ACT Labor MLAs say they have no conflict of interest over roles investigating Dickson land swap

ACT Labor MLAs say they have no conflict of interest over roles investigating Dickson land swap

Two ACT Labor politicians with close ties to the CFMEU and its Tradies Club have rejected concerns of a perceived conflict of interest in their roles on a committee investigating the club's Dickson land swap audit.

The two Legislative Assembly members, Michael Pettersson and Bec Cody, sit on the public accounts committee, which has launched an inquiry into an audit into the tender process surrounding the Club's Dickson land swap with the ACT government.

ACT Labor MLA and CFMEU member Bec Cody has received advice she has no conflict of interest on committee investigating Dickson land deal.

ACT Labor MLA and CFMEU member Bec Cody has received advice she has no conflict of interest on committee investigating Dickson land deal.Credit:karleen minney

That deal involved the Canberra Tradesmen's Union Club, which is effectively controlled by the CFMEU's ACT branch, exchanging two of its blocks of land Dickson for a government-owned carpark outside the Dickson club.

The deal, The Canberra Times has previously reported, was brokered by long-time CFMEU secretary Dean Hall, who is also the club's chairman, but recently announced plans to resign from the union.

Michael Pettersson has rejected conflict of interest claims.

Michael Pettersson has rejected conflict of interest claims.Credit:Jamila Toderas

The Auditor-General's report into the tender processes surrounding what was originally an open tender, found senior public servants gave the club significant concessions worth up to $2.6 million in the final deal done in late 2014.

While many members hold memberships to clubs, and all ACT Labor politicians are members of one union or another, Mr Pettersson and Ms Cody are members of both the Tradies Club and they both personally thanked Mr Hall for his support in their campaigns for election in 2016.

In her inaugural speech, Ms Cody thanked her campaign team, including Mr Hall, the CFMEU and Transport Workers Union, pledging to the unions to "always defend you, promote your goals, and strive to deliver for your members".

Similarly, Mr Pettersson also thanked Mr Hall and other local CFMEU figures, telling the Assembly that he "will never forget what you have done", in helping his campaign.

But they both rejected any suggestion they hold any actual conflict of interest in sitting on the committee's investigation into the club's land deal with the then-Land Development Agency.

Mr Pettersson, a former CFMEU industrial officer who has received $170 worth of free tickets to union functions since his election, said that as soon as the audit report was tabled, he sought advice from the Assembly's Ethics and Integrity Advisor, Stephen Skehill.

"He advised that there was no reason to step aside from the public accounts committee, but that it may be desirable in the interests of transparency for me to remind members of the committee that my register of interests details involvement with entities involved in the inquiry," he said.

"I did so at the next available opportunity."

But Ms Cody did not seek Mr Skehill's advice on her links to the union, until after receiving questions from this newspaper this week, saying she had now received that advice, which "confirmed that there is no real or potential conflict of interest".

While territory politicians are able to release advice from the ethics and integrity advisor and often do, both Mr Pettersson and Ms Cody refused to release the advice, citing "standard practice" that such advice is not released.

Ms Cody said she had been a CFMEU member for many years, but had not been employed by the union or held an elected position, and that the union was "not a party to the events described in the auditor-general's report".

Ms Cody also said she was a member of the Tradies Club as well as the Burns Club, Vikings Club and Hellenic Club.

"Conflicts of interest arise when either there is a financial benefit to be gained, or a management responsibility of two organisations at once, neither of which is the case here," she said.

The code of conduct for territory politicians says that a conflict does not exist "where the member or other person benefits only as a member of the general public, or a broad class of persons".

While both politicians, as members of the union and clubs, would be classified as part of a "broad class of persons" under the code, the code is silent on a threshold for such conflicts.

It also says any such conflict arises when the member participates in a decision "knowing that it will improperly and dishonestly further his or her private interest or will improperly and dishonestly further the private interest of another person".

Daniel Burdon is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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