Robert Doyle. Photo: Pat Scala
A bullish Robert Doyle today began his second term as Melbourne's Lord Mayor vowing to defend his reputation, which he claimed had been damaged during an election campaign that had been marred by cash-for-access allegations.
After what some described as the dirtiest local government elections across Victoria in recent years, Cr Doyle said he would seek legal advice today about suing The Age over coverage of his election campaign.
Mr Doyle, who recorded more than 40 per cent of the primary vote in the weekend election, claimed his reputation had been damaged and that a line had been crossed in reporting on the cash-for-access allegations.
Cr Doyle refused to disclose during the election campaign who donated to his re-election bid or answer questions on whether a running mate asked developers for cash donations in return for better access to Town Hall.
He has said he would report his campaign donations after the election, as required by law.
Asked on ABC 774 this morning if there needed to be a review of either the voting system or the donation system in the wake of the election, Mr Doyle did not answer the question, but said: "The donation system was only a feature because one particular newspaper made it so".
He said he was considering taking legal action and would consult his lawyers today for what he said was reporting an "unsubstantiated and anonymous slur as fact".
"I think there is a line that you must not cross and I think to some extent that newspaper did cross that line," he said.
During the campaign, The Age reported that a city developer claimed he was asked to donate between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Doyle campaign, in return for Town Hall access.
The developer, who did not want to be named, said he felt uncomfortable when it was made clear that the donation would open doors if Cr Doyle was re-elected.
Cr Doyle today said he tried to "keep my head above that muck" during the campaign, but he felt that a line had been crossed.
"I've been in public life now ... for over 20 years and no one has ever impugned my integrity or the way I conduct myself in public office. To have that done - as you know, your reputation, it might be an ego thing, but it's very important," he said.
During the council elections, The Age launched a transparency campaign on political donations, receiving 60 disclosures from the seven mayoral candidates who took part in the campaign. Cr Doyle and Docklands businessman Keith Rankin declined to take part.
Cr Doyle recorded more than 40 per cent of the primary vote in the weekend election, eclipsing his 2008 result.
Campaign promises from the returning Lord Mayor include more CCTV in the city, a big new taxi rank for Bourke Street, trialling a new ferry service from Docklands to the north bank of the Yarra River, lobbying for more planning powers for the city and helping homes and businesses get a better deal for solar panels.
Susan Riley will return as Deputy Lord Mayor and current Melbourne City councillors Kevin Louey, Ken Ong, Jackie Watts and Cathy Oke will also be returning.
Newly elected councillors will be Arron Wood, Beverley Pinder-Mortimer, ALP member Richard Foster, the Greens' Rohan Leppert and transparency advocate Stephen Mayne.