Rural land deals should go to corruption watchdog, say Libs

Ian Bushnell 28 August 2020 9
Committee chair Vicki Dunne

Committee chair Vicki Dunne: lack of proper processes and evidence of significant probity risks and maladministration. Photo: File.

The controversial Labor Government acquisition of rural land to the west of Canberra between 2014 and 2018 should be referred to the ACT corruption watchdog, according to Liberal members of a Legislative Assembly committee.

Labor members Bec Cody and Tara Cheyne have dissented from the committee recommendation, saying that both the Auditor-General and the committee had already fully investigated the matter.

But committee chair Vicki Dunne said the lack of proper processes and evidence of significant probity risks and maladministration suggests that some of these land deals would benefit from further investigation by the ACT’s Integrity Commission.

The committee also highlighted potential conflicts of interest relating to former government staff and planning decisions to do with ACT Government ownership of leases on ACT land.

The committee inquired into the report of the Auditor-General into the land deals, and tabled its report in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday.

Auditor-General Dr Maxine Cooper in 2018 identified probity issues and a lack of transparency in the now defunct Land Development Agency’s purchase of rural land on the western edge of Canberra.

Dr Cooper said that there had been a disconnect in the priorities of the work undertaken by the former LDA and the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD).

READ ALSO: LDA’s western land purchases lacked transparency, probity, says Auditor-General

The audit also found that probity was lacking, and there were probity risks in some of the actions of the former LDA in its purchase of the properties, as well as not enough documentation.

Between 2014 and 2018, the LDA spent $43 million buying 3,378 hectares of rural land, of which 3,274 hectares is in the Western Edge Study area, as a potential future urban development front, although there is no certainty of this. The land was identified in the 2012 Planning Strategy as the subject of future investigation but six years on this had not commenced.

There were also questions about the role of former deputy CEO Dan Stewart and unsolicited advice from Colliers International’s Paul Powderly.

The committee found that the LDA did not adhere to planning polices or follow the acquisition framework, and acquired properties without the explicit authorisation of Cabinet.

It also found that Colliers International had a considerable degree of access to the LDA, and that LDA accepted and then followed Colliers’ advice unreservedly.

The Liberal members of the committee found that the Chief Minister and Treasurer, Andrew Barr, then the Minister for Economic Development and minister responsible for the Land Development Agency, was on two occasions involved in the approval of the acquisition of rural leases during this period but there is no evidence to suggest that he considered whether the LDA acquisition of rural leases to the west of Canberra was consistent with existing ACT Government policy or in alignment with the Land Acquisition Policy.

The committee made five other recommendations including that the government investigate appropriate arrangements for senior officers leaving the ACT Public Service and immediately taking up private sector roles in areas relevant to their service, and that planning studies in the ACT be conducted independently of land tenure, including ACT Government ownership of leases on ACT land.

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9 Responses to Rural land deals should go to corruption watchdog, say Libs
Helen Kendall Helen Kendall 1:06 pm 30 Aug 20

Are you saying that the current government 'consults' and acts on the communities concerns or do they do what they want to?

Adrian Kim Adrian Kim 6:52 pm 29 Aug 20

Sure she did 🤫

Justin Watson Justin Watson 6:38 pm 29 Aug 20

I mean the ACT gov may have overpaid for the rural land acquisition. It would be pretty hard to prove it was due to corruption though if there are no direct links to the landowners and the government. This kind of thing happens all the time, all over Australia. Unless the Politician directly benefits, it is pretty hard to show its corruption. It like the 30 million given to Foxtel or the $488 million to that Barrier Reef fund. Both dodgy as hell, but strictly not corruption.

Justin Watson Justin Watson 6:33 pm 29 Aug 20

She should also be outraged her federal mates didn't give the ACT much in those Sports rorts either.

Lyn Kemp Lyn Kemp 5:04 pm 29 Aug 20

And your policies are?????????😖😖

Jack Hearps Jack Hearps 4:30 pm 29 Aug 20

Obviously angry the LP didnt get a cut .... corruption watchdog is needed EVERYWHERE ...

Mac John Mac John 3:41 pm 29 Aug 20

Election matters: Challenge to Candidates: How about limiting the number of terms to two and get fresh (first time) candidates who have demonstrated listening abilities elected and not elect any candidate who has already served two terms. This will help get rid of corruption and self indulgence, and let’s request those new members to do something meaningful about poker machine ( gambling ) and alcohol addiction as well as banning individual donations above say $200 and banning all forms of corporate or non personal donations. Also truth in politics where all political statements ( made by media, politicians, political candidates and others) to be fact and must be supportable by defensible evidence and opinions to be labeled as opinions (with a truth integrity type body charged with calling out falsehoods) being implemented within the next 12 months. Also we need a national corruption investigation and prosecution body now. Any candidate who promises to do their best to implement these things and who has served less than two terms will get my vote.

Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 3:36 pm 29 Aug 20

This woman told me that if Liberals got into power it wouldn't matter what the voters wanted, they would get what Liberal party told them they could have. I took her at her word and have never voted for the Liberals again. When Coe became leader I was grateful for her heads up on how things would go.

    Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 9:54 am 01 Sep 20

    Nell I am sorry you think the truth difficult to believe...shrug but that's ok it is after all not my role in life to teach you anything.

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