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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Australia's Property Scandal: Town Planner Seeking "Approvals"

A sex-and-property scandal involving a female city planner on a "mission for sex" in return for approvals of high-rise buildings is threatening to engulf the beluigered New South Wales State Government.

An undercover sting by anti-corruption investigators uncovered a web of affairs involving 32-year-old town planner Beth Morgan in the steel-and-surfing city of Wollongong, south of Sydney, with three prominent building developers. Morgan, said by one of the three men to be "on a mission for sex", gave approval for millions of dollars worth of unlawful city building developments in return for gifts and affairs, the powerful Independent Commission against Corruption(ICAC) heard.

Morgan gave testimony to the commission about the affairs, admitted to by two developers, while a third denied the pair actually had a sexual relationship. The scandal, however, also threatens several ministers in the state government.

Australians generally believe their country to be largely corruption free and we rank well on the international index prepared by Transparency International.

Amid the public ICAC hearings, state Premier Morris Iemma promised to sack a senior minister if he was found to have improperly given a job to a Wollongong city councillor linked to the scandal. Four other state ministers have also been indirectly linkedby the ICAC to central figures in the furore.

The ICAC hearings have been given front-page treatment,with corruption investigators documenting lurid details of emails and phone messages between Morgan and her alleged lovers, which in turn have run in newspapers nationally. Adding to public shock are photographs of the stylish Morgan and the men she pursued, receiving from them cameras, cash payments, a China holiday and designer handbags, the ICAC heard.

Simon Turner simon@marquetteturner.com.au

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