In recent weeks a series of articles in the Age written by veteran journalists, Royce Millar and Kenneth Davidson, have spotlighted corruption in politics, especially in planning.
Millar raised the issue of political contributions influencing decisions and we have seen a good example of a contribution affecting the outcome in approval of the Walker Corporation's development of the Kew Cottage site in Boroondara.
In the second interim report from the Legislative Council Select Committee looking into public land development, the Committee reported upon concerns about process and outcome of the Kew Cottages development, highlighting the lack of disclosure over finances and contractural arrangements between the developer and the government.
The Committee noted that the Walker Corporation made a large donation to the ALP prior to the approval process and it questioned the involvement of ex NSW politician and former Senator Graham Richardson in the dealings.
BRAG notes the recent exposure of corruption in NSW makes us wonder if the good Senator was introducing the discraceful practices of politicians and councillors in that state. We also note that the Walker Corporation tried unsuccessfully to on-sell the right to develop this site at a massive profit.The whole deal is very suspect.
Back in April, Matthew Guy, Shadow Minister for Planning raised the issue in state parliament , noting that the government refuses to establish an independent commission against corruption (as has now been done in NSW) and he further raised the concerns about the "New Residential Zones" proposals to remove the checks and balances of VCAT between council planners and developers. Not that we have any real love of VCAT but something is better than nothing.
In noting the minister's proposal to remove VCAT from the residential planning system he also questioned what safegauards will be put in place to compensate for the loss of the planning systems sole legal shield against corruption.
The Shadow Minister also questioned the justification government takes from proposing to remove the community's right to object and appeal to a development and asked the Minister to inform the house how the community will be able to express its concern at a planned development if third party rights are removed.
The Planning Minister's totally unsatisfactory answers can be downloaded from hansard - www.parliament.vic.gov.au/downloadhansard/Council Feb-Jun%202008/Council%20Feb-Jun%202008 (pages 7 and 27 Questions without notice). BRAG says -dont bother.
As we have pointed out before, setting up Development Assessment Commttees to take over Councils' planning powers and removal of residents' rights to object and appeal will lead to corruption of Victoria's planning system.
What can we do? Other than voicing our disapproval, not too much, because the Brumby Government is just not listening but it is fair to say the more we colectively protest the more we encourage the opposition to act.
We have spoken with the Shadow Minister and he tells us it will make him more effective if he has support from the residents on these issues.
Over to you.