“Some remarks attributed to me publicly have been taken as reflecting adversely on David Eden. I want to make it clear that I had no intention of reflecting adversely on the integrity of David Eden and I know of no basis for any such reflection. I am glad to say that Cr Eden enjoys a fine reputation and represents his community in a fine manner and I apologise if ever I said anything that suggests to the contrary.”
MORDIALLOC MP Lorraine Wreford has accused a residents’ group of being a clandestine Labor Party front inappropriately “propped up” by ratepayers’ funds.
Ms Wreford told state parliament last week the Kingston Residents Association was “a closed shopfront for local Labor campaign activities”.
Ms Wreford repeated her original accusations made under parliamentary privilege in an interview with The News. She said her recent attendance at the KRA’s October annual general meeting had confirmed her suspicions that the group was merely a Labor Pary front.
The Liberal MP said a report from the group’s treasurer showed “Kingston Labor councillors have propped up this front with $2500 in ratepayer-funded councillor ward funds”.
Ms Wreford told The News she was not invited to the KRA’s AGM but decided to attend as it was a public meeting.
“There were a lot of shocked looks on people’s faces when I arrived,” she said. Ms Wreford said she picked up some KRA paperwork and noted that the minutes for a previous meeting stated that $2500 worth of ward grants had been received by the group the previous financial year.
She said the KRA meeting was stacked with Labor Party branch members and helpers and that she did not think it was an appropriate use of ratepayers’ money to “prop up” the group.
The KRA has been running for just over one year and has about 15 members, according to Ms Wreford. “I believe it has been set up as a front for the Labor Party,” she said. “Most of the 15 members are, I understand, card-carrying members of the Labor Party.”
Kingston Residents Association president Maureen Lim said she was a member of the Labor Party but that this should not exclude her from involvement in issues that affect the Kingston community.
“I’ve never pretended not to be a member of the ALP,” Ms Lim said. She said 14 of the KRA’s 23 members were also members of the Labor Party. “We welcome all new members, regardless of political persuasion, and do not engage in local party politics,” she said.
Council records show Kingston councillors Tamara Barth, David Eden, Steve Staikos and Rosemary West have allocated ward grant money to the KRA.
Councillors are allocated $6000 in ward grants each financial year “for small grants to be provided to groups and individuals, or towards projects or events that are consistent with council’s strategic directions, and benefit to Kingston’s residents and community”, according to council regulations.
Ms Wreford singled out Cr David Eden for particular criticism in her parliamentary attack.
She said Cr Eden had supplied “this group with funny money, despite the fact that his father is one of the faceless men running this group”.
Mr Eden’s father, Nick Eden, is a member of the KRA and is seeking Labor pre-selection to contest the seat of Carrum at next year’s state election.
State Liberal MP Donna Bauer holds the seat with a 2.1 per cent margin.
“Cr David Eden has not declared a conflict of interest despite the fact that both his parents are members of this group,” Ms Wreford told parliament.
Cr Eden has allocated $1500 in ward grants to the KRA. He told The News his father was a member of the KRA but was not on the group’s executive committee.
He said his mother had never been a member, despite Ms Wreford’s claim to the contrary.
“It’s a cheap shot from Lorraine Wreford,” he said. “There is no conflict of interest under council ward grants rules since my father is not on the executive of the Kingston Residents Association.”
Council rules state: “The allocation of council ward grants will occur in a manner that is transparent and accountable…this ensures all ward grants distributions are subject to the highest degree of public scrutiny.”
The News does not suggest Cr Eden has acted improperly.
KRA president Maureen Lim said that herself, Chris Ransom, Nola Baker and former Kingston councillor Trevor Shewan made up the group’s four-person committee.
Mr Ransom is trying to gain Labor Party pre-selection for the seat of Mordialloc.
Ms Lim said Nick Eden “started” the KRA in July last year but passed it on to her stewardship a few months later.
“Nick started up the KRA to see if he could get council rates set up to rise by CPI,” Ms Lim said. “He subsequently rang me up and said it was an incorporated organisation that could be transferred and used for community good.
“It was too good an opportunity to pass up – they were giving it to us on a platter.”
Some community issues on which the KRA has lobbied include Thames Promenade road safety improvements; a ramp upgrade at Edithvale Lifesaving Club; and opposing a concrete crusher application in the green wedge.
Ms Lim said the council ward grants had been used to buy stationary, prepare paperwork for VCAT cases and set up a bi-monthly newsletter.
Cr Eden said he believed Ms Wreford’s attack was politically motivated.
“It’s the start of a dirt campaign ahead of next year’s state election against people who are trying to build a public profile,” he said.
Note: The original article published in the Chelsea Mordialloc Mentone News dated 18 December 2013 incorrected stated Cr Eden started the Kingston Residents Association in July 2012 before passing it on to current present Maureen Lim’s stewardship a few months later. The KRA was founded by Cr David Eden’s father, Nick Eden. The word ‘Mr’ instead of ‘Cr’ was substituted into the article during the subediting process. The subsequent line “Nick started up the KRA” in the article showed Nick Eden was the person referred to. A correction was published in the Chelsea Mordialloc Mentone News dated 15 January 2014.