Sheldon may oppose Casket fix

by Chris Griffith
Published 16 October 1994 in The Sunday Mail


my face


State Liberal leader and Shadow Treasurer Joan Sheldon yesterday threatened to oppose the government's Lotteries Bill in total -- unless a clause retrospectively authorising "dubious entrepreneurial activities" of Golden Casket from 1991 onwards was dropped.

The Bill, expected to be debated in the up-coming session of State Parliament, re-names the Golden Casket Art Union Office as the Golden Casket Lottery Corporation, and establishes the new body directly under control of Treasury.

In the Bill, the new corporation will introduce a licencing system for Casket agents.

But Mrs Sheldon yesterday warned that the Coalition could oppose the Bill entirely if the Government failed to support a Coalition amendment to drop the controversial retrospective clause.

"If the State Government does not support my amendment, the Coalition will have to seriously consider opposing the Bill in total," she said.

Her statement follows reports in The Sunday Mail that from 1991-1993 Golden Casket lost over $3 million of public funds on a discontinued research project to develop a Government Revenue Collection system, and on unsuccessful attempts to market Queensland casket technology overseas through its now-defunct subsidiary company, Golden Casket Systems P/L.

We reported concern of inadequate accountability, the wastage of public funds, and the blurring of interests held by some involved in these activities, and the fact the Crown Law Office regarded these activities, conducted from 1991 to 1993, and allied spending of $1.54 million as not lawfully within Casket's charter.

Today we publish evidence of this "blurring of interests", evidence that one Golden Casket official ran his own private lottery-related company in the same market at the same time as he was a government-employee promoting Casket's interests overseas.

It must be stressed our reports do not question Casket's integrity in operating its lotteries, scratch-it, and other gaming operations - these reports deal only with some marketing and research activities.

Mrs Sheldon also called for an investigation into the expenses claimed by some Golden Casket staff at that time.

"There have been activities, and expenditure, particularly in the area of expenses for Golden Casket Art Union office staff, which must be investigated," she said.

The retrospective clause which Mrs Sheldon wants dropped says: "The .. activities and expenditures by the Office during the financial years [from 1991- 1995] are taken to be authorised by law at the time the activity was engaged in or the expenditure made".

However Auditor-General Barry Rollason has welcomed the Government's acknowledgement of his concern that these activities by Casket may not have been lawful.

Mr Rollason yesterday said there was a weakness in the structure of Casket's subsidiary Golden Casket Systems P/L.

He said the Audit Office had not been empowered to apply the same auditing standards to Casket's company as it had applied to other government departments.

"We had to take a more liberal approach," he said.

In the Bill, Golden Casket's activities will be subject to scrutiny by the Auditor- General, and a new Advisory Board "may" be established "which may include functions that are not of an advisory nature". Profits of the Corporation will return to government.

The Bill also authorises Golden Casket to explore "ways of increasing its income from within and outside the State".

Mrs Sheldon said the Coalition had problems with what she said was the Bill's failure to provide adequate checks and balances for the new corporation.

"I also have concerns about the role of the so-called `advisory board' which seems to be little more than a rubber stamp for the Treasurer," she said.

"If anything, this bill seems to bring the Golden Casket Art Union office more under the direct control of the Government and Treasury Department, rather than moving it to arms-length position as a truly corporate entity."

by Chris Griffith