The continued ‘musical chairs’ between Esakoff, Hyams and Lipshutz on the issue of conflicts of interest show no sign of abating. What was a new step on Tuesday night is that both Hyams and Esakoff did not declare a conflict in relation to the MRC giant screen application under the clauses they had previously used (78B), but instead declared a ‘personal interest’ under Section 79B. The minutes record the following:

Cr Hyams applied for a Conflicting personal interest under s79B of the Local Government Act stating that there is no Conflict of Interest as such but as he is a member of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Trust which has also needed to look at this issue.

Cr Esakoff applied for a Conflicting personal interest under s79B of the Local Government Act as she is a member of the Trust that has looked at this issue.

8.48PM Cr Hyams and Cr Esakoff left the Chamber.

In the interests of complete accuracy, here is what Section 79B of the Local Government Act States. We draw readers’ attention to clause 2 and 5.

Conflicting personal interest

    (1)     This section does not apply to a Councillor or member of a special committee who has a conflict of interest in the matter.

    (2)     If a Councillor or a member of a special committee considers that he or she has a personal interest in relation to a matter that is in conflict with his or her public duty in relation to the matter, the Councillor or member may, immediately before the matter is considered at the relevant meeting, apply to the Council or special committee to be exempted from voting on the matter.

    (3)     If a Councillor or member of a special committee makes an application under subsection (2), he or she must give reasons in support of the application.

    (4)     A Council or special committee may consent to an application made under subsection (2) and must not unreasonably withhold consent.

    (5)     If a Council or special committee consents to an application under subsection (4), sections 79(6), 79(7), 79(8) and 79(9) apply as if the personal interest that is the subject of an application under subsection (2) were a conflict of interest specified under this Act.

Lipshutz remained in the chamber, seconded the motion, spoke to it and voted! His ‘explanation’ and comments were –

LIPSHUTZ: began by declaring that he doesn’t have a conflict of interest in this item ‘because I am not a member of the MRC’ and that ‘when I look at this (application) it is appropriate‘. Since one of the purposes of the racecourse is ‘racing’ and the screen isn’t any ‘bigger than the one in NSW’ and that racing brings in a ‘lot of revenue for the State’ and ‘I think it’s important’. Said that this doesn’t mean that it’s ‘more important than the other two purposes’ (ie park). This is ‘appropriate’ and won’t have any ‘impact on houses nearby’ and isn’t an ‘amenity issue’. He saw ‘no reason to refuse it’.

All in all quite staggering we say. How one councillor continually adjudges that his position is different to two other councillors in the identical situation is mind boggling. And of course, this application has never rested on the premise as to whether anyone is a member of the MRC. That is a nonsense, since it is the Trust which has legal oversight of the MRC. Even more disturbing is that not one single councillor has challenged Lipshutz in his refusal to leave the chamber, or possibly to leave councillor assemblies. So much for adhering to the principles of ‘conflict of interest’.

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