THE generous donation served up by the Hot Wok Food Makers company to the Queensland Labor Party suggested a link to the hospitality industry. But the company’s owner Godfrey Mantle had more cooking than hot noodles.
His representatives were lobbying the state government for the first biodiversity offset to swap koala habitat for approval to develop land near environmentally-sensitive lake Weyba at Noosa, about 160 kilometres north of Brisbane.
Mr Mantle yesterday denied any connection between the $26,000 donation from his Hot Wok company and the state Local Government Minister Paul Lucas’s official approval of the state’s only biodiversity offset earlier this year.
But the scenario is typical of the sunshine state’s political donations, which involves developers donating via obscurely named companies to parties before approvals of controversial projects – something which has emerged as a major issue in the election campaign.
The NSW state parliament banned donations from developers in 2009 after allegations that donations had influenced decisions by the former NSW Labor government.
Now the same problems are plaguing both sides of politics in the Queensland campaign.
Last week, Liberal National Party Leader, Campbell Newman, was attacked by Labor over the LNP’s Forward Brisbane Leadership fund receiving donations from five entities linked to one developer, Philip Usher, who had a controversial development approved by an LNP-led council planning committee.
The donations raised ”serious questions”, the Labor Premier, Anna Bligh, said.
But such timely donations can also be found in the ALP’s electoral returns.
The largest private company donor to Labor for the first half of 2011 was Mr Mantle’s Hot Wok Food Makers, according to most the latest donation figures released by the Queensland Electoral Commission.
The donation appears on the ALP’s electoral return spreadsheet directly above a much smaller contribution from another Mantle-owned company Northbrook Corporation, which was negotiating with the Labor government for the offset agreement.
The proposal was controversial as just months before the Sunshine Coast Council voted 10 to one against the offset for the site saying it was ” likely to lead to a development outcome that does not provide a net benefit to koala conservation values in the area” .
Late last year, Mr Lucas gave ”support in principal” for the offset for the purposes of ”koala conservation” and, in February, he officially announced the site as the state’s first ever biodiversity offset.
Lobbyists had met with representatives from Mr Lucas’s office to discuss the development, a spokesman for Mr Lucas has confirmed.
But Mr Mantle said yesterday the donation had nothing to do with the offset but was only related to supporting ”good people, good policy and strong implementation”.
He said he donated to both parties with donations coming from which ever company had money.
Mr Lucas denied any connection, saying he did ”not care less what political party people support”.
Electoral commission records show Mr Mantle’s Jimmy’s on the Mall company donated $5000 to the LNP’s Forward Brisbane Leadership fund last year.