The controversy surrounding the granting of an online gaming license in Queensland to Gocorp Pty Ltd is heating up and could reach a boil at any moment.
Earlier this week, Treasurer David Hamill stepped aside from his position after it was revealed that three of his Labor Party colleagues are shareholders in a company holding 20 percent of Gocorp. Hamill based his decision on protecting "the government's integrity," saying, "I am not prepared to allow this Government's reputation, nor its ability to provide stable government, to be brought into question."
The plot has since thickened.
One of the three, Deputy Speaker Bill D'Arcy, has rejected a demand from Premier, and now Acting Treasurer, Peter Beattie that he quit over his financial involvement with Gocorp.
Many believe that D'Arcy might quit the Labor Party and sit as an Independent in order to block Beattie's plan to introduce legislation that would deny D'Arcy of Gocorp profits. If that happens, the Beattie Governmnent would return to minority status because it holds power by only a single seat. Still, Beattie said he would "rather be in minority Government than rely on a member who won't do the right thing."
"If he's not prepared to take himself out then I will remove him from his position," Beattie said.
He also said that he and Parliamentary Speaker Ray Hollis would ask the Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) to investigate D'Arcy for alleged official misconduct.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Rob Borbidge has demanded that Beattie quit after Beattie released a July 1998 memorandum asking Mr. Hamill to speak to D'Arcy about Internet gaming. Beattie had previously maintained that he knew nothing of D'Arcy's association with the company.
"It is clear now he knew of Mr Darcy's interest in obtaining an internet gambling licence from the earliest days of his government," Borbidge said.
As for Hamill, CJC Chairman Brendan Butler announced Friday night that the Commission will appoint an independent lawyer to investigate the Gocorp affair. The Commission hasn't yet announced the identity of the lawyer or the timeframe of the inquiry.
But wait, there's more…
As D'Arcy threatens legal action to block retrospective legislation designed keep Gocorp profits out of his hands, Navari Pty Ltd, the investment company through which the D'Arcy's family company owns its Gocorp stake, has threatened its own legal action to remove D'Arcy and former state MP Don Livingstone, another Labor Party invester, from its register.
Gaming industry consultant and political commentator Glenn Barry called the chain of events "the biggest scandal since the 'Moonlight State' exposure of corruption in the police and political structure brought down the Belke Peterson Government and put the police commissioner in jail" (the scandal that resulted in the creation of the CJC).
"For the Premier to survive, he has had to turn on two party members," Barry said. "That makes him minus 1 in the house and he will not survive a confidence vote without those two. If he survives with their votes he will be compromised, and any findings of innocence on their part will be claimed to be a deal made to keep their votes. If they are found guilty of anything then he will
stand accused of running a government based on corruption. Last time that happened, the Labor was out of power some 40 years."