MP’s job ‘bribe’ denied

Former Narre Warren South MP Judith Graley was offered a job by developer John Woodman after she left State Parliament, IBAC has heard.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Former Labor MP Judith Graley was offered a job by developer John Woodman soon after she left State Parliament, an IBAC inquiry has heard.

In a phone intercept on 9 October 2018, Mr Woodman and ALP lobbyist Phil Staindl discuss a future “on the ground” lobbying role for the Narre Warren South MP at Mr Woodman’s company Watsons.

They were to raise the matter with Ms Graley at a lunch at Point Leo Estate restaurant on 2 November.

Mr Woodman, who is in the UAE watching a Pakistan-Australian Test cricket match, says: “We will be going forward with her.”

Mr Staindl says Ms Graley could cover a “lot of the community stuff”.

“I said last week ‘Have you given any more thought to what sort of role you want?’

“She said ‘Not hugely’. She wanted to have a bit of space first up… It was the final week of Parliament two weeks ago and yep, she’s still busy.”

In the lead-up, Ms Graley had been advocating to the Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s office for Mr Woodman’s desired rezoning of Cranbourne West industrial land, the inquiry heard.

Soon after, media reports linked the matter – known as Amendment C219 – to alleged corrupt deals between developers and Casey councillors.

Counsel assisting IBAC, Michael Tovey, told Mr Staindl on 12 November that the job offer “smacks very much of a bribe”.

“No, it was actually looking at how we could build on her skill set, and the area that was being discussed was community development because she had a strong interest in that role,” Mr Staindl replied.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a retiring MP to start considering options in the weeks leading up to their retirement what they may or may not do post then, and, as it transpired, she decided to pursue a different course.”

On 10 March 2020, IBAC heard that Ms Graley’s role was scuttled after she was told by ALP senior advisers to stay away from C219.

Developer consultant Tom Kenessey told the hearing that a “devastated” Ms Graley apparently told Mr Woodman she was going to take 12 months’ holiday and didn’t want to work with him anymore.

Mr Woodman also seemed “disappointed” by the news in early 2019, Mr Kenessey said.

Ms Graley has been named as “our good friend in the SE (South East)” in an email exchange between Mr Woodman and Mr Staindl, the inquiry has also heard.

Ms Graley was couched as developer John Woodman and his associates’ last hope in swaying the State Government to rezone the land during the emails on 20 June 2018.

At stake was a $200 million residential estate proposal by developer Leightons and a $2 million ’success fee’ for Mr Woodman personally, the IBAC Operation Sandon inquiry heard.

Mr Woodman told the inquiry in 2019 he’d been funding Ms Graley’s political campaigning but denied she lobbied for the rezoning out of a “sense of obligation” to him.

Ms Graley had been a “friend” going back to her time as a Mornington Peninsula Shire councillor, one of the “main instigators” of Mr Woodman’s Martha Cove project, he said.

And she had the “ability to speak directly to the Minister for Planning”.

In an earlier email to Mr Woodman, his lobbyist and former Labor candidate Phil Staindl described Ms Graley briefing him on her lobbying.

She approached “the Minister” and his delegate ‘AH’, reportedly telling them that halting C219 would be “politically disastrous” and against the “overwhelming views of local residents”, Mr Staindl wrote.

“She went so far as to predict it will (be) the difference between winning and losing the seat of Cranbourne.”

After 12 years as a Labor MP, Ms Graley did not recontest her Narre Warren South seat at the 2018 state election.

The inquiry heard that Mr Woodman donated more than $150,000 to Labor ahead of the election.

 

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