The controversial parliamentary inquiry into allegations of impropriety into a suburban Sydney council will end with a last-minute hearing on Thursday despite being unable to secure nine witnesses, including two brothers of NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.
The inquiry originated after Liberal MP Ray Williams alleged under parliamentary privilege that a Hills Shire councillor and senior Liberal Party members had been “paid significant funds” to install councillors who would be supportive of applications put forward by Toplace property developer Jean Nassif.
The witnesses who have not appeared in person before the inquiry include Hills Shire councillor Virginia Ellis, her son Christian Ellis, Jeremy Greenwood, Robert Assaf, Jeff Egan, Dylan Whitelaw, Mr Nassif and the Premier’s two brothers Charles Perrottet and Jean-Claude Perrottet.
Hills Shire councillor Virginia Ellis has not appeared in person at the inquiry. Picture: Hills Shire Council
While some witnesses gave written evidence, Jean-Claude and Charles declined to participate, with Charles calling the inquiry a “Labor/Greens circus” on the eve of an election. This is despite the committee employing professional servers to find and serve the brothers, alongside Mr and Ms Ellis in a mass statewide search
In a media release shared on Wednesday, committee chair Sue Higginson also made special mention of the Ellises, who servers have been unable to locate.
Ms Higginson said they “have continued to take active steps to deliberately avoid this inquiry”.
Premier Dominic Perrottet accused the inquiry of ‘political mud-slinging’. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard
Asked about the absence of his brothers from the inquiry in recent weeks, the Premier has repeatedly ducked questions and accused the inquiry of “political mud-slinging”. Speaking to reporters on one occasion, he demanded the committee “leave my family out of it”.
Jean-Claude also accused the committee of using taxpayer funds to harass his fiancee and family members, which had taken a “serious toll” on his mental health, The Daily Telegraph reported.
In a letter to the committee, he denied the allegations and confirmed he would not give evidence as he was overseas.
Professional process server reports released by the committee show agents attempted to serve Jean-Claude at two residential addresses and at a workplace he shared with Mr Ellis.
His brother, Charles, also declined to appear before the inquiry. The Victorian resident lashed the committee’s actions as “partisan, ill-informed, speculative and defamatory commentary”.
Charles Perrottet declined to appear at the inquiry and called it a ‘Labor/Greens circus’.
Labor committee member Penny Sharpe defended the upper house investigation.
“There’s been a lot of very serious material that’s been presented to the inquiry,” she said on Tuesday.
“It’s very important that people come forward so that we can ask questions about that, and we can seek some answers.”
During the inquiry’s first hearing, extraordinary claims were made by Liberal Party member and Sydney businessman Frits Mare, who said Jean-Claude and Mr Ellis asked him for $50,000 to unseat federal Liberal MP Alex Hawke in an alleged branch stacking attempt in 2019.
The last witness to front the inquiry will be Edward River councillor Shirlee Burge, and the inquiry will table its final report on Thursday.
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