By Bev Jordan
The report into allegations of impropriety against agents of the Hills Shire Council and property developers in the region has called for a further inquiry into alleged moves to stack Liberal branches to remove Federal Member for Mitchell Alex Hawke which were revealed in evidence.
The 478-page document also asks for certain matters to be referred to ICAC. The Upper House inquiry was set up to examine matters raised by Castle Hill Liberal MP Ray Williams in State Parliament on June 23rd last year which were made under parliamentary privilege.
The eight member committee, included 3 Liberal MPs, 1 Nationals MP and 3 Labor MPs and was chaired by Greens MP Sue Higginson. Mark Pearson from the Animal Justice Party was Deputy Chair.
Sue Higginson called it “an extraordinary inquiry” hitting out at “key witnesses who have gone to great lengths to avoid scrutiny.”
She said the “serious allegations of collusion between members of the Liberal party and a developer to replace elected members of The Hills Shire Council with new councillors” and revelations about “branch-stacking activities in The Hills area” were concerning.
The report was handed down on March 2nd and has been tabled for a Government response on June 2nd, several months after the State election.
The report’s top two findings were:
“That, based on evidence to the committee, a meeting took place at which Christian Ellis and Jean- Claude Perrottet asked a businessman to contribute $50,000 to an operation to unseat Alex Hawke, federal member for Mitchell.
“That the finding of this committee about a request for $50,000, combined with the behaviour of witnesses called to this inquiry, add weight to the allegations by Government MP Ray Williams in the parliament that ‘Jean Nassif of Toplace met with Christian Ellis and other senior members of the Liberal Party, who were paid significant funds in order to arrange to put new councillors on The Hills Shire Council who would be supportive of future Toplace development applications’.
The committee’s report stated: “We stress that none of the allegations raised in this inquiry reflect on the professionalism and integrity of (Hills Shire) council staff, who are required to work with whichever councillors are elected.”
Sue Higginson said: “This inquiry has raised questions that are too serious to leave unanswered simply because this Parliament has run its course. For this reason, the committee has recommended that a new inquiry into these matters be established in the next Parliament. Essential to that will be the involvement of Christian Ellis, Charles Perrottet, Jean-Claude Perrottet and (developer) Jean Nassif.”
The committee has also recommended that the influence of property developers and others in political, legal and democratic processes in the Hills Shire region be referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption for investigation.