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How does an $88 000 per year corporate membership fee to join an ‘industry association’ for the rail industry morph into the $406 000 payment that QR have recorded in their most recent annual report as the corporate membership fee paid by the publicly-owned statutory authority for its membership of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA)?

Your guess is as good as mine, but 88 grand is the top tier fee payable to be a member of the ARA, as advertised on the organisation’s website (above), and $406 000 is what QR has declared in its 2015 annual report as the amount they paid for their membership of the ARA during that year (below).

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It looks to me like someone has some explaining to do, because these figures just don’t add up and if the QR declaration is incorrect then they are in a whole world of trouble with both the State Government and the corporate regulator. And if they really did pay $406 000 to the industry association in a single year then the simple questions are why, and what for?

But that’s only the first of the questions that need to be answered on the topic of the ARA, for there are plenty more, and don’t you worry about that.

Here’s another.

The board of QR under law is required to report and be answerable for the operations of the publicly owned statutory authority to two State Government Ministers, Hapless Stirlo Hinchliffe, who’s like a fish out of water when he’s not bending and reshaping laws to favor the property developer mates he works for when he’s not in parliament, and to whom he has gifted State Government land on a platter; and Jihad Jackie, who used to be the actual Transport Minister until not that long ago, but when the sh*t hits the fan can’t be found and leaves Stirlo to take the bullets.

So why then is the Chief Operating Officer of QR – Mr Kevin Wright, the bloke in charge of the delivery of train services, and therefore the person responsible for the present timetabling debacle – also a director of the Australasian Rail Association, an organisation that has as one of its primary objectives engaging political leaders at both the state and federal level in forward-looking discussions around industry potential. 

Lobbying in other words.

How does a public servant working for a state-owned company that reports to the two cabinet ministers responsible for the company – in effect, the shareholders on behalf of the people of Queensland – lobby the self-same Ministers on matters of rail policy without creating a massive conflict of interest between his two roles?

Simple answer – he can’t.  A man cannot serve two masters. He cannot be a public servant and a lobbyist at the same time and not create at the very least an insurmountable perceived conflict of interest, although I suggest the conflict is actual and real rather than perceived, particularly in light of the events of recent weeks.

Here’s another question. Why is a senior executive of QR who is involved in, and in many cases responsible for, selecting successful tender and awarding major contracts for QR projects sitting on the board of an industry association/lobbyist outfit alongside the Chief Executive Officers of a number of companies who are tendering and winning contracts with QR worth hundreds of millions of dollars? How can this not be a conflict of interest.

Let me give you two examples.

Bombadier Transport Chief Executive Rene Lelande sits on the board of the ARA with Kevin Wright. His company, as part of a consortium of four, holds a $4.4 billion – yes billion – contract to provide ‘new generation rolling stock’ (new trains) to QR under a public-private partnership, and is responsible to the board for the timely and cost-effective provision of these trains. What the hell is Keving Wright doing serving on a board with Lelande? What’s QR CEO Helen Gluer doing letting him?

And why on earth is Wright allowed to sit on the board with Karl Mociak, the Executive General Manager of New Business for the company John Holland, who have just nailed some new business. $212 million worth of it, to upgrade suburban train stations for guess who? QR of course. It’s outrageous – this is our money we’re talking about. Where’s the independence? Where’s the accountability? On the 7.24 train that got cancelled this morning I would suggest.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the highly questionable dealings of QR, and the wholesale conflicts of interest of a number of the board members. Questions need to be asked, and they need to be answered right now before the QR executive get sacked and scatter to the winds in four directions.

C’mon Minister Hinchliffe and Deputy Premier Trad.

Tell the people of Queensland why you believe spending our money in this way is kosher and above board, because if you don’t you may well find the voters answering the questions for you, and I’m not so sure you’ll like what they have to say.