Inside the world of Labor powerbroker Jim Soorley

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A dispute over $2500 paid in a carpark and secretly taped calls reveal how a political powerbroker ‘consultant’ navigates the business and government worlds.

Russell Dean was hurrying as he left the Westpac bank branch. He had $2500 in his hand – all $50 notes in a white envelope – destined for an ALP powerbroker.

Returning to the restaurant, Dean passed the envelope to his partner, who handed the money to Soorley, waiting in his black BMW at the seaside car park. Then, in 1991, he was a sacrificial candidate in a destined-to-lose election against incumbent Liberal lord mayor Sallyanne Atkinson. Yet a shock swing saw Soorley win.Long-sighted reforms marked his mayoralty: cleaning Brisbane’s silty river and promoting infrastructure projects. But political opponents mercilessly claimed he had gambling problems, which Soorley derided as dirty-tricks campaigning.He could be politically aggressive. Coarse, too.

Converting political connections to dollars is not necessarily smooth. The ALP state government in 2009, stung by revelations of former politicians earning big windfalls, enacted a rule: an individual could be a government-owned corporation director or a lobbyist, not both. “I declare I was lobbied by Mr Jim Soorley on one occasion, December 2019: a meeting sought by him in respect of a Wanless dump proposal,” Krause told a parliamentary committee this year.

Right to information documents show Soorley, as a director of miner TerraCom, was on the radar of Department of Environment and Science bureaucrats. Soorley confirmed to the ABC in 2020 he had talked with the department but added: “I’m on the board of TerraCom, so if I had any discussions with anyone it’s not lobbying.” He’s correct. Lobbying restrictions do not capture directors, company employees or contractors.

Soorley’s time as an ALP heavyweight means access. Right to information documents show that while Soorley was allegedly consulting on the seaside restaurant lease, transport ministerIt was 9.30am in September 2018: “Jim called this morning and asked if you would call him.” The minister called Soorley back in six minutes.

Soorley advised he could “start calling donors” and “asked about big suppliers to Logan city council”, according to minutes tendered in a CCC hearing. It was a jaw-dropping proposal. Mayoral candidate Smith baulked, “hesitant to ask these companies for funding for fear of conflict”.That donation drive never proceeded, Smith won the Logan mayoral election, and remained chatty with his mentor, Soorley. The CCC, though, was secretly taping Smith’s calls as part of “Operation Front”.

Source: News Formal (newsformal.com)

 

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