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Wednesday, 7 March 2001
Page: 25344

Mr ALBANESE (7:50 PM) —I am here tonight to talk about a woman who was so determined to serve on Ashfield Council that she was prepared to rort the electoral roll to do it. In 1999, a woman called Karin Cheung ran as a Voice of the People party candidate in the state elections. This party was set up by a Dr Spencer Wu, who was then a councillor on Ashfield Council—a former Liberal Party member who set up that party. Although Ms Cheung failed to get elected, she delivered her preferences to the Liberal Party at the election. Despite her failed bid, Ms Cheung had obviously been bitten by the electoral bug. She decided that she wanted to run for Ashfield Council as a preselected candidate for the Liberal Party. The problem was that she lived in Hurstville and, under section 306(2) of the New South Wales Local Government Act, to be duly nominated for election as a councillor for an area by the electors of an area, a person must be enrolled as an elector for the area and must be qualified to hold that civic office at the closing date for the election.

Ms Cheung had a number of things she had to rectify. She firstly had to become a member of the Liberal Party and she had to become registered to vote in Ashfield. Luckily for her, Julie Passas, a member of the Liberal Party and a councillor on Ashfield Council, was prepared to nominate her. But where was Ms Cheung supposed to live? Again, as luck would have it, Julie Passas had a sister who lived at 14 Brunswick Parade, Ashfield. So on Friday, 30 April 1999 Karin Cheung enrolled at 14 Brunswick Parade, Ashfield. On her application form for Liberal Party membership Ms Cheung gave her home telephone number in Hurstville. Her address was listed as Ashfield. This same telephone number is registered in the name of Ms Cheung's partner, Mr P. Lechowski, and became the phone number at Ms Cheung's second Hurstville address. Before 30 April, Ms Cheung was enrolled at 3/10 Woids Avenue, Hurstville.

On 20 May, Ms Cheung purchased a property in Hurstville with the street address 10/34-40 Carrington Avenue, Hurstville. The contact number was shifted to this address. Prior to the election, all documents sent to Ms Cheung by organisations other than the Electoral Commission were sent to her Hurstville address. The contact number was her Hurstville number and her mobile. At no stage during 1999 did Ms Cheung lodge any change of address of mail direction with Australia Post. Ms Cheung's mobile telephone bills were only changed to the address in Ashfield on 23 August 1999. Before that, bills had been sent to addresses in Hurstville. The record of phone calls indicates that in the period up to November 1999 the vast majority of calls made by Ms Cheung from her mobile phone were in the evening, and the first cell site involved was located in Hurstville rather than Ashfield.

The evidence against Ms Cheung comes from subpoenaed material, legally obtained for the Administrative Review Tribunal. In particular, I want to refer tonight to the statement of Mr Paul Moroney. Paul Moroney says:

I was the endorsed Liberal Councillor representing North Ward on Ashfield Municipal Council for three terms, a total of twelve years, ending September 1999.

... ... ...

As I was secretary of the Ashfield Branch of the Liberal Party, I received the nomination forms for the pending Ashfield Municipal Council election. I was surprised to see Karin Cheung as a nominee as I was not aware she had joined the Liberal Party. I was also surprised as I knew that she did not live within the electorate. ... As branch secretary I made it my business to inquire as to whether or not each nominee met the requirement to live within the electorate. On several occasions, both before and after 12 May 1999, I specifically asked Karin Cheung whether or not she lived in the area. On each occasion she replied that she did not.

We do not rely on ALP information here. This is information not leaked, but flooded in from the Liberal Party members who were concerned at the failure of the Liberal Party machine to take action against Julie Passas and her supporters in the area who had been prepared to undermine the sitting Liberal councillor there, Mr Morris Mansour. The other documents provided that I have here with me tonight include documentation from the Ethnic Communities Council, from Australian Gas Light, from Energy Australia, from the Electoral Commission, from the Inner West Migrant Resource Centre, from Ashfield Council, from Telstra, from the West Region Chinese Association, from Centrelink and, of course, from the Liberal Party of Australia. All of these documents add up to the fact that this is a huge rort.

The provisions in the New South Wales Local Government Act about residency are not designed to be taken lightly. There are very ethical reasons why councillors should live in the area they represent, and as the local federal member I take these provisions seriously. There are even more serious issues about why they should not rort the electoral roll if they do not live in the appropriate local government area. I think that it is up to the Liberal Party to clean up its act on this issue. (Time expired)