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UNFIT FOR OFFICE: Melbourne council Planning czar Ken Ong admits silence on corruption

KenongControversial Melbourne councillor and Planning czar Ken Ong – a member of the Liberal party aligned to the Baillieu faction – could be sacked from the council if – as expected – he’s re-elected in counting that will occur at the end of this week.

The Age reports the councillor was offered a bribe by a developer and stayed silent about it for two years, failing to report the crime to Victoria Police.

Prolific Liberal fundraiser Jason Yeap, former Senator Tsbin Tchen and one-time VEXNEWS/OC favourite Gladys Liu are all now considered part of the Baillieu faction circle of influence around the council and Chinese business community. We suspect that’s more like their boastful characterisation than any real genuine desire of the Premier to dabble in the goings-on at Melbourne Town Hall. Mostly the government has been happy with Doyle.

The most important thing to know about Ong’s internal Melbourne council dealings is that he was desperate to be on Lord Mayor Robert Doyle’s Team Doyle council ticket but was rejected by the former Liberal leader in favour of John So’s well-regarded former chief-of-staff Kevin Louey. Since then Ong has been on a crusade of vengeance and reprisal, making many allegations about Doyle and his group. The Age has lapped it all up, of course, mostly oblivious to the sneaky chicanery involved in Ong’s claims.

The childcare centre entrepreneur Ken Ong’s stunning confession on the weekend to Fairfax scribes that he’d been offered a bribe – by a developer he’s not willing to name – back in 2010 and that he failed to bring the matter to the attention of Victoria Police, the council CEO and other proper authorities has prompted the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle to question whether Ong is “fit for office.” It’s a fair point given his legal and ethical obligations to report the crime.

Doyle’s judgment in not accepting Ong as part of his councillor ticket has certainly been vindicated.

The councillor appears to have covered-up a serious crime. An offer of a bribe to a public official is certainly enough to constitute a crime in Victoria, legal experts tell VEXNEWS. It doesn’t actually have to be paid. The Victorian Public Sector Standards Commissioner’s “minimum requirements and accountabilities” in the public sector are clear enough:

Refuse bribes and report bribery attempts to the head of the public sector organisation or their delegate and to Victoria Police.

By his own admission Ong has failed to do this:

Councillor Ken Ong, who is warning of a “subculture” of corruption taking root in Melbourne, told The Sunday Age a developer offered him a big discount on an apartment in exchange for planning help on projects. Cr Ong refused…

Cr Ong, who is seeking re-election to the city council, described the apartment discount offer, made in 2010, as “naive” but said such naivety was common. He declined to name the developer. He told the developer he could only explain the planning process, as he did for others who asked for his help.

In interviews on the ABC this morning, Ong refused to disclose which corrupt developer offered him the bribe of a discounted apartment.

It’s oddly fitting that the council candidate behind weeks of muck-raking against foes has now unwittingly exposed his own wrongdoing over bribery that could lead to his sacking from the council…

This is clearly not a sustainable position, especially given his clear public sector duty and the rumours circulating about whether Ong has accepted a campaign donation from that same foreign developer who was once involved in a large residential development in the CBD near Flagstaff Gardens before selling it to another foreign group. Ong has landed himself in an unholy mess.

There is also talk of an accountant with whom Ong maintains close relations. The accountant represents many Chinese developers and in that capacity has extensive liaisons with the City of Melbourne planning process on their behalf. Some think the accountant has shared financial love with Councillor Ong’s re-election campaign account. How very friendly of him. We make no suggestion of wrongdoing in relation to any of this but these entanglements do prove the point that Ong is keeping stony silent about many of his back-room manoeuvrings while pretending to be an open-book. He is a complex man, a scandal waiting to explode, many suspect.

Ong might well have thought he was safe given the election is nearly over and that he’d shrewdly positioned himself as #1 candidate on the well-funded Singer-So ticket, which came from nowhere to emerge as the most serious challenger to the strongly performing Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.

The councillor is widely thought to have been behind multiple Fairfax stories that smeared Doyle and some of his team on the issue of developer donations to their campaign. Ong appears to be judging council colleagues and rivals by his own low standards of probity, at least if we take his word for it.

As we noted earlier, it all seems to be motivated by revenge about not being given a spring-time rails-run back on the council by Doyle. Others say he was attempting to inoculate himself against claims of wrongdoing about his own decisions and actions as Planning Chair, especially in relation to a prominent Southbank development that has been very controversial with local residents.

The truth is that corruption in planning on local councils in Victoria is very rare, despite The Age/BC’s presumption otherwise. It now seems Ong danced with the Fairfax devil and could end up in boned-councillor Hell. It seems oddly fitting that the council candidate behind weeks of muck-raking against foes has now exposed himself as failing in his duty to fight corruption and bribery in the planning process.

The Minister for Local Government will undoubtedly receive a briefing on Councillor Ong’s conduct should he be re-elected. At the very least an investigation into Ong’s corruption cover-up incident should occur and unless he can provide a credible and reasonable explanation as to why he stayed silent, she will have little choice but to exercise her power to sack him and to refer the details of the incident to Victoria Police.


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  1. hey, Mr Vex, you angling for a job at the ‘Senile Geriatric American’ aka ‘The Australian’? I hear they just luuuuurrrvvvv your puerile anti-greens puff.

    Posted by the real wm | October 22, 2012, 14:50
  2. Ken Ong first says he was personally offered a bribe and that “if we don’t bring this under control there will be a subculture developing in the investment fraternity, especially from new money coming in from overseas, not just China”. When questioned, he backpedals furiously and it’s suddenly an isolated incident only. He has been the Chair of the council planning committee for the past four years, now – one week prior to the election – making very serious allegations which have the potential to damage not only councillors but also the administration – both of which are more heavily regulated than State or Federal government decision makers.

    The Singer team are obviously hoping the Age will just keep publishing the dirt they are throwing at Robert Doyle and not ask any questions. Shame on the Age for not asking these questions and for allowing publication of an article by a journo who is currently the subject of a Federal police investigation into hacking and other dodgy practices.

    Posted by Sarah | October 22, 2012, 16:45
  3. This is an attack on development and progress in Melbourne.

    Posted by Flied Lice | October 22, 2012, 16:52
  4. Ah so Ong good man he buy dim sim from my Fah King restaurant every week. His girl friend Ting Tong is a bit all right too.

    Posted by Wun Hung Low | October 22, 2012, 18:45
  5. Is Dick Wynne still alive?

    Posted by Henry Li | October 22, 2012, 23:23
  6. Oh Paulie you made Mummsie so proud tonight, you are just like me a ‘nasty imbecile’ hurry back home for your nightly suckle on my pasty saggy supple teat.

    Posted by Inga Binga | October 22, 2012, 23:53
  7. It seems the ALP is up to its usual tricks with attempted vote rigging in Melbourne council elections.

    Posted by Typical ALP | October 23, 2012, 15:58
  8. Given the allegations of vote rigging it is important more than ever that the VEC conduct a preliminary sort of ballot papers into primary groups. The LGA Act requires the VEC to undertake a preliminary sort. If the VEC seeks to cut corners and avoid the preliminary sort it would seriously undermine the quality of the scrutiny of the ballot and public confidence in the electoral system.

    A preliminary sort would allow scrutineers to observe a particular candidates primary vote and detect any likely hood of ballot stuffing. It allows scrutineers to compare hand writing. Any vote that is out of the ordinary or same handwriting would come under closer review.

    Posted by Melbcity | October 24, 2012, 20:19
  9. The Age yesterday decided to print their own allegations against Doyle as fact, in the middle of an article on an investigation into criminal vote rigging. Clearly aiming to inflict serious damage in the final few days before polls close. Because Doyle won’t dance to the Age’s tune they’ve stepped up their dirt throwing to straight lies. It’s difficult to blame Doyle for not dancing to the Age’s tune. As the only liberal aligned candidate in the race, the Age were hardly going to stop attacking Doyle if he had released the names of the people who donated to his campaign, the attacks would have increased, but the Age would also have drawn in the ordinary business people who supported Doyle, and dragged their names and reputations through the dirt. Are any real journos at the Age cringing? I for one hope this is not the Age’s business as usual behaviour – past, present or future.

    Posted by Sarah | October 25, 2012, 10:26
  10. McPerton! Where are you, my dear friend? It is time to celebrate another stunning Fatty Doyle victory.

    Posted by Rt Hon Lord Mayor Fatty Doyle | October 28, 2012, 20:05
  11. Fatty come home ‘Tiger’ please don’t go out drinking with that bitter old drunkard McPerton. By the way – I’m wearing the red teddy and nothing else…….

    Posted by EPC | October 28, 2012, 21:02
  12. Paulie my darling little boy, you’re made Mummy so proud. Between us we have gained control of Kingston, come home quickly my pendulous teats await you for your yummy big feed.

    Posted by Inga Binga | October 28, 2012, 22:05
  13. Shit I have to put up with Medcraft on Hume Council for 4 bloody years. It was bad enough with 1 Jack now we have got 2.
    What happened to the good old days of stacking the council with your own kind? Shame is the only word I can think of.

    Posted by jamie rudd | October 29, 2012, 8:03


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