Payments to council candidates probed
24 December 2005
Suellen Gerrard, The West Australian
The Corruption and Crime Commission is investigating payments made to Busselton Shire Council candidates by a retail lobby group and any links it may have to the $330 million Smiths Beach proposal.
The CCC last month began inquiries into whether candidates in last May's elections revealed the true source of financial campaign assistance.
Four candidates declared they had received more than $12,000 between them from the Independent Action Group, which ran the successful "no" campaign against extended retail trading hours. High-profile lobbyists Julian Grill and Brian Burke spearheaded that campaign.
Two successful candidates, John Triplett and Anne Ryan, told a council meeting last week they had since become aware of links between the Independent Action Group and the Smiths Beach proponents.
In a statement read to the council, Cr Triplett said he was now aware a director of a company associated with the Smiths Beach development had an association with the Independent Action Group. Cr Ryan said she had not previously been aware of a link.
Cr Triplett said yesterday that he could not elaborate because of legal restrictions as part of the CCC investigation. Cr Ryan could not be contacted.
Mr Grill confirmed he and Mr Burke had acted for the Independent Action Group and were acting for the Smiths Beach developer, Canal Rocks Pty Ltd.
But he said they were not aware of links between the organisations and had not been involved in arranging any funding for Busselton Shire Council candidates.
Independent Action Group president Greg Dean refused to comment on why the organisation funded Busselton Shire Council candidates or whether it had any links to Smiths Beach.
Smiths Beach Action Group chairman Bob McKay said the questions that had been raised were threatening to undermine the community's confidence in the council and he urged Canal Rocks Pty Ltd to set the record straight.
Canal Rocks Pty Ltd chairman David McKenzie could not be contacted.
Canal Rocks wants to turn Smiths Beach, near Yallingup, into the South West's version of Rottnest Island with 114 residential lots, 272 short stay strata lots, an 100-room motel, backpackers lodge and camping site.
It is revising the plans to address concerns raised by the shire and will lodge them early next year.
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