26 November 2020
This is a case of high level corruption in the state of Victoria. Property developer John Woodman has been accused of bribing two City of Casey councillors to get land in Cranbourne West rezoned from industrial to residential. He reportedly donated over $150,000 to the Labour Party in 2018.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been caught lying about meeting with the allegedly corrupt developer.
Premier Daniel Andrews assured that he did not speak to allegedly corrupt developer. Labour lobbyist Phil Staindl confirmed that he had multiple dealings with the Premier and his office over problems at Point Cook. Mr Staindl also discussed the project with Attorney-General Jill Hennessy. She is the MP for the seat of Altona, which takes in Point Cook.
Internal emails at Mr Woodman’s office show Mr Staindl reporting he had struck an agreement with Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s chief-of-staff Peter Keogh about “protocols for back-channel communication”.
On his third day of questioning before the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) Labour lobbyist Phil Staindl confirmed multiple meetings over many years between Mr Andrews and his client, Mr Woodman. The Commission is investigating land deals in Melbourne’s south-east, particularly a plan to rezone property in Cranbourne West, within the City of Casey.
IBAC heard that former Casey mayor Sam Aziz handed over a suitcase containing $600,000 to Mr Woodman at Sandhurst Golf Club in 2018 to hide funds from his wife and the family court. Mr Aziz claimed that Mr Woodman was his friend, and other than that there was no other business relationship with Mr Woodman. It is not clear why Mr Woodman would put himself in jeopardy by, by accepting such a large sum without any commercial advantage to himself.
IBAC also heard how Mr Woodman had an intimate lunch with Mr Andrews in a private room at the Flower Drum in September 2017 by bidding at an auction at a fundraising dinner. At the time, Mr Woodman was pressing the state government for rezoning of $150 million Cranbourne West for his client Leighton and others.
IBAC heard that Ms Graley, the MP for Narre Warren South until the 2018 election, spoke directly to Mr Wynne on one occasion and other members of his staff on multiple occasions, about the rezoning. Mr Woodman and Mr Staindl met regularly with Ms Graley and relied on her for information from the minister’s office, and even offered her a job as she prepared to retire from parliament in late 2018.
Ms Graley said that she actively supported the Cranbourne West rezoning because of community anxiety about the prospect of industry being developed near housing. However as The Sunday Age showed in November 2018, the community lobby the Save Cranbourne West Residents Action Group was actually funded by Mr Woodman’s client, Leighton.
Four prominent people supported rezoning. They are: Ms Graley, then Cranbourne MP Jude Perera, former Labour planning spokesman Brian Tee and current jobs minister Martin Pakula. All four had received substantial political donations from Mr Woodman.