Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow received more than $1,600 in hospitality gifts from Adani during an official trip to India earlier this year, the council has revealed.
The gifts to Councillor Strelow were recorded on Rockhampton Regional Council’s official register in April.
A hard copy of the register is on display at the council chambers in Rockhampton, but the details were not published online.
Earlier this month, Cr Strelow and Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill announced they had agreed to pay for the $30 million airstrip at Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine.
It was part of a deal with the Indian company to guarantee most of the mine’s fly-in, fly-out workforce and 2,000 construction workers would be drawn from the two cities.
Cr Hill did publish online her declaration of more than $1,300 in hospitality gifts from Adani, including $1,267 in airfares, a $147 dinner and $51 in transport.
“We accepted a gift to fly from Mumbai to see their solar plant because Adani are very keen to set up solar facilities in the north,” Cr Hill told 7.30.
“I don’t think there’s an issue with that — it’s been properly declared and the community can find that on our website.”
No potential conflicts were declared
According to official minutes, neither the Townsville nor Rockhampton mayors declared the gifts as a potential conflict of interest when the Adani deal was discussed in council.
Townsville Residents and Ratepayers Association convenor Peter Newey called this a serious oversight.
“In Queensland, you can stay in the meetings and continue, but you must declare a conflict of interest,” he said.
However, Queensland’s Integrity Commissioner Dr Nikola Stepanov said issues relating to gifts were rarely black and white.
“In each case it’s necessary to consider the facts of each case objectively, including the context,” she said.
“The most appropriate and ethically sound way forward is to seek advice from someone who is independent.
“It’s really about reassuring the public and not re-assuring oneself if you’re the gift recipient.”
‘No requirement to publish details online’
A Rockhampton council spokesman said Cr Strelow was not legally required to publish the gifts online as she was visiting India in an official capacity.
“We note while one Mayor took the additional step of recording it in a different way [online], this isn’t required under the [Local Government Regulation] Act,” the spokesman said.
“No other council which took part in the trip did so.”
The Rockhampton Hospitality Register for Cr Strelow shows a gift of $1,669.93 from Adani on March 18, detailing “flights within India, ground transport and dinner”.
The trip to India was at the invitation of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and included five regional mayors.
Cr Hill said Townsville council commissioned KPMG to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the Adani airstrip deal.
“I think ratepayers will get value for money in the deal, they’ll get it through the money coming back through the jobs,” she said.
Cr Hill declined to release the KPMG report.
“We’re still in commercial negotiations in much of this,” she said.
“Once we’ve signed all the deals, we’ll provide information accordingly.”