Labor MPs in Leighton rezoning row

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Donations of any quantity are authorized and The Sunday Age doesn’t recommend in any other case.

Watsons is headed by Ferrari-driving planner and lobbyist John Woodman. His who’s-who consumer listing has included, or contains, the Fox, Ansett and Baillieu-Myer clans, in addition to Tony Madafferi, the person police have alleged to be Melbourne’s mafia boss.

Attorney-General Martin Pakula   said he never lobbied about the Cranbourne West rezoning.

Lawyer-Normal Martin Pakula mentioned he by no means lobbied in regards to the Cranbourne West rezoning.Credit score:Joe Armao

A Sunday Age investigation has confirmed that Mr Perera pressed the workplace of Andrews authorities Planning Minister Richard Wynne on a number of events in regards to the rezoning, together with as not too long ago as October. The rezoning course of has been in practice since Casey council backed the concept in 2015 after initially opposing it earlier than the 2014 election.

Within the ultimate days earlier than the Andrews authorities went into caretaker mode, and coinciding with inquiries from The Sunday Age, Mr Wynne shelved his long-awaited determination on the Cranbourne rezoning till after this month’s election.

The Labor donations included cash generated at a March 2014 fundraiser at Crown On line casino for Mr Perera and two different south-eastern Labor MPs, Ms Graley and Andrews authorities Lawyer-Normal Martin Pakula. Mr Pakula mentioned he by no means lobbied in regards to the Cranbourne West rezoning.

The fundraiser was organised by Phil Staindl, a well-connected lobbyist and Labor activist whose shoppers embrace Watsons and who confirmed serving to Mr Woodman on the Cranbourne West rezoning push.

Ms Graley, who’s retiring this election, confirmed she acquired hundreds of from Watsons in her time as an MP, together with on the fundraiser at Crown in 2014.

Judith Graley says as a retiring MP her records have been shredded.

Judith Graley says as a retiring MP her information have been shredded.Credit score:Chad Van Estrop

She mentioned she thought she recalled writing to Casey council to assist the Leighton rezoning after being contacted by residents against trade on the Cranbourne West web site. The Leighton/Kelly land will not be in Ms Graley’s voters.

Nevertheless, she mentioned she would have bother checking her information as a result of, as an outgoing MP she had disposed of 12 years of paperwork. “I’ve to examine my information which I’ve shredded,” Ms Graley mentioned.

Labor MPs and insiders say Watsons is an everyday and beneficiant donor, particularly at election time. “Watsons has contributed to plenty of campaigns and plenty of MPs,” mentioned Ms Graley.

The corporate can also be an energetic member of Labor fund-raising physique, Progressive Enterprise.

By way of legal professionals, Mr Woodman confirmed that he was a donor to each events “in assist of their insurance policies and higher authorities”.

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“Mr Woodman notes that political donations are made to each political events by a various vary of donors from many walks of life and industries. These donations are an essential a part of resourcing the election marketing campaign course of,” he mentioned.

He strongly denied any “inappropriate donations”.

Presently donations of any quantity are authorized and The Sunday Age doesn’t recommend in any other case.

When Leighton first proposed the rezoning in 2014 Casey council opposed it. In 2015 after the state election, the council backflipped and backed the rezoning.

Necessary to the council’s rationale for the change of coronary heart was the area people marketing campaign towards industrial use of the Leighton/Kelly land, waged by the Save West Cranbourne Residents Group, established in 2014/2015.

Mr Perera – who can also be retiring – confirmed he had written to Mr Wynne in assist of the Leighton rezoning after being approached by the residents group and by Woodman’s shut affiliate, planning guide and lawyer, Megan Schutz. At varied phases of the rezoning course of Ms Schutz has represented each Leighton and the Kelly household.

The Sunday Age has confirmed that Leighton funded the residents group.

Final month The Sunday Age revealed that Ms Schutz registered the resident group’s web site in early 2015.

Consultant Megan Schutz.

Advisor Megan Schutz.

The revelations spotlight the murky confluence of planning, property, politics and money within the burgeoning Casey municipality, one of many fastest-growing in Australia, which takes in Cranbourne, Berwick, Clyde and Hallam.

They arrive after The Sunday Age final month reported considerations amongst employees on the Metropolis of Casey in regards to the affect of builders and different property pursuits.

Some calls made by councillors this 12 months have been so questionable that the council acquired authorized recommendation warning it about “illegal” and “capricious” decision-making.

In January 2017 an unbiased planning panel backed the rezoning. It was broadly anticipated in Casey that Mr Wynne would additionally assist it.

Mr Wynne instructed The Sunday Age that he had deferred his determination on the rezoning due to concern a couple of lack of employment alternatives within the Casey space. He mentioned his division was doing extra analysis “to information industrial land use within the south japanese hall”.

Lack of jobs is a serious downside in Casey the place seven out of 10 working residents journey out of the municipality every day for work.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has deferred a decision on the site.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has deferred a call on the location.Credit score:Pat Scala

Leighton Properties is a subsidiary of former Leighton Holdings which was renamed the CIMIC Group within the wake of worldwide corruption allegations.

A CIMIC spokeswoman mentioned the corporate wouldn’t remark. She wouldn’t say why.

In a press release, Mr Pakula mentioned that over the previous 5 and a half years Watsons had attended three fundraisers for him together with at Crown On line casino.

“Any contributions made by Watsons have been under the related disclosure thresholds,” he mentioned.

“Watsons haven’t sought to have me make representations on their behalf to the Planning Minister or anybody else, and I’ve not executed so.”

Attorneys for Mr Woodman and Ms Schutz have threatened defamation motion towards The Sunday Age.

A written assertion on behalf of ALP secretary Sam Rae mentioned: “The Victorian Department of the Labor Celebration declares all donations in accordance with the related laws. We count on donors to do the identical.”

“The Andrews Labor Authorities has made historic modifications to political donation legal guidelines, making them the strictest and most clear in Australia.”

New guidelines to take impact subsequent Sunday after this month’s election embrace a cap on contributions of $4000 over 4 years for all donors, and the requirement for real-time disclosure for all donations of greater than $1000.

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Royce Millar is an investigative journalist with a particular curiosity in public coverage and authorities decision-making.

Ben Schneiders is an investigative reporter at The Age with a background reporting on industrial relations, enterprise, politics and social points. A two-time Walkley Award winner, he has been a part of The Age’s investigative unit since 2015.

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