The news that Queensland Liberal Andrew Laming brought a p-rnographer and the Prime Minister together at a fundraiser  is about the least lurid claim surrounding the embattled MP at the moment.

Dumped minister Gary Hardgrave is feeling the heat too – but the case of Santo Santoro’s shares and the “charity” he gave the profits to is the real yarn.

Tim Dunlop’s Blogocracy site has probably run the neatest summary of the story so far. The Australian reports today that Santoro “has gone to ground amid continuing questions over why he handed profits he made from a share deal to an organisation headed by his financial adviser… [and] has also refused to say whether he has ever lobbied on behalf of the adviser, Alan Baker, over causes he pursues in his role as head of the Family Council of Queensland”.

There are other questions, too – how did Santoro get the shares, who did he sell them to (see Crikey’s tips & rumours section) and who determined the value of them on the sale and how, given that they were not ordinarily traded shares?

Then there’s the story of how the Queensland Libs have brought in former federal party president Shane Stone to audit the campaign accounts. As a self-appointed QC Stone knows all about accountability. Stone is there to try and shut things down.

Too much of the funny business in Queensland seems connected with Santoro and his faction. The Prime Minister is certainly unlucky with his friends from there.

Crikey readers will remember all the grief former Queensland senator and minister Warwick Parer caused for his old Canberra housemate John Howard over his affairs. It’s happening all over again – with added colour.

But to keep the nostalgia going, there’s a Parer link in to the legal matters involving former Beattie Government Minister Gordon Nuttall and coal czar Ken Talbot.

Talbot’s first coal mine in Qld was known as Jellinbah. He pulled together a small group of investors, mainly from overseas, to develop the mine – but Parer was involved.

After a while, Talbot fell out with his co-directors and investors and commenced legal action to force them to buy him out. The action succeeded, but it was all very nasty and providing much of the material used against Parer in the parliament. Funnily enough there was also a Federal Police investigation of misuse of parliamentary resources back then, too. The PM toughed it out with Parer. He kept his job and was allowed to stand down after the 1998 election.

Is this how the PM plans to deal with his latest problem from Queensland if – if – he gets to form a government after this year’s federal poll?

Peter Fray

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