Australia

Curtis Pitt Could be Referred to Ethics Committee Over QR Pay Deal Comments

Likely new Speaker Curtis Pitt could be referred to Queensland Parliament’s ethics committee over claims he misled the House about a train driver enterprise agreement.

The opposition will write to Parliament’s speaker to recommend Mr Pitt be referred to the ethics committee in light of reports Mr Pitt and then transport minister Stirling Hinchliffe told Queensland Rail to approve the driver pay deal amid an ongoing driver crisis, despite concerns from the board.

Labor will nominate former treasurer Curtis Pitt for the job of Speaker in the 56th Queensland Parliament.

Mr Pitt told Parliament in February there was no “informal direction” made to the rail body to accept the deal, which included a 3 per cent per year pay rise over four years.

“I can safely say that there is no informal direction; either you are issuing a direction or you are not,” Mr Pitt told Parliament on February 14.

“Apart from that, what we have done—both myself and the former minister Stirling Hinchliffe—is put very clearly our views of what should be happening in this space on the record and to the board for their consideration.

“We did not issue a direction.”

Queensland Rail board chairwoman Nicole Hollows wrote to Mr Hinchliffe and Mr Pitt in December 2016, according to Right To Information documents released to News Corp.

“The board’s inquiries in relation to the proposed enterprise agreement have indicated that the operational, timetabling and financial impacts of the agreement, including the new split meal arrangements, are not adequately understood and have not been subject to robust assessment and analysis,” she wrote.

“Full costings of the proposed agreement have not been provided to the board and no external benchmarking has been undertaken in relation to the proposed arrangements.”

News Corp reported the ministers told QR to accept the deal shortly before it was signed.

LNP leader Deb Frecklington said she would write to the current speaker and recommend Mr Pitt is referred to the Parliament’s ethics committee.

“After looking at those document it is clear that Curtis Pitt has failed that test of honest,” she said.

“So he has a clear case to answer in our opinion.”

Ms Frecklington said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also needed to explain why Mr Pitt should hold the position of Speaker.

He was dumped as treasurer following the election campaign, with the Premier announcing a plan to nominate him as Speaker, a pick that would succeed given Labor’s majority.

“Queensland rail commuters deserve better treatment than what Labor has dished up since the rail fail was uncovered,” Ms Frecklington said, in a statement.

“Former treasurer Curtis Pitt also needs to clarify why he is being tricky with the truth about any directions given to Queensland Rail. It’s no wonder Labor were so keen to dump him from the ministry.”

The speaker will be determined by Parliament by way of votes on the floor when parliament returns for 2018.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the EBA allowed for better workplace flexibility and a better rail system.

“The Strachan Inquiry laid bare the poor management practices at QR, including decisions under the LNP that led to suspension of driver recruitment and sacking train drivers,” she said, in a statement.

“The government has already made strong progress implementing the recommendations of the inquiry to deliver reliable, convenient services that Queenslanders rely on.

“We want to ensure strong financial management of the budget but, like any responsible employer, we also want to ensure our train drivers and frontline employees are appropriately paid.”

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