Ombudsman Jurisdiction

Thursday 9th February 2017

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — Despite the urging from the member for Bendigo East, we do not support this motion, and we will not be supporting this motion. I think the manager of opposition business put the case very, very clearly around precedents of law and history as to why this motion should be defeated, and I congratulate him for his contribution and the research that he did and that the government has not done on this particular motion. I think he needs to be commended, effectively with 24 hours notice, for what he has been able to research around the history from 1818 onwards and how that has evolved over time. Plucking one point of law from a long time ago without following through and looking at the changes that have subsequently been made over a couple of hundred years is very shoddy by the government. They have plucked one particular part of that out to suit their argument without looking at the subsequent changes in the future.

I suppose for the average man on the street I can just rephrase this motion as ‘the red‑shirt motion’. It is effectively about defending the red shirts from the 2014 election. It is about defending the indefensible when it comes to the use, or the alleged use, of parliamentary staff for electioneering campaigning. That is what we are talking about in this house now. We can wrap it up in a very long motion before the house, but the nub of this issue is defending the red shirts of the Labor Party and the fact that, as has been alleged, members of Parliament employed temporary staff and signed off on wage sheets without probably ever seeing those staff and without those staff ever actually being in their electorate offices, as it is supposed to be under the parliamentary rules, and them working in someone else’s electorate in a more marginal seat to build the campaign to win the 2014 election.

That is what we are talking about here because the government — the government ministers particularly who were allegedly involved in this — do not want to answer awkward questions when it comes to the pieces of paper they signed to employ casual staff to work in someone else’s electorate office, doing campaign issues. That is what this is about.

If you have got nothing to hide, why have you got this motion before the house? If you have got nothing to hide, why did you take it to the Supreme Court? If you have got nothing to hide, when you lost that case why did you take it to the Court of Appeal? If you have got nothing to hide, when you lost that case why have you actually taken it to the High Court? If there is nothing to hide, why has the Labor Party used taxpayers funds to run these court cases to defend something that is actually the business of the Labor Party, not of a government? They are using taxpayers funds to run these court cases to actually defend something the Labor Party did.

The Attorney‑General, as I understand the system of government, has signed off on legal briefs and legal action and has employed expensive legal advice for the government on the taxpayers tab to defend the Labor Party for something they did in an election campaign. I would have thought in some ways the Attorney‑General would actually have a conflict of interest when it comes to this because he is signing off as the Attorney‑General on taxpayers funds being spent to defend himself, possibly as one of the MPs who may have actually employed the staff.

That is one of the issues that needs answering in this particular case. Has the Attorney‑General actually got a conflict of interest in doing what he has done over this time and even in moving this motion before the house? When you look at this government and when you look at this Premier, if you do not agree with them, it is Daniel’s way or the highway.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member has been here for quite a while, and he understands the forms of the house.

Mr WALSH — I accept that, Deputy Speaker. It is either the Premier’s way or the highway when it comes to a whole range of issues, and this motion before the house is another example of how it is the Premier’s way or the highway. You have just got to look at history to back up that statement. The Country Fire Authority (CFA) board was sacked because they did not agree with the Premier. The CFA CEO was sacked because she did not agree with the Premier. The CFA chief fire officer was sacked because he did not agree with the Premier. The Premier’s own minister was sacked because she did not agree with the Premier. When you come to this particular motion, again, the government did not agree with the court’s decisions. Some more taxpayers money went to a higher court and a higher court to try and get a better opinion.

If you look at the issue of the privacy commissioner, the Premier has had a little dummy spit. He wants his cabinet ministers’ phones. He wants to look at his cabinet ministers’ phones because he wants to know who is leaking and who is not leaking. Who does he actually trust in the cabinet process anymore? So the privacy commissioner gets involved, and what happens? Magically there is going to be change, and the privacy commissioner is out of a job. The privacy commissioner is going to be out of a job because he questioned the Premier of this state. It is very much the Premier’s way or the highway when it comes to the law of this land.

The other issue that has been canvassed already this week is that we are now spending valuable parliamentary time debating a motion that is all about protecting the political skin of the Labor Party in this state. The people of Victoria want more. They want us to spend our time on the issues of law and order, and they would absolutely love us to debate a bill about fixing the bail laws in this state. If you talk about John Howard’s barbecue stoppers, the barbecue stopper in Victoria at the moment is the weaker bail laws of this Labor government. That is what we should be spending this house’s valuable time on, rather than debating a longwinded motion that is, as I have just said, effectively a red shirt motion about defending the indefensible of the Labor Party during the 2014 election.

The key question asked around barbecues and at Australia Day functions in Victoria this year was: if the Labor Party has got nothing to hide, why will it not let the Ombudsman do their job? The Ombudsman is an independent — —

Mr Pearson interjected.

Mr WALSH — They were. The Ombudsman is an independent officer of Victoria who is there to look at these very things. But, no, there is obviously something to hide.

Mr Pearson interjected.

Mr WALSH — The member for Essendon wants to continually interject. He has obviously got something to hide. He is another Labor Party member of Parliament who wants to defend the indefensible. I rhetorically ask — —

Mr Pearson interjected.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! I ask the honourable member for Essendon to interject a bit less.

Mr WALSH — I respectfully ask the member for Essendon: if he has got nothing to hide, why is he supporting this motion? Why is he not standing up and joining us on this side in actually opposing the motion? If he and his colleagues have not got anything to hide, why are they supporting this motion moved by the Attorney‑General?

In closing, the opposition will not be supporting this motion. I think the manager of opposition business put very clearly the legal case for why this motion should not be supported, and I would like to think that I have put a pretty good argument for the political case for why this motion should not be supported, because it is all about the cover‑up and obfuscation of the Labor Party here in Victoria for what it did during the 2014 election in rorting electorate staff officers’ times and pay sheets.


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