Ipswich councillor Paul Tully rejects calls to resign after RTI documents reveal group’s ‘excessive spending’ on luxury accommodation, private jet

Veteran Ipswich councilor Paul Tully has rejected calls to resign and is advocating travel on private jets during overseas trips with fellow directors of a council-owned company.

A Right to Information application by Nine News revealed that Mr Tully, then-mayor Paul Pisasale and two other directors of Ipswich City Properties Pty Ltd (ICP) racked up what the state corruption watchdog called “excessive” bills on accommodation, travel and other activities during a two-week study trip to the United Arab Emirates and Europe in September 2012.

The documents contain a letter from the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) that details examples of “excessive spending” including:

  • $10,652 for two nights’ accommodation in Abu Dhabi at the 5-star Emirates Palace hotel
  • $8,044 for a chartered helicopter flight from the Emirates Palace to a 7-star resort off the coast of Dubai
  • $17,982 for two nights’ accommodation in Paris at the 5-star Hotel Barriere Fouquet’s
  • $27,630 for a private charter jet booked for a six-day/five-night period and “used to fly from Paris to Rome to Sicily and then to Geneva”

The CCC said in the letter it was not possible to “accurately determine” the total cost of the 2012 trip, but said it was in excess of $170,000, including $15,365 in travel expenses paid by ICP to the four ICP directors including Mr Pisasale, Mr Tully, and Carl Wulff.

“The evidence obtained during the investigation supports a finding that during the 14-day trip to the United Arab Emirates and Europe in September 2012, the subject officers engaged in a significant amount of non-official activity and also spent an excessive amount on accommodation, travel and other activities,” the CCC letter said.

ICP was wholly owned by Ipswich City Council and started in 2009 with a $50 million loan from the Queensland Treasury and $41 million in advances from the Council.

It bought properties in Ipswich’s central business district with a long-term, open-ended redevelopment plan.

ICP was wound up in 2019.

Composite image of (from left) Carl Wulff Paul Pisasale and Paul Tully from Ipswich City Council
Carl Wulff (left) Paul Pisasale (centre) and Paul Tully traveled to the UAE and Europe in 2012.(ABC/AAP)

In an interview with the ABC, Mr Tully – who has spent four decades in local government – ​​said he had not seen the RTI documents but had done “nothing wrong”.

“Artie Fadden, when he was the prime minister of Australia said, ‘Never complain, never explain and never resign’, and Artie Fadden had it right,” Mr Tully said.

“I have spent 41 years trying to represent this community and I stand by my record.

Mr Tully said there were two trips concerning ICP — one to the United States in 2010 and one to Europe and the UAE in 2012.

“Both were economic development issues for the City of Ipswich,” he said.

“The one to Europe involved meeting the agent general from Queensland, we toured the Olympic site in London. Prior to that in Abu Dhabi, we looked at driverless vehicles. It was an opportunity to look at a range of issues, talk to people and bring home the goods to Ipswich.

“Both the state government and the CCC have not advanced any inquiries into what we did.”

Pedestrians and trees in streetscape artist's impression of design plan for Ipswich mall redevelopment.
Ipswich City Council set up ICP to build its $150 million city centre. (Supplied: Ipswich City Council)

Mr Tully said “personally” he did not like traveling or being away from his family, but he attended as one of the directors of the ICP.

“I had no involvement in the preparation or the itinerary or payment of any bills,” Mr Tully said.

‘Non-official activity’

The documents showed the CCC’s investigation into the group’s 2012 study trip to the UAE and Europe found they engaged in a “significant amount of non-official activity” including touring and having tea costing $574 afternoon at the 7-star resort located off Dubai and sightseeing in Sicily.

One director traveled to visit family burial plots and relatives, while another took a boat trip to view sea caves and the surrounding coastline, the letter stated.

The CCC found there were some instances where the “subject officers had planned to attend a presentation relevant to ICC’s commercial developments … but the evidence shows that they ultimately did not attend”.

Mr Tully said he had “proof from the former CEO that when we traveled overseas we saved money for the company by engaging in private jets”.

“The advice that I have from 2016 makes it very clear that chartering of aircraft can save money, quite significantly, for trip … it saved money and it saved time,” he said.

“I’ll just read this bit: ‘The costs of additional flights and accommodation using the American domestic airline hub system would have resulted in additional expense to the company … the four cities would have had to be extended by a further two days as a result … the only reason why a charter flight was used to save money and time.”

Pisasale is serving time in prison for a string of offenses including sexual assault, official corruption and fraud, over other matters.

In 2019, Carl Wulff was sentenced to five years in jail – to be suspended after 20 months – pleading guilty to official corruption and after attempting to pervert the course of justice for accepting bribes worth more than $240,000.

Mr Tully ‘should repay that money’

The head of a group representing Ipswich ratepayers is calling for Mr Tully’s resignation and a full investigation of his conduct, in light of the release of the spending information.

Long-time anti-corruption campaigner and Ipswich Ratepayers and Residents Association president Jim Dodrill said residents would be right to feel betrayed by Mr Tully’s conduct.

“At the very least he should be forced to resign, and be forced to repay that money,” Mr Dodrill said.

Mr Dodrill wears a blue polo shirt, arms crossed, posing for camera in a garden.
Jim Dodrill says Mr Tully should resign and be made to repay the costs he incurred.(ABC News Mark Leonardi )

He criticized the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) – a Queensland statutory body – which blocked the release of the spending information in March last year.

“We don’t see any valid reason why the OIC didn’t allow for that information to be published — that information was in the public interest,” he said.

“People needed to know and should have known how their money was being spent or misused by these councillors, so we would say the ICO got it wrong on this occasion.”

Mr Dodrill also called on the Queensland Labor party to reconsider his relationship with Mr Tully, a longstanding member of the party.

“I think the Labor party needs to step away from Mr Tully and needs to allow him to be held accountable for his actions,” he said.

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