Burnett's announcement a 'political stunt': mayoral rivals

GLADSTONE residents may get a multi-million dollar windfall within the next 24 hours.  

But the expected return of the Gladstone Area Water Board dividends from State control to Gladstone Regional Council's coffers might be pork barrel politics at its worst -- according to Mayor Gail Sellers.  

Despite the good news of more than $10 million in revenue heading to her council each year, Cr Sellers fears the the timing is simply a Labor Party set up to help her mayoral rival Matt Burnett in Saturday's election.

Gladstone Mayor Matt Burnett.
Gladstone Mayor Matt Burnett. Brenda Strong

Cr Burnett has rushed to Brisbane this morning in the hopes of being handed written confirmation, signed by the Premier, the money will be returned.  

>>Burnett announces he was invited to Brisbane by the Premier to discuss GAWB dividends

Late last night Cr Burnett told The Observer; "I have received verbal advice a few days ago that we would receive the Gladstone Area Water Board dividends back, but I called on the premier to put that in writing and that is what I want to see."  

Mayor incumbent Cr Sellers says the "whole episode doesn't smell right" and that she was completely unaware of any pending announcement.  

"The only way that I can interpret these actions are as a desperate last-minute political stunt using the resources of the Labor party to interfere in the outcome of the election," Cr Sellers said.   

>>OPINION: Expert on 'pork-barreling' claims

"I think that Cr Burnett has underestimated the intelligence of the Gladstone regional community and this will be seen for just what it is."  

Fellow mayoral candidate Michelle Wagner agreed, saying Gladstone residents were smart and could "read between the lines".  

"At least while he is focused on this, he isn't spending time claiming credit for the East Shores development and other major regional projects that have been constructed as a result of a lot of foresight and hard work by a lot of community-minded people," Ms Wagner said.   

Gail Sellers, mayoral candidate 2016
Gail Sellers, mayoral candidate 2016

In 2013 former LNP Premier Campbell Newman redirected the tax equivalent funds from Gladstone Area Water Board worth more than $10 million a year- which in the past flowed to the council and were used to reduce water costs for ratepayers - into the State Government's budget.   

When asked about the timing of the meeting between Cr Burnett and members of the State Government, the premier's office said it related to planning for the State Budget and was convenient timing for Gladstone's Labor MP Glenn Butcher.   

That's the same reason given in Cr Burnett's press release announcing he had been called to Brisbane. 

  "Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher requested the meeting as the government was progressing preparations for its 2016-17 State Budget and he wanted the Gladstone Area Water Board issue to be resolved ahead of the budget, which will be delivered on 14 June," a spokesperson for the Premier said.  

At the council's final meeting this week Cr Burnett read his latest letter to the premier out loud , which called on the government to "honour its promise" and return the dividends. 

Michelle Wagner, mayoral candidate 2016.
Michelle Wagner, mayoral candidate 2016. Michelle Wagner

  >>READ Gail Sellers full statement

He then urged the next council to continue the fight.   

"I have been arguing for my community's fair share of these dividends for many years and have raised it with the premier and her senior ministers at every opportunity, including at the Community Cabinet in Gladstone and again in writing in February," Cr Burnett said in a prepared statement.