You’ve been charged with nine offences regarding the filing of register of interest returns and non-disclosure of information on those returns. What do you have to say to that?
If you look at charge one, councillor did fail to submit an ordinary return in 40 days. So, I didn’t submit it on time. I know it’s my fifth year [as a councillor] … I did submit it – but didn’t submit it in 40 days.
When did you submit it?
I can’t remember now. The funny part is, you cannot submit a scanned copy. It’s got to be signed and has to be the original copy [lodged in person]. If I’m not in town, happen to be in Sydney, bad luck.
To be fair, you do have a 40-day window to lodge the return. And you missed the deadline on two instances.
Yes. But, if you do submit it two days late, what’s the difference? I accept that [I was late]. I think there should be a reminder. Did I receive a reminder? No. Did I receive a warning? No. Every single department will send you a reminder, but there was no reminder.
I’ve been charged for not submitting on time. Charge two is the same. Not filling out a form – I think I would be the first one taken to court for this.
Let’s go through the other charges. You have three charges for failing to disclose companies or bodies in which you held office during the return period. Another three charges are for failing to disclose companies or bodies in which you held a financial interest. Which companies did you fail to disclose and why?
There were two companies, of many companies. But they’ve only been registered.
I’ve got NBN Australia Limited. I was interested in opening a telecommunications company. I had this great idea, the company was registered, but … it never ever traded. It’s just a name. This company never traded in Wyndham or anywhere in Australia. What benefits have I received from that company? What incentives have I got? And how does it impact Wyndham’s residents?
There’s another company, Georgina Mining. I was interested in the Northern Territory, wanted to explore some mining options. The company never traded and never did anything in the Wyndham city area. It has done some consulting work, but not at all in Wyndham.
It is too harsh on me … I get it, I made a mistake, I accept it, but does that matter need to go to the court?
There was also a failure to disclose property.
I forgot to disclose, once up a time, Mowbray [the former secondary college in Caroline Springs]. Does that make a difference to Wyndham City Council? No. Are they serious charges? We have a strong faith in the court [system] – we’ll put our case forward and we’ll come out clean.
What benefits have I received, apart from all this hassle, and accusations from the public that I know information about where to buy properties? If you, as a normal person, go to the Victorian Planning Authority website, you can check the real estate.
I never bought any assets from council auctions or council property.
Do you feel like you’ve been treated harshly by the Inspectorate?
These things can be sorted out by the Inspectorate … it does not deserve to be taken out to court. It paints a bad picture of a councillor, which is quite stressful and damaging to my health and my business.
Did you fill out these returns yourself?
I filled them out myself. I have 24 properties. I’m a human being, I can’t remember [all my properties]. My land holdings have not affected any decision-making of council – and the inspectorate has not said that, by the way.
So you’re saying this all comes down to an honest mistake?
Yes. It’s an honest mistake, and I know now what I have to do with it … I may authorise someone now to fill it in on behalf of me, and I’ll seek council’s support to send me a reminder and make sure I fill them out on time.
Many residents have called for you to be stood down, or suspended, pending this case. What’s your response to that?
I can’t comment on other people’s views. A lot of residents don’t understand the system, so I would ask them to have a coffee with me, have a tea, if they really want to know the entire story. I respect their views.
Are you confident that you’ll be cleared of these charges?
I’ve got nothing to hide.