THE Bligh Government has made a complete mockery of its "Buy Local" flood recovery campaign after buying cheap imported T-shirts from overseas to promote the program.
The Sunday Mail can reveal public servants even tried to cover up the embarrassing bungle by cutting off the shirts' tags displaying the country of origin.
The 1500 shirts emblazoned with "Buy local Back Qld" were to be handed out to promote Premier Anna Bligh's Operation Queenslander campaign, touting struggling businesses after the summer natural disasters.
However, the Government has admitted to a "gross error of judgment" in ignoring local manufacturers and instead buying almost $10,000 worth of T-shirts made in Bangladesh and the US.
The hypocrisy has been slammed by local manufacturers and the attempted cover-up only just missed breaching consumer laws, which do not require the country of origin to be displayed on distributed goods and only stipulate that the origin presented cannot be misleading.
A furious State Development Minister Andrew Fraser yesterday confirmed public servants discovered the error, then cut tags off the US shirts to hide the true origin of the clothing.
However, the public servants were unable to conceal the origin of the Bangladesh shirts one of which was obtained by The Sunday Mail as the labels were instead printed on the inside neck.
Mr Fraser hauled Department of Employment and Economic Development director-general Ian Fletcher over the coals when he discovered the matter on March 22 and ordered the shirts not be worn at the launch event later that night.
"It was completely inappropriate to have sourced the shirts from outside Queensland, and even worse to remove the tags," Mr Fraser said.
"I considered this to be misleading, and would serve only to compound the gross error of judgment."
Insiders believe the Government was trying to buy the shirts on the cheap as the price of $5.12 each totalling $7687 cost less than local shirts priced at up to $10 each.
But the decision left manufacturers such as Cairns-based Shirts North out in the cold.
"Business is a bit slow . . . and we would have appreciated that," spokeswoman Esme Corrigan said.
Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls said the error and cover-up showed Labor wasn't serious about supporting the local economy. "It's more proof this long-term Labor Government is focused on show and spin and not on helping Queenslanders through tough times," he said.
The discovery of the shirts' origins came a week after Mr Fraser was forced to read the riot act to his department after it bought $1150 worth of lollies with the "Buy local Back Qld" logos printed on them that he believed were "of little value" and should never be bought again.