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Leanne Donaldson: 'I should have asked for help'

MEDIA ADDRESS: MP for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson apologises for recent financial discrepancies.
MEDIA ADDRESS: MP for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson apologises for recent financial discrepancies. Paul Donaldson BUN041116DON3

UPDATE 2PM: LEANNE Donaldson has spoken one on one with the NewsMail saying she regretted not asking for help when she was "overwhelmed" by bills during "tough times" in 2012 and 2013.

Her failure to pay rates on her Burnett Heads home for a period of three and a half years, which the NewsMail understands had Bundaberg Regional Council voting unanimously to sell her home before the Queensland Labor Party stumped up the bill on Wednesday, has left many scratching their heads and the Bundaberg MP offered few answers.

When asked if she felt her financial judgment was adequate to be advising her constituents on issues they may have, she said, "I don't offer financial advice to people in this role.

"I refer them to the agencies we have in town."

Should Leanne Donaldson resign as Bundaberg MP?

This poll ended on 05 November 2016.

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Yes

84%

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She reflected that back in 2012 and 2013 when she was a "struggling" unemployed single mother, "I probably should have taken my own advice".

"I'm a pretty independent person and I don't ask for help like a lot of people, so getting overwhelmed... in hindsight that's something I should have talked to people (about)."

Asked if gambling or drugs were factors in her financial woes, she said, "No. No. I'm the most boring person you'll find."

Her difficulties can be traced back to her separation from her husband, becoming a single parent.

"I found myself out of work from about 2011 to the end of 2014 with a bit of sporadic work here and there," she said.

"I couldn't make ends meet a lot of the time, like a lot of people in town, so... there's a lot of time behind it."

Asked if that meant that she had accumulated debt in that time such that her ministerial $320,000 salary could not cover it, Ms Donaldson said "No".

"I don't really have an answer," she said.

"There's no explanation, there's no excuse.

"I have systems for all my regular bills, it's the ones that are very infrequent that I pop on the counter and say 'I'll get back to it'.

"I'm disappointed in myself and I'm not going to offer any excuses because it is unacceptable."

She said she "let things get out of hand" by focussing too much on work and not enough on her home life, blaming "long hours, seven days a week".

"I was taking control of work to the exclusion of taking control of things I should have at home.

"I didn't pay attention to the things I should have at the time.

"I let things go. Things accumulate before you know it, it gets away."

But she said she was not above paying her bills like everyone else.

"The regular things I have that are monthly and everything I have set up, no problem at all," she said.

As for driving her unregistered vehicle last week, she claims she was unaware when she drove it that the registration was overdue by one day.

"I would never have done it deliberately," she said.

For anyone who was wondering: the car in question was not her famous hot pink Torana.

"It's registered," Ms Donaldson confirmed.

She reiterated her plan to continue as Bundaberg's state MP.

"I made a commitment when I was elected and I'll see that commitment through."

So, will her bills be paid in future?

"I've now got a reminder in my phone and I downloaded the app to make sure it doesn't happen again," she said.

EARLIER:

THE city of Bundaberg was left none the wiser by its embattled MP Leanne Donaldson today following her resignation yesterday as the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries.

Ms Donaldson delivered a press conference to media at her Barolin St office, reading out the same statement she gave to state parliament almost word for word.

She delivered the roughly 60 second speech and did not take questions, leaving the room immediately after.

 

"Yesterday morning I met the Premier and Deputy Premier to discuss the issue of my unpaid property rates and was asked to advise if there were any other issues of which they should be aware," Ms Donaldson said, reiterating yesterday evening's statement.

"Following question time I became aware that my vehicle registration had not been paid by the due date last week and I took immediate steps to rectify this issue.

"However, last week I had driven the vehicle on the day after the registration had expired.

"Clearly, this does not meet the high standards set by the Premier for all members of the government.

"I therefore informed the Premier of my decision to resign as a minister."

 

MEDIA ADDRESS: MP for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson apologises for recent financial discrepancies.
MEDIA ADDRESS: MP for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson apologises for recent financial discrepancies. Paul Donaldson BUN041116DON2

The question most constituents are left wondering is: why?

Prior to the presser, Ms Donaldson's office requested that media send through any questions.

The NewsMail's questions submitted to Leanne two hours before the conference, listed below, remain unanswered:

- Why, when you earn $320,000 a year, are you three years behind on your rates?

- The LNP has called for your resignation - are you considering stepping down as Bundaberg MP?

- Even as an MP you deal regularly with financial issues that your constituents face - can Bundaberg trust your financial judgment?

- Do you feel you're above the law in failing to register your car?

Police and Corrective Services Minister Bill Byrne will also serve as Acting Agriculture and Fisheries Minister following Ms Donaldson's resignation.

She yesterday vowed to remain Member for Bundaberg, despite calls for her to step down from that role too.

She also admitted that the Queensland Labor Party footed the bill to Bundaberg Regional Council, saying she would repay the party next week.

Read the NewsMail's rolling blog from yesterday here.

Topics:  bundaberg editors picks labor leanne donaldson qldpol



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