Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has put himself at arm's length from a developer embroiled in alleged corruption, despite dining with him at a Melbourne restaurant.
Mr Andrews has denied suggestions he’d had inappropriate dealings with developer John Woodman, but admitted meeting him at Flower Drum restaurant in Chinatown in 2017 and accepting a donation from him in 2002.
Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission is investigating any influence Mr Woodman may have had over Victorian MPs and councillors as he tried to get favourable planning decisions.
“We discussed, principally, a charity golf day that he was very keen to put on, which I think raised in the order of $400,000 for Monash Children’s Hospital. He had been very keen to run that golf day for quite some time,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Tuesday.
“It was an appropriate thing for us to sit down and talk about.”
A staffer from the premier’s office and a small number of people who worked with Mr Woodman attended the meeting for about an hour, Mr Andrews said.
“If this individual had raised an individual planning matter with me, then the meeting would have been over. In those meetings and all meetings, I act appropriately,” he said.
Mr Andrews, a noted golf fan, didn’t play at the golf day, but did hand out prizes and give a speech.
He was not aware Mr Woodman was reportedly representing alleged mafia boss Tony Madafferi in planning applications at the time, and only found out later.
“There was some press reporting of that, not long after that meeting. I have not been too concerned about his client list or those sorts of issues because of course, I have not been someone who has sat down and talked to him about active planning matters,” Mr Andrews said.
“He has never raised active planning matters with me – if he had I would have stood up and left.”
Mr Andrews and Mr Woodman later attended some of the same events, and Mr Andrews said he’d previously gone to Mr Madafferi’s fruit shop in his electorate, but has not returned.
Mr Woodman gave $2500 to his Mulgrave campaign when he first entered parliament 17 years ago, Mr Andrews said.
He could not say exactly how many times he’s met Mr Woodman over the years.
The corruption watchdog’s investigation of allegedly dodgy deals in the City of Casey was reportedly told on Tuesday that councillor Geoff Ablett had met with Labor MP Luke Donnellan to discuss an upgrade to an intersection, and got him on board.
Mr Andrews said he would wait for IBAC’s work to finish before looking at whether reforms needed to be made.