Victorian Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu may have launched double barrelled “Guilty Party”-style ads yesterday bemoaning the state’s health system and ALP factional thuggery, but the fallout from the Brimbank scandal suggests John Brumby may be more than capable of capitulation without the added impetus of hostile advertising.
As Crikey noted last week in relation to Casey Council, local government is much more than just “rates, roads and rubbish”. It also functions as a power base for state and federal Labor MPs pursuing factional influence in order to secure permanent state or federal preselection.
The Victorian Ombdusman’s damning report into Brimbank Council seems like the tip of the iceberg — Crikey has received a slew of tips from whistleblowers at other councils.
At Moreland Council, in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, local councillors appear to be putting up a pitiful fight to reduce the size of “shovel ready” developments on the Coburg High and Pentridge Prison sites. The main spruiker behind the developments is none other than ex-Moreland Mayor, local ALP branch president, ex-Kelvin Thomson staffer and CPR Communications employee Robert Larocca. Three Moreland councillors factionally aligned with Larocca, including Mayor Lambros Tapinos, work for state and federal MPs. Under the Ombudsman’s recommendations, the trio will have to give up their staffer or council gigs and opponents are suggesting they may be keen to get busy before the guillotine falls.
Meanwhile, further reports from Casey Council suggest that it is not just Narre Warren North MP Luke Donnellan who has used the local assembly as a proxy power base. Donnellan’s Narre Warren South counterpart Judith Graley has been accused of exerting influence via her representatives on the council, who included former Mayor Janet Halsall before she resigned from the party.
Banyule Council, in Melbourne’s inner north, famously operated for years as the personal fiefdom of state MP Craig Langdon before an intra-factional crack-up involving ex and current staffers resulted in a feud from which Langdon has yet to fully recover.
At Geelong council, two ALP officebearers, David Saunderson and Cameron Granger, have been charged over claims they failed to disclose donations from property developer Lascorp. Both worked concurrently in the offices of local MPs.
But council meddling isn’t limited to the Labor Party. At Knox Council, in Victoria’s east, local federal Liberal member Chris Pearce has been accused of using the council as a personal plaything, installing like minded colleagues via a local ratepayers group into key positions.
The Ombudsman’s report was responding to specific claims that state MPs were threatening their staff with the sack if they failed to do their factional bidding. But most of this work was happily carried out by the councillors in question.
When Brumby amends the Local Government Act in a few months to ban political staffers working concurrently as councillors, only the most superficial link will be severed — new career opportunities will be filled not by independent-minded political greenskins, but by the same numbers men that clog the ALP’s arteries across the nation.
The overarching issue, that of distant powerbrokers using local councils as an extension of their powerbase, will be left unresolved.
As if on cue, former Brimbank Councillor Costas Socratous has been sacked from Theo Theophanous’ office, only to immediately be offered more work with Theo’s mate Telmo Languiller in Derrimut — just a short trip anti-clockwise on the ring road.
At state level, the appointment of ministerial staff is usually seen as reward for unstinting factional loyalty — once former activists ascend to the inner circle of power and influence, they protect their back against all-comers. These two 2007 Herald Sun articles detail how close the apple falls from the tree at election time.
Crikey has compiled a list, from media reports and tip-offs, of local councillors who work as staffers for Federal and State MPs and are therefore set to be impacted by the Ombudsman’s report. We’re not claiming that councillors working for MPs lack a real commitment to the community. But their sheer number serves to illustrate just how clubbish the situation in Victoria has become.
Cr Anthony Carbines, Banyule Council, Bronwyn Pike
Cr Bozinovski, Brimbank Council, Brendan O’Connor
Cr Kevin Bradford, Casey Council, Luke Donnellan
Cr Daniel Mulino, Casey Council, Jacinta Collins
Cr Steven Tsitas, Darebin Council, ALP head office
Cr Cameron Granger, Geelong Council, John Eren
Cr David Saunderson, Geelong Council, Richard Marles
Cr Nick Staikos, Glen Eira Council, Judith Graley
Cr Youhorn Chea, Greater Dandenong Council, Adem Somyurek
Cr Pinar Yesil, Greater Dandenong Council, Bob Smith
Cr Luba Grigorevich, Hobson’s Bay Council, Lynne Kosky
Cr Helen Patsikatheodorou, Hume Council, Maria Vamvakinou
Cr Burhan Yigit, Hume Council, Marlene Kairouz
Cr Ros Spence, Hume Council, Liz Beattie
Cr Steven Staikos, Kingston Council, Tim Holding
Cr Sel Sanli, Maribyrnong Council, ALP head office
Cr Enver Erdogan, Moreland Council, Harry Jenkins
Cr Michael Teti, Moreland Council, Kelvin Thomson
Cr Lambros Tapinos, Moreland Council, David Feeney (on leave)
Cr Stefanie Perri, Monash Council, Ann Barker
Cr Joy Banerji, Monash Council, Judith Graley
Cr Ange Kenos, Moonee Valley Council, Khalil Eideh
Cr Helen Coleman, Nillumbik Council, Colin Brooks
Cr Sam Alessi, Whittlesea Council, Harry Jenkins
Cr Lisa Mahood, Wodonga Council, John Brumby
Cr Marie Brittan, Wyndham Council, Tim Pallas
Cr Peter McKenna, Banyule Council, Matthew Guy
Cr Paul Peulich, Kingston Council, Inga Peulich
Cr Nora Lamont, Maroondah Council, Jan Kronberg
Cr Tim Smith, Stonnington Council, Bruce Bilson
Cr Sam Gaylard, Yarra Council, Greg Barber