Joe Hockey’s wife appointed to QSuper board

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey and his wife Melissa Babbage kiss, after he delivered his post Budget address at the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra on Wednesday 16 May 2012. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax

The Queensland government has quietly appointed the wife of shadow treasurer Joe Hockey to the QSuper Board.

Sydney-based Melissa Babbage, a self-made millionaire and former senior executive at Deutsche Bank, was appointed to the $45,000 position at the state public servant super fund without fanfare in June.

Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls gazetted Ms Babbage’s appointment on June 19, however the government did not issue a release despite publicly announcing appointments to the Games Infrastructure, Emerald Agricultural and Racing Industry boards in the months before and after.

A spokesman for Mr Nicholls said “a number of people” had been considered for the board position, but Ms Babbage was found to be “an exceptional candidate”.

“Ms Babbage is a non-executive director of Swiss Re Life and Health Australia Ltd, a member of the New South Wales Treasurer’s Business Advisory Panel and has extensive investment banking experience, including as a senior executive at Deutsche Bank Australia Ltd,” the spokesman said.

“The Treasurer and Minister for Trade did not discuss the appointment of Ms Babbage to the QSuper Board with Mr Hockey.”

Mr Hockey updated his pecuniary interest register on July 4 to include his wife’s latest appointment.

QSuper is subject to commonwealth government regulation and as an employer-sponsored fund, an equal number of member representatives nominated by trade unions and employer representatives, mostly chosen by the government, serve on the board.

Board members are paid “in accordance with rates approved by the Treasurer, as Minister, in consultation with the board”. That current rate is $45,402 plus 9.25 per cent superannuation.

Ms Babbage is not the first Liberal Party affiliate appointed to a board or corporation position by the state government.

Former Liberal senator Warwick Parer was appointed as chair of the Stanwell Corporation, while former Northern Territory Country Liberal Party leader Shane Stone was named Energex chairman.

Premier Campbell Newman’s close friend Mark Brodie, who also chaired the Brisbane City Council investment fund established by Mr Newman when he was lord mayor, was appointed as chair of the Gladstone Ports Corporation.

Former Liberal MP and party president Michael Caltabiano served briefly as the director-general of the Transport Department before he was fired in February this year.

Former Queensland Liberals leader Bob Quinn was appointed as chair of the Queensland Schools Planning Commission, while former federal treasurer Peter Costello headed the state’s commission of audit, and the son of former state treasurer Sir Lew Edwards, David Edwards, serves as the Director-General of State Planning.

The former Labor government was also criticised for some of its appointments, including Bill Ludwig to the Racing board and former premier Anna Bligh’s husband Greg Withers as the director of climate change.

Mr Newman has always defended his government’s appointments, saying they are the being the best people for the job.

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