By Senaj Alijevski, Michael Silestean and Ilona Bertolotti
City of Casey Mayor Geoff Ablett seemed set to take the fast-growing outer south eastern seat of Cranbourne where he failed narrowly as Liberal candidate at the last state election.
But it remains to be seen if his chances have been set back after a national newspaper reported allegations recently that he and another Casey councillor, also a Liberal candidate, had been interviewed by Ombudsman’s office investigators over donations and council planning decisions in the past year.
The Australian reported that Ablett and Amanda Stapledon, the Liberal candidate for nearby Narre Warren North, had strongly denied wrongdoing and the party was blaming a smear campaign.
A former premiership player from a famous footballing family with a high profile in the community seemed likely to edge out Labor MP Jude Perera whose margin was cut back to an estimated 1.1% after last year’s boundary changes.
Ablett, who has declined to be interviewed by UniPollWatch in recent months, is a former Hawthorn VFL wingman who played more than 200 games for the club including premierships in 1976 and 1978, brother of the Gary Ablett senior, one of the greats of the game, and uncle of Gary Ablett Junior, among the finest now playing.
Geoff Ablett received a diploma from Burwood Teachers College with a Diploma of Teaching in the mid-1970s and taught for several years. He was elected to the local council in 2008 and represents Balla Balla Ward. He has been the station manager of Casey’s local radio station 3SER since 2007.
He has campaigned on improving transport for the area. He has reportedly worked closely on the Cranbourne-Pakenham rail upgrade and recently announced on Facebook that the government had promised $12 million to complete an upgrade at Cranbourne Secondary College.
Gary Rowe, a City of Casey councillor and former Cranbourne Liberal MP, who lost Cranbourne to Jude Perera in 2002, said Ablett would be ‘mad if he didn’t’ use his family football profile in campaigning.