Inquiry? No way

Hamish Heard
Victorian Premier Steve Bracks has ignored a federal politician’s written request for a judicial inquiry to probe alleged corruption in Geelong.
A spokesman for Mr Bracks ruled out a judicial inquiry, saying a Victorian Ombudsman’s report into allegations of conflicts of interest among Geelong officials had already found “no evidence” of corruption.
The Independent last week reported Labor’s federal Member for Corio, Gavan O’Connor, had written to the Premier asking for an inquiry to investigate “possible widespread illegality” among Geelong officials.
His letter focused on the involvement of local members of Labor’s rightwing Unity faction in Geelong’s cashforcouncillors scandal.
Mr Bracks’s spokesperson pointed to the Ombudsman’s report in rejecting a judicial inquiry.
However, the report found that City Hall planning processes were “open to perceptions of corruption”.
The report recommended the Office of Police Integrity investigate whether Mayor Bruce Harwood, a police detective, should be charged over allegations he manipulated planning processes to benefit an associate.
A separate report found that councillors and planning staff had ignored City Hall planning policies when approving a retail development called HomeTown.
Several councillors who voted in favour of the proposal had earlier accepted election campaign donations from a fund including contributions from Frank Costa, who chairs the company behind the HomeTown proposal.
Cr David Saunderson, a Labor Unity member, was later convicted for failing to declare gifts. Factional allies and councillors Lou Brazier and Peter McMullin also admitted accepting money from the fund.
Cr Saunderson’s workplace, the former city office of Labor Member for Lara John Eren, was named in the report as a cash collection point for the donations.
Mr O’Connor has been embroiled in a bitter feud with Labor’s right since he lost preselection to Unity’s Richard Marles amid allegations of branch stacking.