EXCLUSIVE: The sale of an office premises belonging to Victoria’s Health Minister, Martin Foley, for more than $1 million over its reserve before a public auction to the big boss of a call centre who was coincidentally then handed a cushy $20 million-plus government contract just weeks later by Premier Dan Andrews’ state Labor government has raised all sorts of curious questions. Gary Johnston reports.
Martin Foley is Victoria’s Minister for Health who has become a familiar face in the state due to his occasional – and often gaffe prone – appearances at press conferences, announcing the rising number of Covid affected citizens.
Minister Foley has frequently been trotted out when Premier Dan Andrews is unavailable or, according to some political insiders, when especially bad news has to be conveyed and the Premier is looking for a convenient stooge.
Whenever there’s an inexplicable spike, or some other troubling information, it seems the word duly goes out, ‘send for Foley’.
It’s not so much that Foley is seen a safe pair of hands, more the case that as a loyal Dan devotee with seemingly no top job aspirations of his own, Fall Guy Foley – a walking, talking charisma free zone – is prepared to sacrifice himself for the common good.
A man Dan Andrews can implicitly trust to carry out instructions, who’d throw himself on top of a grenade if that’s what his master wanted him to do.
Andrews himself currently of course, seems to be warming to his moniker of ‘Dictator Dan’, recently introducing new legislation to extend pandemics and enforce emergency laws described by some civil rights campaigner as ‘draconian’ and ‘terrifying’.
So what’s in for best mate and willing Lieutenant Foley?
What could possibly inspire such naked devotion to the boss and the cause?
Is Victorian Labor squeaky clean?
Maybe, just maybe, the answer lies southeast of Melbourne, on the picturesque Mornington Peninsula.
In May of this year, a ritzy duplex in which Minister Foley ‘inherited’ an interest in 2007 via his deceased father’s estate, sold for a tasty $4.855m, well above market expectations.
Indeed, some real estate watchers claim the Mornington Peninsula property located at 5 Main St was sold for over $1 million its reserve.
Now, that’s some exile from main street that would make even Mick, Keith and the rest of the remaining Rolling Stones proud.
Foley has never actually resided in the property and it was once tenanted out to, among others, a former property developer by the name of John Woodman, whose company logo can still be seen on the exterior.
Woodman has what’s known in legal circles as a ‘colourful’ past, featuring most recently in an IBAC anti-corruption inquiry in late 2020 when a phone call he made to a Liberal Party fundraiser was played, in which he said he’d consider donating to party funds on the ‘condition’ if he was ‘able to rely on the support’ of Victorian party leader Michael O’Brien on certain unspecified ‘state-based matters’.
A self-confessed ‘great supporter of the Liberal Party’ and reputed personal friend of ex PM Tony Abbott, the IBAC enquiry heard that Mr Woodman said in the call – “I’ve got a few things that I need to talk to Michael about, I need … support at a state level and depending on how those conversations go … I’m always happy to contribute,” Mr Woodman replied.
Now, it’s hardly revelatory news that a property develop is angling for a quid pro quo but significantly less commonplace for that particular developer to be a tenant of a serving Labor Minister.
And there’s more.
The delighted buyer of the Mornington duplex? None other than an investor by the name of Rodney Kagan who is said to have saw it having likely high value, declaring in genuine real estate gibberish that it had “great potential upside”.
Yes, that’s him. Same guy.
And the Probe Group, one of the government’s ‘Robodebt’ collectors, company whose profits have soared exponentially since 2013 with federal government work for the company increasing by an estimated 700%.
A Senate inquiry hearing into Robodebt in 2017 ascertained that Probe received commission on all Robodebts it collected, a payment arrangement claimed to be ‘typical of that used for debt collection services by banks, energy retailers and telcos’.
Left to carry the can at the hearing was chief operating officer, Jarrod Kagan, son of Rodney, proud purchaser of Foley’s Mornington property, the one with ‘great potential upside’.
Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley: Sold a Mornington Peninsula office premises for $1 million over its reserve before a public auction to the same Rodney Kagan whose company just weeks later received a $20 million-plus government contract for Covid contact tracing (Image: Victoria Parliament / Supplied)
Friends in low places? You scratch my back, I rub yours? Maybe.
Fast forward a month from the sale of the duplex. In July this year, a contract to the value of $23,340,000.00 was renewed for the purposes of undertaking contact tracing call centre services including performance of outbound calling activities, to support DHHS COVID 19 contact tracing requirements on behalf of the Victorian Department of Health & Human Services.
The successful contractor ?
Stellar Asia Pacific. A company recently acquired by the aforementioned Probe Group, who proudly boast of their website of how they are now ‘the largest Australian-owned provider of customer contact and communication solutions in Australasia.’
Big business. Big profits. Lots of mates.
What did ‘Fall Guy’ Foley know?
A property developer tenant who is allegedly not averse to a bit of politician palm greasing and a new buyer, paying well over the odds for a house, whose company, only four short weeks later is the recipient of a government awarded, multi-million contract.
Conflict of interest? Much?
Maybe Foley’s not so dumb after all.
We think the public should be told.
True Crime News Weekly did send questions to Foley and asked the politician whether all the recent events were just a big “coincidence”.
We did not receive a response.