Archive:  Accountability & Corruption

Last Updated 29/3/10


See also:


Council Conflicts of Interest

Council Code of Conduct

Council Section 223 Committees

Council Minister for Local Government (2006)




NSW Labor Government Takes Giant Strides By Banning Developer Contributions To Political Parties

(19/11/09 - P)  So, when can we expect the same propriety in Victoria? 

Tony Rescei, President of Save Our Suburbs (Sydney) reports on a major move by the NSW government to clean up its act and improve public perceptions of developer / government relationships.  Click here to see Tony's 'snouts-in-the-trough' report.


MRRA Says:

Well done Tony - would that we could have a dab of that much accountability here in Victoria.  How about it Mr. Brumby, Mr. Madden?



Thanks To ICAC, Exposure Of Corrupt Conduct Increases In NSW

(10/12/08 - SG)    Yet Victoria continues to sail on without an anti-corruption commission, but not necessarily without corruption

Another example of why Victoria needs an anti-corruption commission was presented recently (30/10/08) with the release of NSW's Independent Commission Against Corruption's [ICAC] 2007 - 2008 Annual Report. One of the key statements in the report is:


"Corrupt conduct findings were made against 51 people, compared to 17 in the previous year, and the Commission referred 23 people to the
Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration of prosecution proceedings, a 44% increase."


NSW, Queensland and Western Australia have anti-corruption bodies:  the Independent Commission Against Corruption (NSW),

the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission, and the Western Australian Corruption and Crime Commission.

Here's how ICAC describes its role and functions:


"What We Do

The Commission’s aims are to protect the public interest, prevent breaches of public trust and guide the conduct of public officials.


The ICAC receives and analyses complaints from members of the public and public officials, and reports made by the principal officers of public sector organisations. The Commission also conducts research to identify specific areas of corruption risk.


The Commission has extensive powers of investigation and may conduct hearings to obtain evidence of corruption. It works to minimise corruption by providing advice, information, resources and training to public sector organisations to remedy existing or potential corruption problems, and helps organisations to identify and deal with significant corruption risks.


The ICAC is a public authority, but operates independently of the government of the day. It is accountable to the people of NSW through the State Parliament."


You can access the ICAC Annual Report at


You may also want to check out the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission and Western Australia's Crime and Corruption Commission  Both also have 2007 - 2008 Annual Reports on their websites.


MRRA Says:


Three States admit and address corruption in a concerted way.  Why not Victoria?



Political Donations, Sponsorship And Influence

(16/7/08 - SG)  How do we know if our politicians, councillors or decisions have been bought?  The short answer is, we don't.

We need look no further than New South Wales and the Wollongong scandal for confirmation that money can buy governments and decisions, particularly planning decisions.  Yet NSW has an Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC], something we don't have in Victoria. 


So how bad is it in Victoria, where accountability in any form no longer seems to kick up as one of the State's strong points?


In the past week, 3 articles have appeared in the Age newspaper - shocking and revealing stuff.  Written by veteran journos Royce Millar and Kenneth Davidson, the articles snap the spotlight onto Victoria's lack of an ICAC, lack of accountability, and shifting views on and stubborn political denial that there's a problem when it comes to who is paying who in politics.  From these articles, it seems Victoria's Premier sees political donations not as potentially corrupting influences but just part of a healthy democracy.  Like kissing babies, perhaps?


You can access the Age articles by clicking the following links:


In a healthy democracy, influence cannot be bought, Royce Millar, The Age, 7/7/08


Money is the root of all Political evil, Kenneth Davidson, The Age, 10/7/08


A Little Bit of Give and Take, Royce Millar, The Age 16/7/08


MRRA Says:


In the first article, Millar takes the discussion to the next logical step, and raises the issue of political donations and sponsorship in local government.  And what a good discussion it is.


Anyone who thinks buying influence doesn't happen in local government should think again.  It's bad enough if it's happening at Federal and State levels, but in those arenas there is more scrutiny and access so potentially more public pressure, and more chance of being caught. 


In comparison, it can go almost unseen and undetected at local government level.  A nod, a wink, a quiet word; rarely anything as crude as a brown paper bag or a pair of white shoes.  Delivering 'favours for mates' can be something as subtle as promising to vote for what another Councillor wants if they'll vote for you this time, overlooking a conflict of interest, or orchestrating noisy albeit minority support for pet projects.  These are just some of the ways private agendas can be delivered.


Millar raises an interesting point:  while Councillors have to declare donations received during an election campaign, they don't have to declare them until well after the election. Their sponsors remain anonymous when you go to vote.  It's all a secret, until they start to vote.


MRRA finds it a very relevant subject, given the recent invention of Macedon Ranges Residents' Secretariat Limited, a company representing development interests, possibly even political party interests, that seems intent on trying to confuse the Macedon Ranges' community into thinking it's us, MRRA Inc - i.e. a 'good guy' acting in the interests of the wider community - to the point of even pinching most of our name!  Flattering, but...

MRRA estimates that to date, MRRS Ltd may have spent something in the order of well over $10,000 launching itself and its agenda (the latest effort being a survey sent to all households in the Shire, replete with reply paid envelopes - who could afford that!!!). Not to mention the individual numbering on each "ballot paper" (survey form) which must have cost a fortune to print.  But wait, there's more!  No, not a free set of knives, but MRRS Ltd is even giving away an expensive free meal - and free transport to and from home - to tempt residents into playing its game.  And the feeling in our water is that neither the 'spend' nor the 'big sell' is over yet...


What could be worth that type of investment by business, development and real estate interests?  And who exactly are all those interests?What do they want?  Will all be revealed anytime soon?


Which leads us to the next question.  Is the long-term objective of MRRS Ltd to get people elected onto council who will do what MRRS Ltd wants?   Is that why MRRS Ltd says on its survey form, "MRRS offers assistance to potential candidates prior to elections and post elections, when elected..."?  [our emphasis]


And how does MRRS Ltd's invitation to residents to become members work?   MRRS Ltd has already publicly stated its recruitment will be through hand-picked secondment of like-minded people by its directors.  In any event, don't you usually have to buy shares to be a 'member' of a company?  MRRS Ltd is a public company, so do residents need a stock broker to become a 'member'?   


Crickey, it's all too convoluted and complicated for us, but then MRRA is just a grass-roots community group used to its members joining up normally - they make a written application and pay an annual fee.


The grubby world of buying political influence is one where decisions are consistently made to serve self- and vested interests.  Merit and 'public good' doesn't come into it.  Is there really that much at stake?  You betcha. There's big, big money in buying governments and influence (look no further than Wollongong, for example), and in stacking Councils with 'like-minded' mates to ensure favourable outcomes. Under the right conditions, it can spread like a an aggressive cancer.  Does Macedon Ranges have the disease?



State Opposition Turns Up The Heat On Corruption

(22/4/08 - SG)  What's the government going to do about it?

Last week in parliament, Shadow Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, asked some excellent questions of the Minister for Planning, relating to the lack of accountability in the new residential zones.  Mr.Guy subsequently issued a media release highlighting his questions, "COALITION QUESTIONS MADDEN ON CORRUPTION SAFEGUARDS"  Click here to see the media release and questions, and for links to Hansard for the Minister's answers.


MRRA Says:

A representative of MRRA was present in the Upper House for question time on Tuesday 15 April, which was an experience in its own right!  Everyone should be forced to watch Councils and parliaments in operation at least once in their lives - it's a pity democracy can be so trivialized and abused. 


Mr. Guy's questions were a welcome surprise, but from where we were sitting, they weren't answered.  As MRRA shares the concerns Mr. Guy put forward, we would have likewise welcomed a straightforward, relevant response.  Have a read of Hansard, and see what you think...



Ombudsman's Report On Conflicts Of Interest In Local Government Now Out

(14/3/08 - C)  Recommendations to tighten accountability in local government

You can download a copy of the Ombudsman's report on conflicts of interest in local government, and also one about the public service, from


MRRA Says:

We will have a report shortly on these reports and some more information about the Better Local Governance program being run by the Victorian State Government.



C-O-R-R-U-P-T-I-O-N:  Full Frontal Exposure Of Full Blown Corruption By ICAC In NSW - Save Our Suburbs (NSW) Calls For An Inquiry Into Government Planning Policy

(3/3/08 - SG)  Is such scandalous behaviour happening in Victoria, where our State government flatly rejects calls for an independent anti-corruption body like NSW's ICAC?  Without a Victorian ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption), we will probably never know...

With daily revelations of increasingly bizarre and abhorrent behaviours in NSW's planning and government circles, accompanied by the monotonous thud of rolling heads, the NSW State government has belatedly concluded there might actually be some substance to never-ending complaints about developer donations to governments, and the potential link between those donations and government actions.  Ghastly as they are, the pictures painted by events in NSW aren't a static representation of events that have happened just there, just now.  Listen to some people, that type of behaviour is rife.  Many more decry the unhealthy affiliation between developers and government, and the coincidental benefits and favours some donors seem to accrue.  In NSW at least, that point of view is at last getting some traction, and not before time either according to Save Our Suburbs' NSW President, Tony Recsei who has been lobbying for 7 years against developer donations to governments.  In light of revelations about links between developers, donations and planning decisions, SOS (NSW) has now called for an inquiry into the New South Wales' government's planning policies.


MRRA Says:


In Victoria, only a few years' ago the 'dirty' links between developers and donations were something people only whispered about, but now they are openly discussed as more and more people come to the conclusion that something is horribly wrong. 


Like it or not, a growing proportion of the population thinks various governments, politicians and bureaucrats are 'on the take', because increasingly that is their experience and/or perception of government, politicians and bureaucrats.  And as long as Victoria does not have its own 'ICAC', as long as there isn't absolute accountability, public confidence will continue to drop, and there will be no way to sort the 'wheat' from the 'chaff'.  Everyone - good and bad - will be tarred with the same brush in the public's mind.


Does the public have to call for inquiries into planning and other policies, does what's being exposed in NSW have to be exposed in Victoria, before the State government acts to establish an independent ethics watchdog?



New Victorian Parliamentary Watchdog To Be Formed -  Bring It On!

(14/12/07 - SG)  Upper House Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration on the way

From the Save Our Suburbs Website (


"The non-labour parties in the Victorian upper house have combined to set up a permanent committee to examine ANY finance and public administration issues.


We've yet to see how wide the scope of the Committee's investigations will be, but it appears likely to include local Council administration (particularly planning departments!), overall planning processes (including VCAT), and the role of the State Government in decision making on urban planning issues - including the actions of the planning Minister.


We certainly hope it will!


So get your submissions ready, the committee will get started early in the new year!  See the Age article"


MRRA Says:


This is an interesting one.  We searched the parliament website but couldn't find any documentation on this yet.  Nevertheless, while the paperwork is finalized, residents can put their thinking caps on about whether there are any financial and/or public administration issues in Macedon Ranges that might be of interest to such a Committee, if it includes consideration of Council as well as State government issues.  It didn't take us long to think of at least one issue that might fall within that type of jurisdiction, come to think of it there are a few others as well... 


Let us know if you can think of any and send your thoughts to us on



Victorian Liberals Call For Anti-Corruption Commission

(20/9/07 - SG)  MRRA says, we'll second that motion!  Can any government expect to be seen as "clean" without a commission?

Thoughts of "Go, Ted" came to mind as the Victorian Liberal Leader Ted Baillieu last week called for the Brumby government to set up a permanent anti-corruption commission in Victoria and followed up that call with an article in today's Herald Sun newspaper.  Three other States have commissions:  Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland, where commissions were set up after legendry integrity and honesty collapses in those States.  The signs are there that an independent commission is needed in Victoria, and has been for some time.  Click here to go to Ted's article.  See also MRRA's report on NSW's Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC].


MRRA Says:

Corruption in government is so... third world, isn't it?  At least that's what most of us prefer to think - but it isn't happening just in the third world.  It's everywhere - here - and often so insidious, stealthy, and dark, we barely notice it going on under our noses.  Of course, we aren't intended to notice it, nor are we encouraged to try to stop it.  Whistleblowers are often hounded by persecution, threats, defamation and ridicule - and payback: anything to shut them up, close them down.  There's no doubt about it, when it comes to corruption the stakes are sky-high.  Power corrupts. Absolute - and bought - power corrupts absolutely.


Good governments shouldn't hesitate - or worse, wait until the wheels are falling off - before acting to ensure they are, and are seen to be, accountable and open.  Establishing and funding a comprehensive anti-corruption commission with wide-reaching powers before being forced to do it says so much more about the honesty, integrity, character and intentions of government than the all-too-fragile, all-too-glib promises to keep everything honest. "Trust us".  Why should we? 


MRRA's message to Victoria's "new" government is, start the way you mean to go on.  We all heard Mr. Brumby commit to more openness, more accountability, etc., so there shouldn't be a problem with having an anti-corruption commission, should there?  Should there?? 


There most definitely should be a Victorian anti-corruption commission that deals with propriety and accountability issues across all arms of government, as well as politics, the public service and associated service providers, tendering and contracts.  Put an anti-corruption commission in place so that corruption, and the potential for corruption, is addressed and under scrutiny all the time, 24/7.  It shouldn't take calls for and establishment of Upper House inquiries or Royal Commissions to tip us off that something is horribly wrong.  By its very existence, a commission would be a deterrent to corruption happening in the first place. 


Nor should a Commission's role be just that of sheriff.  The Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC] in NSW sets a brilliant example by not only investigating and dealing with corruption; it also spends a lot of time looking at how things are done and recommending new ways of doing things to reduce potential risks and change behaviours where corruption could occur.  A real win/win situation - except for those who are or want to be corrupt.


Good upon you, Big Ted, for asking the Big Question: "why haven't we got an anti-corruption commission in Victoria"?


If you would like to send a congratulatory message to Ted, or encouragement to Premier John Brumby to set up an anti-corruption commission, here are their email addresses:



Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC] In NSW Delivers Recommendations To Reduce Risk Of Corruption In Planning

(20/9/07 - P)  24 recommendations that, when measured against how planning is administered in Victoria, make you suck your breath in.   How's this for starters - developers to declare political donations, Councillors to step aside from decisions involving donors, Councils to give reasons for planning decisions, and Councillors' votes to be on the public record...  Luscious.  Can we please have these standards in Victoria?

You may remember that in late 2005, ICAC produced a discussion paper about reducing corruption risks in development proposals (MRRA reported it on this website; see below to revisit that report).  ICAC has now released its final report on these issues. When you look at the recommendations, it sounds so simple and so obvious, you will shake your head wondering why these recommended actions aren't already in place.


Click here to see an overview of the report (from the ICAC website), or go directly to the ICAC website to download a copy of the report   Click on to go to the ICAC home page, and then go to the fourth headline in News and Events "ICAC recommends applicants declare political donations to minimise DA process corruption risk"


MRRA Says:

This is brilliant stuff.  We've said it before and will keep on saying it - Victoria needs this kind of scrutiny and accountability.  It needs its own ICAC.  We would like to think that the Brumby government would seriously consider voluntarily picking up these ICAC recommendations and implementing them in Victoria, in the interests of improved certainty and more open and accountable planning processes.  Ah, but will they...



Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Releases Report On Corruption Risks In Planning

(23/12/05 – P) Risks sound similar for Victoria

New South Wales’ public sector watchdog, ICAC, yesterday released a Discussion Paper called “Corruption Risks In NSW Development Approval Processes”, and is calling for submissions from NSW residents until February.  What caught MRRA’s eye is the Commission’s identification of areas where it says there is potential for corruption in planning.  Similar types of issues come up in Victoria, which may be more vulnerable because it has a ‘looser’ (e.g. ‘maybe’) type of planning system that provides less certainty than the more prescriptive (‘yes’ or ‘no’) system we understand is still in place in NSW.  Issues considered by the Commission under the heading ‘Corruption Risk Areas’ in the Discussion Paper’s Executive Summary include: the different roles of councillors; councillors and non-pecuniary conflicts of interest; council officers and conflicts of interest;  conflicting roles at a consent authority level; Council land disposal; the engagement of consultants; departures from development standards; planning agreements; and political donations.  Some of these are issues the Macedon Ranges’ community has raised from time to time.  MRRA hasn’t read the full report yet, but feels it is of great interest and will give insight into situations which might arise.  Click here to see more detail about the headings or, if you would like a copy of the Discussion Paper, go to the ICAC website then go to News & Events.