BENDIGO mayor Margaret O'Rourke has defended the council's decisions regarding the proposed GovHub, following "extraordinary" criticism from a patron senator.
In an address to federal parliament this week, Liberal Senator for Victoria Sarah Henderson took aim at both Member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan and the council for what, to her, appeared to be "a very shabby, underhanded deal".
The senator likened the GovHub proposal to, "being asked to sell your home at a cut price, leasing it back at full commercial rent, and then, when the lease expires, being left with no home at all."
Her comments come within days of a visit to Bendigo, during which Ms Henderson called for the project to be put on hold and made the subject of an independent inquiry.
Cr O'Rourke said the council had released all the information it had been able to about the deal.
"Like any big commercial projects, there are commercial in confidence elements to them and we're able to release information that was not part of the commercial in confidence," she said.
Most of that information, including details from an independent analysis of the options council considered for the project, had been public for almost a year.
The council decided to opt into the GovHub during its February 2019 meeting. Its agenda for that month contains much of the information the council has made public about its involvement in the state government initiative.
Cr O'Rourke said Senator Henderson had not reached out to the council at all. The first she said the council became aware of the senator's concerns was through the media.
"She doesn't have all the information," Cr O'Rourke said.
She believed Ms Henderson had been basing her remarks on gossip and hearsay from a small group of people opposed to the Bendigo GovHub.
Cr O'Rourke said the council had reached out to Ms Henderson as recently as yesterday morning, but had not received a response.
The senator said she had not reached out to the council before making her concerns public.
"They have not offered any briefing whatsoever," she said.
Senator Henderson maintained, as she told parliament on Tuesday night, that the council's relationship with Ms Allan and state Labor "looks, frankly, all too cosy".
"The councillors of the City of Greater Bendigo must safeguard ratepayer assets without fear of favour," she said.
Ms Allan said the Geelong-based senator was "choosing to use the cover of parliament to make wild political claims and accusations".
"This bad Liberal party behaviour is not going to stop me from focusing on delivering important job-creating projects like the GovHub for Bendigo," she said.
The council has yet to receive a valuation for the land it intends to sell to make way for the GovHub.