July 9 2002 - The World Today Archive - Originally Reported
by: Eleanor Hall
Members of a prominent Sydney Council could be sacked and sent to
jail following the news today that The New South Wales corruption
watchdog, te Independent Commission Against Corruption, has
recommended two councillors and two developers be charged with
Rockdale Council has been under investigation now for some months
over allegations it corruptly approved millions of dollars worth of
development in the increasing pricey southern Sydney region.
Evidence, gathered covertly, has pointed to a sleazy regime
involving developers, go betweens and bribes to councillors and
political parties. Million dollar developments were often at
stake, and the affair has embroiled both the Liberal and Labor
One councillor has already resigned over the scandal. Now another is
facing not only the threat of the sack but the possibility of
criminal charges. Our reporter Simon Santow is at the ICAC and he
joins me now. Simon what exactly has the Commissioner recommended
SIMON SANTOW: Well Eleanor, not surprisingly the Commissioner has
followed the recommendations of their own Council and have agreed
that in fact, six of those people that you mentioned, the two
developers, the two go betweens and the two Councillors have been
found by them to be corrupt.
And engaged in corrupt conduct and that brief of evidence has been
passed on to the Director of Public Prosecutions in New South Wales.
Who will now consider whether or not to lay charges.
COMPERE: So what does this mean now for the future of the Council
and for the individual Councillors in particular.
SIMON SANTOW: Irene Moss, the ICAC Commissioner, stopped short of
recommending that the Council itself be sacked. She didn't agree
that there was systemic corruption in the Council.
However, she certainly recommended that the Deputy Mayor, Labour
Councillor, Adam McCormick who remain to this day on the Council
should be dismissed as a result of facing such serious criminal
charges of soliciting or receiving bribes.
COMPERE: Now you mentioned Adam McCormick. What it is that the ICAC
is alleging that he has done?
SIMON SANTOW: Well ICAC is basically alleging that he received
bribes in the course of his work as a Councillor. That he may not
arranged the bribes himself but he was happy to go along with it.
During weeks of public hearings the ICAC heard recordings covertly
made and SMS text messages also covertly intercepted which indicated
that Councillor McCormick was happy to provide his vote and even
arrange some votes from his ALP colleagues.
In return for accepting money from developers often through go
betweens which would then, he said, be made as political donations
to the ALP and he would be in fact the person to pass on those
political donations to the ALP.
COMPERE: Now another Councillor has in fact resigned over this
scandal. What has Adam McCormick said about his text messages that
have been intercepted, and so many of them, what's his explanation
SIMON SANTOW: Well he claims that the Councillor, you say who has
resigned, Councillor Andrew Smyrnis, the Liberal Councillor
effectively denied everything, then rolled over and agreed.
Yes, you've got me. You've caught me and I was in it. His colleague
Adam McCormick, the Labor one, is now claiming or did claim in the
public hearings that a lot of the intercepted messages that
enveloped him in the scandal was just fanciful talk.
Councillor McCormick said I boasted about influence, I boasted that
I could do things that I couldn't necessarily do things and that you
shouldn't take everything that I said seriously.
COMPERE: Now you said that the ICAC doesn't regard the Council as
having systemic corruption there. But does it regard this incident
as an isolated case or is there some suggestion that the practice
could be more widespread?
SIMON SANTOW: Well in fact, Irene Moss has gone out of her way to
say that what happened at Rockdale could easily have happened in
other Councils in New South Wales. And by that extension, one would
assume that also across Australia given that the process of
development applications is pretty standard across the country.
When you want to get a building application approved you need to put
it before a Council, they need to approve it and they vote on that
COMPERE: Has she made any recommendation then to try and stem that?
SIMON SANTOW: Indeed, she says that in fact Councils should look at
appointing independent advisory hearing panels which would look at
alternative decision making models from the current process of
putting things to a vote.
And in doing that, they would seek obviously independent advice and
they would maximise openness and there would be less room for this
sort of corrupt behaviour to occur.
COMPERE: And very briefly Simon, are there any lessons or warning
signals for any other tiers of Government in Australia?
SIMON SANTOW: Well certainly I guess the most relevant part of that
Eleanor, is the issue of political donations. As I said, Adam
McCormick said he was just gathering political donations for the
Well, if you believe him Irene Moss the Commissioner of ICAC has a
problem with that in that she says that political donations might
well be a part of the democratic process.
But, we need greater openness, we need stronger disclosure rules, we
need guidelines for lobbying Councillors and that the political
parties, she'd like to see a bipartisan approach taken by the
political parties in order to have a better system of political
COMPERE: Simon Santow down at the Independent Commission for
Corruption Headquarters in Sydney, thanks very much for that.