The more Melbourne planning chair councillor and Baillieu faction Liberal operative Ken Ong talks, the more it appears obvious his values are totally alien to what most people would accept as ethical.
And so they came to see me, and I said you need to talk to our planners to do this and if you can help us, we can help you with a discount on an apartment and I said no, no thank you, no thank you. I’m not in the apartment market and the process here is not like that. So that’s the gist of how it all started and then I said look, we have well professional planners in the City of Melbourne and urban designers who can advise what they need to do. So it was not really a straight bribe, maybe it was like a naive approach to trying to progress a project which they don’t know how to and my approach was always to educate people on the processes that we have here in the City of Melbourne. We have very, very well established process for many, many years.
Especially noteworthy was his reasoning for declining the offer: “I’m not in the apartment market…”
Just as well he wasn’t.
Ong continues to describe the bribe attempt and his disgraceful failure to refer it to the proper authorities as no big deal:
So people have described it as a bribe. I describe it as an inappropriate and naive proposal…
Ong needs to come clean on this and reveal who it was. He’s already admitted to Radio Australia “it was a new developer coming in from China.” It’s appropriate he name names, if not in public, but to the authorities so we can be comforted they didn’t continue these indecent proposals with other planning decision-makers.
His public duty is and was clear: he was and remains obliged to pass on what he knew about the corrupt offer to the Victoria Police and the council CEO.
Any public official who thinks an offer of a discounted apartment on a development on which they are a decision-maker isn’t a bribe offer is clearly operating in a different ethical and legal paradigm from what most Australians would demand.
While his attempt to smear others has hilariously backfired, the issue he’s inadvertently raised against himself demands serious investigation. Ong will almost certainly be re-elected because most people have already voted and public confidence in town planning in the City of Melbourne will be difficult to maintain with his ongoing involvement, representing a huge challenge for those elected this week.