electorate office budgets

Matters of Public Importance - Australian Labor Party

25th July 2018

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) (14:31:51) — I rise to support the member for Bulleen and his matter of public importance (MPI), which says:

That this house condemns the Andrews Labor government for its systematic rorting of Victorian taxpayers dollars, including:

(1)   rorting electorate office budgets for Labor’s red shirts scheme;

(2)   rorting residence allowances;

(3)   rorting the use of ministerial vehicles; and

(4)   rorting of printing allowances.

I have sat here for 15 minutes and listened to the member for Essendon make a contribution, and I must admit I was shocked. I find some of the member for Essendon’s contributions intriguing. I must admit that I was absolutely shocked that the member for Essendon would have the tenacity to stand up in this house and defend the member for Tarneit and the member for Melton and say, ‘Oh, it’s a technicality. They didn’t really do anything wrong’. The member should have gone to any barbecue stopper when that was on and he would have seen what the voting public of Victoria thought about the member for Melton and the member for Tarneit.

Everybody out there in voter land knows it is wrong. They know it is wrong to be the member for Melton, supposedly live in Melton but actually live down on the coast in Geelong. They know that it was also wrong for the member for Tarneit to say that he lived in his electorate but was actually at Queenscliff, or allegedly at Queenscliff, and claiming a second residence allowance. That is wrong. The member for Essendon stood up and tried to defend those two people. I am intrigued as to why the member for Essendon, who most people would say is an upright, reputable person, would actually tarnish his reputation by actually defending those two people in this place.

Victorians just cannot wait to turn the page on this corrupt Andrews government. As I talk to people, they cannot wait for 24 November. They cannot wait to turn the page over, glue it down and condemn this corrupt government to history, because they are sick of the things that are going wrong in this state. The Andrews government has broken trust with the people of Victoria. Why would a government do that? They have broken trust with the people of Victoria. They have destroyed Victoria’s faith in the political system in this state, and they have dragged us all down as part of that, unfortunately.

Why, for argument’s sake, would a Premier of this state go to war with the Country Fire Authority volunteers in this state, people who give their time freely to defend this state? Because the Premier thinks being loyal to his union mate Peter Marshall is more important than being loyal to the 60 000 volunteers in this state who defend us. Everyone is asking, ‘Is there a tape?’, ‘Is there no tape?’ and ‘What’s on the tape?’. It must be a pretty special tape for the Premier to go to war with the 60 000 volunteers in this state. If that was not bad enough, a lot of really good professional people have had their careers trashed and reputations tarnished by this government because they had the tenacity to actually stand up to the government and demand what was right for the volunteers in this state. With the Premier, it is his way or the highway. If you do not agree with the Premier, you are out the door. He will not take advice. He will not take counsel. You are out the door. He will not stand any criticism at all.

It is this building, this chamber and this Parliament which we are elected to serve. We swear under oath to serve the people of Victoria, and our forefathers actually fought wars to defend this place and to defend the democracy that we have in this state. This Andrews government has done more to tarnish the Westminster system than has been done over hundreds of years in this particular place. They have trashed the systems of government in this state.

There is no greater example of that than the former Speaker and Deputy Speaker of this place both having to resign on effectively the same day in absolute disgrace for rorting the second residence allowance. To think that the member for Melton, who represents an electorate in the west of Melbourne, somehow thought he could concoct a story whereby he was living in a caravan park in Ocean Grove and by doing that he could claim the second residence allowance just defies common sense, it defies logic and it actually defies decency. It is just a disgrace that someone could do that.

As I said, the member for Tarneit decided somehow that he needed a bit of extra money. He put on a form that he was actually living in Queenscliff so he could claim the second residence allowance. As the report the member for Essendon so much wanted to quote says, effectively the member for Tarneit hardly ever went to Queenscliff, let alone actually seriously lived there. If you think about the hundreds of years of Westminster history, I do not think in that history in any of the countries in the world where there is a Westminster system a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker have had to resign on the same day for rorting the system.

The motion talks about the use of ministerial vehicles. Patch and Ted are probably treated better than the Queen’s corgis. Patch and Ted got their own chauffeured car. I am sure the Queen actually likes her corgis enough to transport them with her. But, no, Steve Herbert, a former minister, did not actually want to sit in the car with his own dogs. I am not sure whether he had a good relationship with Patch and Ted or not, but he had to get a special car to cart them not just around Melbourne but all the way to Trentham. Fair enough, the former minister lives in Trentham, but he had two cars to go to Trentham: one for Patch and Ted and one for him.

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr WALSH — The member for Mordialloc is laughing up the back. If it was not so serious, it would be laughable that a minister of the Crown could do that. When he was sworn in he went to Government House and took the oath to uphold the law in this state, represent the people of Victoria and do the right thing. He took that oath, as we all do when we become ministers, over at Government House. Then somehow after that he thought, ‘I’ll just get a second car to drive Patch and Ted up to Trentham’. It did not just happen once; it happened numerous times. The fact that someone could actually believe that that is the right thing to do just does not pass the barbecue test, the pub test or whatever test you want to put it through. Carting Patch and Ted to Trentham and back in a car on their own just does not cut the mustard with people in Victoria.

Then we come to probably the biggest issue of the whole lot. I think that of all the different rorts and of all the problems this government has had, what really resonates out there in voter land is the red shirts rort, particularly now with the privileges inquiry in the upper house. I commend the Privileges Committee in the upper house for adopting public hearings. I think that has been a very, very good step. It has reignited the whole debate — not that people had forgotten but there have been so many things going wrong with this government and so much rorting that it has probably slipped to the back of people’s minds a bit. But this has reignited it. People are saying, ‘That’s nearly $400 000 of my taxpayers money that the Labor Party thought they could take to employ staff to run the election last time around’. What a lot of people are saying is that this Andrews government treats Victorian taxpayers like their own ATM — ‘We’ll just go along, we’ll shove the card in, we’ll take out a bit more money for our own use’.

Just to finish off, the Attorney‑General, who was here during the member for Essendon’s contribution, as the top law officer of this state and someone who took that oath that I talked about at Government House, spent hundreds of thousands of Victorian taxpayers dollars taking the Ombudsman to court, which ended up all the way in the High Court, to try and stop the Ombudsman investigating these rorts.

I absolutely commend the matter of public importance from the member for Bulleen. These are the sorts of things that do need to be raised in this Parliament. As I said, when we are sworn in as MPs we take an oath to uphold the laws of the land and this house. When people are sworn in as ministers they take an even stronger oath. I believe a lot of the ministers on that side have broken that oath and should be sacked for rorting the system here in Victoria.

 

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