Gifts to Nats 'normal practice'
By Bill Mason
BRISBANE — The final round in the Fitzgerald Inquiry process got under way here on September 23 with the start of the trial of former premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen on perjury charges.
Bjelke-Petersen is charged with testifying falsely about $200,000 in campaign donations during his evidence to the Fitzgerald Inquiry in 1988.
A key witness, Singapore businessman Robert Sng, told the Brisbane District Court on September 26 that he was told that since he was going into business in Queensland, he should "give some political donations to National Party", as it was normal business practice in the state.
The prosecution case rests on allegations that Bjelke-Petersen lied when he denied knowledge of Sng's application to develop the Port Office site as a luxury hotel.
Sng testified he was forced to take out a $300,000 loan from a finance company to oil the wheels for his hotel project in September 1986.
"I was under a lot of pressure to do something at that time", Sng said. "It was expected of me to make a donation to the National Party or the 'Joh for PM' campaign."
Sng said he put $100,000 in cash in a large plain brown envelope and handed it to Bjelke-Petersen in a room at Parliament House.
Next day he gave a similar amount in a similar envelope to National Party president Robert Sparkes at the party's head office in Spring Hill.
The hotel project was later given government approval.
Prosecutor Nick Cowdrey told the court that all allegations of improper dealing by Bjelke-Petersen would be aired during the trial, despite the crown's decision to drop corruption charges and limit the case to one of perjury.