Member for Rockhampton Robert Schwarten says his early instinct about “corrupt” businessman Brendan McKennariey was proven right.
Member for Rockhampton Robert Schwarten says his early instinct about “corrupt” businessman Brendan McKennariey was proven right. AAP Image

Schwarten lifts lid on dust up

ROBERT Schwarten has lifted the lid on a Parliament House bar room confrontation with a “corrupt” businessman who gave $150,000 in kickbacks to disgraced former minister Gordon Nuttall.

Late last month Mr Nuttall was found guilty after a trial in the Brisbane District Court of five counts of corruption and five counts of perjury for receiving money from Brendan McKennariey between October 1998 and April 2006.

During the trial the court heard he handed over the funds in a bid to win government contracts.

Mr Schwarten, the Member for Rockhampton, told The Morning Bulletin yesterday that there were early “warning signs” that Mr McKennariey was corrupt.

He said when he became Public Works Minister in 1998, he ordered an audit into the public works office which led to Mr McKennariey’s plumbing company losing a government contract after a conflict of interest was found.

He said the audit found Mr McKennariey and business partner Graham Doyle sat on a government panel which awarded plumbing contracts including a “quality water program” that had been awarded to their company.

The men reacted by suing the Government for wrongfully cancelling the contract and were awarded $270,000.

Mr Schwarten said Mr McKennariey then started to leak documents from his time working for the former National Government to the media in an attempt to embarrass the new Labor Government.

He said during this period he was approached by Mr McKennariey at the Strangers Bar in Parliament House in 1999 where there was an argument over the contract’s removal.

“When I ran into the fella I gave him an earful.

“I told him to ‘piss off’ in those words.”

Mr Schwarten said he also told Mr Doyle to “piss off” because he did not want anything to do with the pair.

He said there was no “fisticuffs” and contrary to previous reports he did not have to be separated from Mr McKennariey.

After the altercation Mr Doyle and McKennariey “flew under the radar because they knew I was on to them”.

They then devised a more “underhanded” scheme to get government business by applying for work with Mr Nuttall’s help but not listing their names.

He said he was convinced at the time that the pair were committing a “rort” but did not have the evidence to prove it.

He said after 13 years “my instincts, knowing right from wrong, have proved correct”.

Mr Schwarten said he had no sympathy for Mr Nuttall.

“If you put your head into the tiger’s mouth and it bites you, you can’t complain.”

“He got what he deserved as far as I’m concerned.”

Efforts by The Morning Bulletin to contact Mr McKennariey yesterday were unsuccessful.

GORDON NUTTALL SAGA

2001, February: Nuttall (pictured) made Industrial Relations Minister. Nuttall pushes for an indigenous workplace safety scheme to be run by a company which is fronting for McKennariey and another former Labor Party identity, Graham Doyle.

2004: Nuttall becomes Health Minister and champions a new scheme for waste water management at public hospitals again with another company fronted by McKennariey and Doyle.

2005: McKennariey makes trips to Nuttall’s home to deliver five lots of cash totalling $130,000 as his share of profits from the health scheme.

October 11, 2010: Nuttall trial on McKennariey charges starts.

October 27: Nuttall found guilty of corruption and perjury.

If you put your head into the tiger’s mouth and it bites you, you can’t complain



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