The Age, Royce Millar, writes an interesting follow-up article which implicates failed former City of Melbourne deputy Lord Mayor McMullin (alias McClown) Peter McMullin was Deputy for a year only before being ousted from the job. He latter stood for election in the Central Ward and later tried to run for Deputy Lord Mayor but was unsuccessful. Peter McMullin is mainly remembered for rating on his election promises and caving in on demands made by former State Premier Jeff Kennett. McClown sold out on and supported the location of Melbourne’s State Museum which was moved from the South banks of the Yarra River, to make way for Jeff’s Shed and Crown Casino, relegated to the Royal Exhibition Buildings in 1996. At the time the community debate was against the development and its impact on Melbourne’s historic Royal Exhibition Buildings. Peter McMullin was most remembered for his refusal to support a motion that called on the State Government of the time to subject the proposed Museum Development to a proper planning review. Peter McMullin sold out so much he would not even hold the State Government and the City Council to a proper planning process.
Peter McClown, having failed to make his mark in the Melbourne stage, relocated to Geelong were he has been running the show on the second stage. It comes as little surprise that Peter McMullin is now caught up in controversy in his new act.
Regrettable insight into local business
While the report cites Labor councillor David Saunderson for a possible breach of the Local Government Act, the alleged transgression is more a sign of a broader problem than a resolution of the Geelong row.
Geelong is Victoria’s second city, yet in many ways it operates like a country town. A small group of political and corporate powerbrokers tends to mingle around business and community projects, blurring the line between the public and private good.
Local ratepayers have been understandably unimpressed by the council’s handling of this issue since The Age revealed the corporate donations in January.
After initially denying any such support, Cr Saunderson changed his story and admitted receiving assistance. Two other councillors also owned up.
At the time Mayor Peter McMullin said their admissions should be the end of the matter and called for everyone to “move on”.
Instead we got the Whelan inquiry. And while its terms of reference were probably too restrictive, it at least reveals the extent of the previously secret business backing for candidates, including for Cr McMullin.
Disturbing to many will be that council candidates believe it acceptable to receive support from powerful businessmen like Geelong Football Club president Frank Costa, and then preside over major development projects proposed by their backers without declaring an interest.
This was the case with Mr Costa’s $100 million HomeTown project. When it was first considered by the council last year, not one of the councillors he supported thought to put a hand up to declare a potential conflict of interest.
The Geelong saga also raises questions about whether recent State Government amendments to the Local Government Act, requiring the declaration of council campaign donations, are tough enough.
There is a real irony in this story because it emerged just as Geelong was starting to drag itself out of the economic doldrums and enjoy a mini boom in population and investment. It was people like Frank Costa who insisted Geelong needed a better quality of council to ensure the city made the most of the good times. As is so often the case with Geelong, the city’s fortunes seem to run parallel with its beloved football club.