Soorley ‘contacted Minister’ in secret deal as lobbyist
A fresh integrity crisis is brewing for the Palaszczuk Government weeks before the election amid claims a senior Labor figure agreed to secretly lobby Transport Minister Mark Bailey.
The Courier-Mail can reveal Transport Minister Mark Bailey had contact with Labor elder Jim Soorley about a restaurant whose owner claims he engaged the former Lord Mayor to lobby Government on his behalf, before realising Mr Soorley was not a registered lobbyist.
As revealed last week in The Courier-Mail, seafood restaurant owner Neil Jedid has lodged a court claim seeking the return of $2500 cash he alleges he paid Mr Soorley to lobby the Government.
In the Brisbane Magistrates Court claim, Mr Jedid alleges that he paid Mr Soorley the cash in the carpark of his Wilsons Boathouse restaurant at Manly boat harbour after Mr Soorley agreed to lobby Mr Bailey and then-Deputy Premier Jackie Trad over a long-term lease he wanted over the land.
Mr Soorley denies the claim, telling the Courier-Mail he hasn't done any lobbying since he deregistered in 2015, and Mr Bailey said while Mr Soorley "asked him" about the issue, he told him it was a matter for his department.
Under Queensland's Integrity Act, an entity that is not a registered lobbyist must not carry out a lobbying activity for a third party client, and a Government representative must not knowingly permit an entity that is not a registered lobbyist to carry out a lobbying activity with them.
If a Government representative is aware an entity is seeking to lobby for a third-party client but is not registered, their details must be given to the Integrity Commissioner under the laws.
According to the court claim, Mr Jedid had been trying since 2013 to secure a long-term lease over the restaurant land, which is owned by the Government under the control of the Department of Transport and Main Roads.
He claims Mr Soorley told him in 2018 that he was a registered lobbyist and "could assist" him in securing the longer-term lease by lobbying Mr Bailey, Ms Trad and helping with correspondence.
Mr Jedid claims Mr Soorley in March 2018 showed him a Wikipedia page stating he was a registered lobbyist and he agreed to pay $2500 cash to him before the former mayor travelled to Thailand.
"Jedid handed the $2500 cash to [Mr Soorley] whilst [Mr Soorley] was seated in his car, which was parked in the carpark of the restaurant," court documents allege.
The claim alleges Mr Soorley engaged in "misleading or deceptive conduct" under Australian Consumer Law as he was not a registered lobbyist at the time as he claimed.
"But for the registered lobbyist representation, the plaintiff would not have made the cash payment or entered into the lobbying agreement," the claim alleges.
Mr Soorley has denied the claim, telling the newspaper he had no lobbied since he deregistered as a lobbyist, which records show was in about 2015, and had not told Mr Jedid he was a lobbyist.
He has confirmed meeting Mr Jedid, but refused to say why, saying: "I don't discuss my business."
Mr Bailey told the newspaper this week that Mr Soorley had "asked" him about Mr Jedid's issue.
He did not disclose to the newspaper when they were in contact or how, or answer further questions about the issue yesterday.
"Mr Soorley asked me about it and I told him it was a commercial matter between Mr Jedid and my department," he said.
Mr Bailey said he had been briefed on property matters at Manly Boat Harbour by his department since he became Minister and Mr Jedid had directly raised the lease with him at an event.
"I told him the same thing. I understand that TMR has now entered into a binding agreement with a new tenant," he said.
Ms Trad last week said she was not lobbied on the matter by anyone.
"The only person who has ever raised this matter with me is the complainant, Mr Jedid himself at an event I attended in mid-June 2018. I was not lobbied on this matter by anyone," she said.
"It was clear to me that Mr Jedid's complaint was about a matter outside my ministerial responsibilities and I removed myself from the conversation."
Mr Soorley became a lobbyist after leaving City Hall in 2003.
He quit the board of the formerly-named Pacific Film and Television Commission in 2009 when former Premier Anna Bligh declared lobbyists would no longer be able to hold government-paid appointments amid controversy over her administration's links to Labor lobbyists.
But Mr Soorley had deregistered as a lobbyist by September 2015 and in October that year was appointed chairman of state-owned electricity generator CS Energy's board.
He was paid total remuneration of $103,000 in 2018-19, according to its annual report.
Mr Soorley is close to the left-aligned Mr Bailey, who once served under Mr Soorley as a Brisbane councillor before jumping to state politics.
He is also a known support of Ms Trad.
Mr Bailey was temporarily sidelined as Minister in 2017 amid a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation into the deletion of his private firstname.lastname@example.org account.
He was cleared of any offence, but CCC chairman Alan MacSporran told media he was "incredibly lucky" not be facing charges and had been "very foolish."
Originally published as Soorley 'contacted Minister' in secret deal as lobbyist