Dan Andrews continues to dodge accountability despite latest IBAC findings

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission's long-awaited final report calls into question the culture of politics in Victoria.

Dan Andrews continues to dodge accountability despite latest IBAC findings
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The culmination of a five-year probe by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), Operation Sandon's final report has exposed shocking "cash-for-access" culture in Victorian politics.

The examination spotlighted corruption in Victoria, implicating not only local councillors but also the Premier and top ministers, although Dan Andrews once again managed to dodge any unfavourable conclusions.

Unlike local Casey councillors who faced public grilling, Premier Andrews was allowed to undergo a private review, possibly his third or fourth.

The report revealed the intricate ways in which businessman John Woodman capitalised on political contributions to purchase "privileged access" to influential figures, including Andrews himself.

The 308-page document delves into Andrews' connection with Woodman, a property developer from the same southeast Melbourne area as Andrews.

It's worth noting how Woodman characterised their relationship in a 2022 interview with The Australian, saying, “I’ve known Daniel since he had pimples on his face, met him at fundraisers years ago.”

When asked why he ardently backed Andrews, Woodman praised the Premier's work, especially his effort in removing level crossings.

The report led to stern findings against former Casey councillors Sam Aziz and Geoff Ablett, accused of accepting significant payments from Woodman for beneficial planning rulings.

The evidence suggests that both councillors received personal benefits from decisions they influenced, casting a spotlight on them and Woodman for potential legal charges.

Despite these revelations, the major takeaway from Operation Sandon is not the misconduct of suburban councillors. Rather, it uncovers the greater issue of the broader political culture in Victoria, and how political donations have lubricated both Labor and Liberal party operations.

Operation Sandon uncovered corruption risks in planning, political contributions, lobbying, and council governance. Its recommended reforms seek to raise the anti-corruption bar in Victoria.

The report also emphasises Woodman's extended reach to several senior ministers and his significant influence over planning decisions.

One recommendation that stands out suggests strengthening the regulatory regime governing political donations by identifying and banning high-risk groups, including property developers, from contributing to political entities and government candidates.

Andrews' private participation in Operation Sandon marks another instance of the Premier being questioned privately instead of publicly.

Although the agency claims its legislation sets a high threshold for public hearing summons, many critics argue that the IBAC has been lenient when dealing with the Premier.

The public grilling of suburban councillors in contrast to Andrews' private examination over similar issues continues to raise eyebrows and questions about the IBAC's procedures.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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