Matter of Public Importance Parliament

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE Political donations

Wednesday 19th September 2017

Political donations

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — I join the debate on the matter of public importance. The member for Oakleigh has waxed lyrical about these reforms. What have we had? We have had a press release that says nothing. Where is the detail? Where is the detail about these reforms? There was a press release with some quotes and very, very little detail. I think for once the Herald Sun and the Age had editorials that almost looked identical, because they actually do not believe anything that has been said in this press release that was put out yesterday. It did not have any detail about reforms at all. I think that follows a pattern for the current Premier that we have. The Premier that we have is a straw man. He puts out these press releases and he puts out these grand announcements, and either nothing ever happens or there is not enough detail to actually make it mean anything. He is a straw man.

Let us go back and look at a bit of history. What did he say in the November before the last election? He was going to breath test MPs.

Boozy state MPs would face the loss of up to a week’s pay, or even suspension, if they fail random breath tests at work, under a radical Labor plan.

And in an Australian first, magistrates and judges would also have to submit to the breathalyser, under powers conferred on the Chief Justice, Chief Judge and Chief Magistrate to order spot checks.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews will promise today that if he is elected Premier he will change the law to introduce random alcohol testing at the state’s courts and at Parliament during sitting times.

Has anyone been breath tested? Does anyone know any MPs who have been breath tested? Does anyone know whether this law has actually been brought in? Probably for some members on the other side it is a good thing it has not. It is probably a good thing, member for Mordialloc, is it, that it has not been brought in? Where is the implementation of this core promise by the Premier? It sunk with all hands.

I think if you actually go to what the now President of the upper house Bruce Atkinson said when he poured cold water on the proposal, dismissing it as ‘a ridiculous suggestion’, he described the election pitch as:

… a ‘thought bubble’ that was near impossible to put into practice.

When you think about the Premier he is a straw man. He promised breath testing for MPs, judges and magistrates and nothing has happened out of that.

Let us look at the other press release, the one about having an audit of all the cabinet ministers phones. He was going to call in KPMG to do an audit of all the cabinet ministers’ phones. The minister at the table, the Minister for Planning — have you handed your phone over to have it audited? I think not; again, an issue where the Premier put out a press release. The Herald Sun described some Labor MPs saying it was a ‘witch hunt’ and it was ‘Stalinist’ of the Premier that he was actually going to audit all the cabinet ministers’ phones because he was concerned about the leaks.

Leaks usually happen out of cabinet when cabinet ministers actually do not like the premier of the day, and that is the issue with that side of the house. There are more leaks there than from the barbed wire canoe that is up one of those famous creeks. They are all leaking against each other because they do not like each other and they particularly do not like the Premier.

But when it does come to the press release that has been put out about donation reforms I think the Herald Sun got it exactly right in its editorial when it said:

In what is now a typically all‑spin‑no‑substance tactic for this state government when it comes to policy, the devil is in the detail.

Or more precisely, there is as yet very little detail.

When that detail finally does come on the Premier’s reforms to murky political funding and a demand for full transparency, you can be assured of two things:

1.     Unions will still fill the coffers of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria and the amounts will not be limited to the $4000 cap Mr Andrews has pledged to impose on others.

2,     The ALP will use the new funding arrangements … to ensure Labor has a huge financial advantage come the November 2018 election.

I think that sums up very clearly that this Premier is all about dividing, all about having winners and losers, and it is all about him — it is not actually about the people of Victoria. We have seen that over and over again with this government, particularly in how they treated the Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteers through that particular process.

As I said, you could almost think that the same person wrote both editorials. The Age says:

It is unclear whether the reforms would break the nexus between the union movement and the ALP. Unions would be covered … but the government might be seeking to create a loophole by treating administrative revenue — such as party membership and union affiliations — differently to campaign funding. That way unions could continue to bankroll Labor’s political arm.

An honourable member — That would not happen.

Mr WALSH — The interjection is that that would not happen. I am afraid it would happen. I believe that would happen under this particular Premier. The other side of the house has framed this debate around character and people’s character. Let us have a look at some of the associates of the Premier, some of the Premier’s personal friends — probably ones that he did not have to buy on Facebook. These are probably friends he had before he started buying friends on Facebook. Let us have a look at John Setka, his history and particularly his criminal history.

An honourable member — Convicted criminal, not alleged. Convicted.

Mr WALSH — Let us have a look at what John Setka has had happen over his time. He has had 60 charges that led to 40 convictions or fines for offences including theft, assault by kicking, criminal damage and assaulting police. So let us have a debate about character and who associates with whom, and let us think about who the Premier associates with, who the Premier — particularly in opposition — was very happy to put a hard hat and a safety vest on and stand next to for photos: that is one John Setka from the CFMEU, who has been charged 60 times with 40 convictions including assaulting police — a very serious crime indeed.

Let us have a look at Peter Marshall. Everyone I talk to says to me, ‘What has Peter Marshall got over the Premier? Why has the Premier burnt so much political capital for one person?’. Because the whole CFA reform is about giving power to Peter Marshall, to the Premier’s mate Peter Marshall — this is about giving him power over the Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB) and over the CFA. Everyone says, ‘What has he got over him that the Premier would put his whole government on the line and would trash the reputation of 60 000 volunteers just to please one person? What has Peter Marshall got over him?’.

Then you go through the issues as have already been said — the number of police investigations, the smell of corruption and rorting that is around this current government. It started with the stealing of a dictaphone and the lies that were told about that: ‘I didn’t listen to it, I didn’t touch it. Someone else touched it, someone else listened to it’.

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr WALSH — There is the grubby affair around the dictaphone, there is the issue of the red shirts — the corruption, the stealing, the rorting of electoral office allowances to employ those particular people. I do not know of any other Westminster parliament in the seven or eight hundred years of history of Westminster parliaments where a parliament has lost a speaker and a deputy speaker simultaneously for rorting the system. That is absolutely a disgrace — that the two people elected by this house to actually uphold the standards of this house are the two that had their snouts in the trough the most. They saw a trough, and they put their snouts in it. They were rorting the system. We are now seeing a similar issue with the Deputy President in the upper house. So we might find we have a government that loses three Presiding Officers in a term of Parliament. That would be unheralded in the history of the Westminster system over that particular time.

If there is genuine reform around donations, I think everyone would be very happy to be part of that, but we know that from that side of the house it will not be genuine. They will frame it so they can get their union money, they can look after their union mates and they can do it like they stack branches. They will use their printing allowances to do something here to make sure they can stack this particular debate so that they will get an unfair advantage over the other side of politics.

 

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