Federal Liberal MP Chris Pearce has created a vast and impressive network of local and secretive power that is considered likely to achieve total control of Melbourneâ€™s south-east suburban Knox Council after local elections in November.
Pearce prefers his operatives â€“ only some of whom formally join the Liberal party â€“ to operate in a clandestine manner, quietly positioning themselves to takeover local community groups to provide a platform for local elections and a potential recruiting ground for new members.
Pearce’s crew has even taken over the local Bendigo Bank “community bank branch” in Ferntree Gully and Rowville with its Chairman former Liberal MP Hurtle Lupton, Deputy Chairman frequent campaign material authoriser Graeme McEwin and Finance Director Darren Pearce. State MP Nick Wakeling also served on its board for a time.
As the Federal Shadow Minister for Financial Services, it is natural that Pearce would have a strong interest in the local bank branch. As he is not directly involved in its management, no conflict of interest questions appear to arise.
Pearce runs a slick operation that rarely receives serious scrutiny from local or other media.
Even a political party’s takeover of a local bank branch has barely raised an eyebrow,
Their candidates in Knox invariably are presented as independents, figuring theyâ€™ll poll better as a grassroots community activists rather than being slammed for being at the end of a string pulled by puppet-master Chris Pearce.
Pearceâ€™s local soldiers includes Glenda Frost and Darren Pearce from the Rowville branch of the Party and Sue McMillan from the Ferntree Gully Liberals. McMillanâ€™s hubby Gregory Hyams keeps an eye on the Rowville branch.
Depending on who is elected to the Knox council, Chris Pearce is believed to be planning a pre-meeting meeting of all his supported councillors to ensure that â€œcorrectâ€ decisions are made. He or some of his staff would probably attend such gatherings, Liberal insiders believe.