‘Error’ puts high-profile Coast charity down as LNP donor

The LNP says an error in donation recording caused a high-profile not-for-profit Coast charity with close ties to a Caloundra candidate to be listed as a party donor.

Labor officials raised the issue, identifying a $1980 donation recorded on the Electoral Commission Queensland's electronic disclosure system from Steps Group on October 2, 2019.

In early December Steps Group Australia's executive officer Stuart Coward was announced as the winner of preselection to become the new LNP candidate for Caloundra, with long-time MP Mark McArdle retiring on October 31.

But this week party officials, Mr Coward and Steps executives made clear the recording of the donation had been in error, and the charity had always remained apolitical.

Steps Group Australia managing director Carmel Crouch said she'd made a personal donation to Mr Coward, a close friend and colleague of more than 20 years.

Full list of Coast candidates for 2020 state election

She said she gave Mr Coward $1000 initially, in about June last year to help with his preselection bid, and then another $500 donation "about six weeks ago" at a function at Caloundra's Corbould Park racecourse.

Ms Crouch's $1000 personal donation is listed on the electoral commission's electronic disclosure system.

She said the commission's website listing Steps as a donor was "incorrect".

"I'm absolutely gobsmacked this would be on their website," she said.

"Under no circumstances does Steps put itself anywhere near a political donation."

DONATION DISPUTE: Clockwise from top left, Disability Services Minister Coralee O'Rourke, LNP candidate for Caloundra Stuart Coward, Steps Group Australia managing director Carmel Crouch and LNP campaign director Lincoln Folo.
DONATION DISPUTE: Clockwise from top left, Disability Services Minister Coralee O'Rourke, LNP candidate for Caloundra Stuart Coward, Steps Group Australia managing director Carmel Crouch and LNP campaign director Lincoln Folo.

LNP campaign director Lincoln Folo said the separate $1980 donation had involved the use of two personal credit cards, unrelated to Ms Crouch, and charged correctly, but had been attributed to Steps in error.

"It certainly wasn't paid for by Steps," he said.

He said the party would be seeking to correct the error with the electoral commission as soon as possible.

A search of the Federal Government's Aus Tender website shows 15 contract notices with Steps Group Limited since 2013, worth more than $112 million.

Labor debate no-shows explain reasons for absence

Labor's Disability Services Minister Coralee O'Rourke said Mr Coward and Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington had "questions to answer".

"How could they let this happen," she said.

"They (Steps) receive millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to help people. Why should taxpayers bankroll the LNP's election campaign?"

She called on the LNP to refund the $1980, "to ensure these funds are spent the way they were intended".

Where to vote: Pre-polling opens for 2020 state election

Ms Crouch said her personal donations had not been politically-motivated, and had been simply a personal show of support for her long-time colleague.

She reiterated that the organisation, which had been assisting people with training, employment and community services since 1989, had always been apolitical and remained so, and any donation attributed to Steps had been in error.

Mr Coward also told the Daily the recording on the disclosure log of Steps as a donor had been an error.


Huge ‘out of the blue’ donation to Maranoa Toy Run

Premium Content Huge ‘out of the blue’ donation to Maranoa Toy Run

THE Maranoa Motorcyclists Toy Run received a sudden busload of Christmas presents...

How Western Downs shoppers can help those in need this Christmas

Premium Content How Western Downs shoppers can help those in need this...

HERE’S how Western Downs shoppers can help feed six million Aussies seeking food...

WARNING: Scammers targeting South West Queensland

Premium Content WARNING: Scammers targeting South West Queensland

HERE’S how you can protect yourself against online scammers this holiday season:...