for is some courtesy.

“That tragic death should not be the basis of a political game in this House,” hey Premier? Fair enough – but what about leaking against a bloke who’s just topped himself? You going to speak out against that or is it standard practice for your government?

And while it’s very nice that you stand up for your Treasury officers, it would be really, really nice to know the full details of how you treated Maddock, the head of one of your government business enterprises.

Throwing a 30 year ban on the Maddock tapes not only stinks – like most of yours, your Treasurer’s and your Energy Minister’s behaviour has throughout this affair.

It’s an effective admission that there’s plenty to hide. Fess up.

Yesterday’s backtracking hasn’t been convincing. Hansard from them makes interesting reading, too http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/Hansard/Documents/2004.pdf/2004_11_11_DAILY.pdf:

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE

Mr G. Maddock

Mr SPRINGBORG (10.30 a.m.): My question without notice is to the Premier. I refer to the Premier’s admission yesterday that the tapes of the interrogation of Greg Maddock were not part of cabinet deliberations on 27 September 2004 and his subsequent proposal to supply transcripts of that interrogation to Mrs Maddock.

Sally Pitkin resigned as a director of Energex and claimed that her record of interview with Treasury officials was inaccurate. As this proves significant errors in the transcripts compared with taped interviews, how can anybody believe the integrity of any transcript provided by this government?

Mr BEATTIE: I thank the honourable member for his question. I arranged for one of the government drivers to try to deliver the transcript to Mrs Maddock this morning. That was unsuccessful.

I will obviously now get one of my staff to contact her to ensure that the transcript is provided to Mrs Maddock.

I indicated yesterday when I was asked questions by the media that I would seek to listen to large sections of the transcript, which I did. I have to say that the Treasury officers behaved in an entirely appropriate way.

Mr Springborg interjected.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Mr BEATTIE: They examined the issues that needed to be examined. The tone was an appropriate tone. There were no threats; there was no nastiness. Greg Maddock responded in the same way in endeavouring to answer the questions that were put to him. Let us just put that clearly in perspective.

The second point is this: I indicated that I took to cabinet, prior to making a detailed statement in this House, all the relevant material for cabinet consideration. That was the transcript. It is not just naïve but plain stupid to think that cabinet was going to sit there for several hours listening to tapes.

Mr Seeney interjected.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Mr BEATTIE: The suggestion that cabinet would sit there listening to tapes for hours on end is just plain silly. What you do-this is logical and sensible-is have a transcript made, which is made available to cabinet, and cabinet can access it and read it, as I have done.

Opposition members interjected.

Mr BEATTIE: What is the difference between the transcript and the tape? The transcript is simply the written words that are on the tape. That is all it is.

Mr Springborg interjected.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leader of the Opposition, you have asked the question. I am going to hear the answer and so is the rest of the House.

Mr BEATTIE: This is not rocket science. It is appropriate for the Premier of the day to come into this parliament and deal with a matter raised by the Auditor-General. I notice that in some of the newspaper reports on this issue the reference to the Auditor-General has conveniently slipped off. This all started with a question from the Auditor-General; it did not start from the government. It was, let me tell members, an appropriate request from the Auditor-General. I have no criticism whatsoever of the Auditor-General on this matter.

The flip side of this coin and what the opposition is really saying is that the government should have carried out no investigation and should have ignored the Auditor-General. I have made it clear that my government is accountable. Not only that, the appropriate place to take this material is to cabinet.

That is where it should go. Let me make it absolutely clear to everyone that cabinet will consider matters of importance to this state. I will not be intimidated or bullied by anyone into moving away from the cabinet process. Cabinet will do its job in leading Queensland. I make no excuse for it. I am not prepared to back down from that position. That is the end of it.

“The suggestion that cabinet would sit there listening to tapes for hours on end is just plain silly.” True. And are they going to spend ages wading through transcripts, too?

If you’ve got nothing to hide, release them both, Premier.