A Moonee Valley Councillor has declared he was gifted tickets to the 2018 Manikato Stakes at the Moonee Valley Racecourse worth $498 – two dollars lower than the gift disclosure threshold.
Cr Cam Nation declared, in the Councillors’ Register of Gifts, that he received two tickets to attend the 2018 race night at $249 per person.
Another councillor claimed an invitation to the same event at a value of $500.
Cr Nation declared tickets to the Manikato Stakes in 2016 and 2017 at a value of $500 each time. He declared a further $400 worth of tickets to an MVRC event in January 2018.
Cr Nation was contacted by MV Blog but has not responded.
Moonee Valley Council has said it is up to the person receiving the gift or hospitality to nominate the value of the gift or hospitality.
A gift of $500 or more can create an indirect interest in a matter for a councillor requiring them to declare a conflict for five years following the receipt of the applicable gift.
The proposed development at the Moonee Valley Racecourse has caused ongoing concern for residents and councillors.
Residents have been concerned about the extent of the proposed development, and six councillors have declared a conflict of interest with the MVRC as a result of accepting at least $500 worth of race event tickets.
Last year, measures were put in place to allow the three remaining non-conflicted councillors to form a special committee to decide the planning applications. One MVRC application was approved with conditions in October 2018.
The special committee was due to meet again on 3 April 2019 – however, the meeting was cancelled as one of the councillors was on leave.
At the Council meeting on 9 April, Council resolved that planning applications related to the Moonee Valley Racecourse may be assessed by council officers under delegation, until enough councillors are free from a direct or indirect conflict with the MVRC or other interested parties.
The six councillors unable to vote on MVRC applications are conflicted for slightly different reasons: Crs Byrne, Sipek and Sharpe accepted two tickets valued at $250 each to the Manikato Stakes in October 2017.
Cr Surace had attended races in her role as Mayor during 2017 with the total value of gifts she had received closer to $5000. Cr Cusack attended the Manikato Stakes in 2016 at a value of $500.
Councillors have since expressed their regret about accepting the gifts that have rendered them unable to make decisions about the MVRC development. Some had received advice at the time that the tickets were exempt as “reasonable hospitality” attended in an “official capacity”.
The MVRC development is proceeding in stages. Last year, the MVRC announced that it has appointed a joint venture between Hostplus and Hamton as development partners for ‘The Valley of Tomorrow’.
The applicant for the MVRC planning applications is now Hamton Hostplus Joint Venture.
Hostplus, founded by the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) and United Voice, is one of the largest industry superannuation funds in Australia and states that its Board “does not make political donations or support individual political parties”.
Interestingly, United Voice, an associated entity with all state branches of the ALP, received $500,000 from Host-Plus in 2017-18. Host-Plus Pty Ltd is the Trustee for Hostplus. The shareholders of the Trustee are United Voice and AHA.
An associated entity is any organisation that is connected to a political party either by controlling a party, operating to benefit a party, is a financial member of a registered political party, or has voting rights in a party.