One of Queensland Rail’s controversial New Generation Rollingstock trains.
One of Queensland Rail’s controversial New Generation Rollingstock trains.

Rail inquiry head an ex-Labor hopeful

THE head of the inquiry into Queensland's rail failings is a former failed Labor candidate.

Former District Court judge Michael William Forde stood unsuccessfully for the Labor Party in the seat of Lockyer at the 1980 state election.

The State Opposition has denounced the appointment of Commissioner Forde, saying anybody who stood as a Labor candidate should not be conducting a bipartisan investigation into the procurement of the controversial NGR trains.

Commissioner Forde's political candidature comes after it emerged that former premier Campbell Newman, former treasurer Tim Nicholls and former transport minister Scott Emerson have been told by the NGR inquiry they need not supply submissions.

They were the key decision makers when tenders for the new trains were assessed.

Former District Court Judge Michael Forde will head up the inquiry into Queensland’s rail failings. Picture: AAP/Darren England
Former District Court Judge Michael Forde will head up the inquiry into Queensland’s rail failings. Picture: AAP/Darren England

Opposition industrial relations spokesman Jarrod Bleijie said Queenslanders could have no confidence in the independence of an inquiry headed by a failed Labor candidate.

"Annastacia Palaszczuk has tried to deceive Queenslanders by not disclosing this blatant political appointment," he said.

"The inquiry is a sham with no public hearings, no consultation on the terms of reference and not even inviting key people to make a submission.

"It is a protection racket to cover up that Annastacia Palaszczuk botched the procurement of these trains when she was transport minister in the Bligh government.

"This political protection racket will cost taxpayers millions of dollars and won't be independent."

The LNP has also raised concerns with the inquiry after none of the decision makers involved in the NGR project under the Newman government were contacted to provide a submission.

 

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s office last night confirmed Commissioner Michael Forde was a Labor candidate for the seat of Lockyer in 1980. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s office last night confirmed Commissioner Michael Forde was a Labor candidate for the seat of Lockyer in 1980. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled

 

Commissioner Forde had written to Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington - who was not involved in the project - asking for a submission but had not contacted former premier Campbell Newman, former treasurer Tim Nicholls, former transport minister Scott Emerson nor Mr Bleijie, who served on the Cabinet Budget Review Committee at the time.

Opposition industrial relations spokesman Jarrod Bleijie said Queenslanders can have no confidence in the independence of the inquiry. Picture: AAP/Darren England
Opposition industrial relations spokesman Jarrod Bleijie said Queenslanders can have no confidence in the independence of the inquiry. Picture: AAP/Darren England

 

Commissioner Forde, in a letter to Mr Bleijie, said: "While I appreciate that you were a former minister who served on the CBRC during the time under consideration by the Commission, I do not intend to individually contact all former ministers, across numerous governments, who have been involved in decisions regarding the procurement of NGR trains."

He said instead he had contacted representatives from Labor and the LNP.

Commissioner Forde told Mr Bleijie that he also did not anticipate interviewing the former attorney-general as part of his investigations, but said others would be called including former ministers.

The Premier's office last night confirmed Commissioner Forde was once a Labor candidate.

- Additional reporting Sarah Vogler