A Western Metropolitan MP has taken Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins to task for not acting on rumours of dummy candidates and bribery throughout the 2016 Wyndham council election campaign.
Speaking in Parliament last week, upper house MP Bernie Finn also called on Ms Hutchins to suspend all 11 Wyndham councillors and appoint administrators while a Local Government Inspectorate investigation into the election takes place.
“The minister may well recall that last year I did warn her that if she did not step in prior to the council elections in Wyndham, there would be trouble ahead,” Mr Finn said.
“At the moment all candidates, including all the councillors elected in October last year, are under a cloud.
“I am asking her to remove the councillors in the interests of giving the council some certainty, and I am asking her to remove the councillors in the hope that the residents can be sure that their council is on the up and up.
“The council election in October last year lacked integrity – the investigation that is currently being undertaken by the inspectorate shows that it lacked integrity – and in my view the residents deserve better.”
Star Weekly asked Ms Hutchins’s office last week if the minister had powers to intervene during the Wyndham council election campaign, and if she would consider appointing administrators, but these questions went unanswered.
Mr Finn’s comments come after the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate announced it was investigating allegations of bribery, unlawful nomination and deceptive conduct among several candidates during last year’s Wyndham council election campaign.
The investigation follows a joint expose by Star Weekly and The Sunday Age in January that revealed councillor Intaj Khan was under investigation over his council election campaign, where he was re-elected to Wyndham council on the preferences of a team of dummy running mates, some enrolled – but not resident – at properties owned by him.
Chief municipal inspector David Wolf said based on information already received, and anomalies identified during the investigation to date, it was necessary to speak with all 95 candidates who nominated.
Star Weekly understands the Inspectorate has already spoken to 20 parties – including eight candidates – as part of the investigation.
The remaining candidates have been called in to attend compulsory interviews, which will be held in Hoppers Crossing between June 7-16, to confirm their candidate eligibility and identify any unlawful activities.
Mr Wolf said the department had already been “overwhelmed by the response from candidates who are very keen to tell us what occurred during the election”.