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In Parliament


Political Donations - Matters of Public Importance

   Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Political donations Matters of Public Importance 20 September 2017

Mr T. SMITH (Kew) — It is my pleasure to follow the ill‑informed and indeed misled member for Mordialloc on this important matter of public importance as submitted by the member for Keysborough. I remind the member for Mordialloc that at the present moment no less than IBAC, the police and the Ombudsman are all investigating his colleagues, as leaked by his colleagues.

The reason why, for example, Khalil Eideh, a member for Western Metropolitan Region in the upper house and indeed the Deputy President of the Legislative Council, has been referred to IBAC is because he allegedly misused his printing allowance to pay for Labor Party branch memberships. The reason why, for example, the police are investigating the rorting member for Melton and indeed the rorting member for Tarneit is that they lied about where they were living and pocketed an extra $200 000 between them on the taxpayer dime. The Ombudsman is investigating a good number of the member for Mordialloc’s colleagues for erroneously and fraudulently using electorate office staff to campaign for the Labor Party in the lead‑up to the last election. I am not prepared to sit here and be lectured to by the Labor Party — the rotten, stinking Labor Party of Premier Andrews — with their shoddy, shoddy dealings and their rorts that have been, can I say, leaked to all and sundry by their own colleagues. This is the standard of modern Labor, and this is the standard that I have become accustomed to watching as they have gone about their business over the last three years.

I have got some questions, actually, that I do not feel have been answered sufficiently by the Premier and his rorting members and ministers. Why is the member for Melton, who is being investigated by the police for rorting $100 000 of his second residence allowance, still a member of Parliament? When he retires he will get a publicly funded pension worth millions. Why has the Premier not been insistent that the member for Melton pay back the full amount he rorted immediately? Why is the member for Tarneit still a member of the Labor caucus despite rorting his second residence allowance to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars whilst Speaker? Why did the Premier spend millions of taxpayers money opposing the Ombudsman’s investigation into Labor’s misuse of electorate staff in the lead‑up to the 2014 state election?

Why has the Premier never distanced himself from CFMEU secretary John Setka, a man who has been charged with in excess of 40 crimes? Setka’s good mate Mick Gatto said of the Premier’s relationship to Setka:

I don’t believe Daniel Andrews should cut his ties with him … John’s a good man, he’s a good union leader. He’s got the interests of the people at heart and he’s doing the right thing and I think Daniel Andrews is doing the right thing supporting him.

… ‘I like Daniel Andrews. I’ve bumped into him a couple of times and he seems like an astute sort of person — he seems pretty genuine’ …

That was Mick Gatto. What did the Premier say when he bumped into Mick Gatto? We do not know.

Peter Marshall has an unlimited pass into the Premier’s office. He is a well‑known associate of Mick Gatto and the Khoury brothers. The Premier frankly needs to come clean on what Peter Marshall has on him. We would all love to know that as the Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2017 seems to be stalled in the upper house.

The Premier must also come clean on what transpired at the April 2016 meeting between him and Peter Marshall, which resulted in the most catastrophic chain of events that has seen not only every top‑level fire official sacked but his office abandoning him, including his former chief of staff Mr McLindon, his deputy chief of staff Mr Kear, his head of policy Ms Dickinson and, most recently, his industrial relations adviser Mr J. P. Blandthorn. Does the Premier agree with Mick Gatto, who says Peter Marshall is a man who ‘should be running the country’ Did any Labor MPs attend the United Firefighters Union ball in 2015 that Mick Gatto also attended?

Why did the Premier stand by the ALP’s assistant state secretary when he admitted to destroying the dictaphone that was stolen from the 2014 ALP state conference and which belonged to a Fairfax journalist? Just to remind everyone what the Age said about the assistant state secretary’s conduct:

When you have someone who confesses publicly that he took possession of a dictaphone that was not his, listened to it, downloaded and played the recordings to others, and then destroyed the recorder — all in clear contravention of the law — then I would have thought he would face the consequences, even if that led to diversion.

Why did the Premier lie about his staff providing stolen dictaphone recordings to the media when it could only have come from his office?

Why did the Premier sack the privacy commissioner when he raised concerns about the Premier’s plot to seize his own cabinet members’ phones and audit them to find out who was leaking against him? Why? So many questions, so few answers from the masters of transparency, decency and all that is apparently good in public life. They have all gone a bit quiet over there —

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr T. SMITH — Here we go! But when you read out these conga lines of rorts, sleaze, misdoings and, frankly, criminal behaviour that permeate this rotten, sleazy Labor government that has lost a minister for chauffeuring his dogs from one end of the state to the other — what a disgrace! That former rorting member, Mr Herbert, used the limousine that is provided to a minister to undertake ministerial business to take — what are the names of his dogs? Patch. What was the other one called?

Mr R. Smith — Ted.

Mr T. SMITH — Ted. Patch and Ted. Who could ever forget Patch and Ted? He took them from his home in Melbourne to Trentham.

An honourable member interjected.

Mr T. SMITH — Yes, I did. The very core and culture of this Labor government is so rotten, how could we ever trust them when they come up with a one‑page press release on a Monday afternoon, working in cahoots with the Age investigation unit, better known as the ‘Labor Party dirt unit’, as they go about this tawdry and, dare I say it — so transparent were Monday afternoon’s activities that I was like —

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr T. SMITH — Oh, here we go. There was a one‑pager about campaign finance reform. What does campaign finance reform really mean? It means that the Labor Party will keep its affiliation fees from all its unions to the tune of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, and every other political party will have a substantial cap on donations.

I will put on record the fact that I think campaign finance reform is long overdue in national politics and state politics. I put on the record that I loathe fundraising. It takes up a lot of time; no‑one likes doing it. I think the question has to be answered: is the public prepared to pay for election campaigns far more than is currently the case? I am interested to see where this debate goes, but I do think that once the public understand they will be paying for far more of our elections than is currently the case, far more so than either the private sector or indeed the union movement is, they may not be very happy about that. But let us have that debate because I think it is an important debate to have.

What I do know is that the Labor Party are not going to sacrifice the millions of dollars they will be getting in affiliation fees from their member unions in any way, shape or form. This announcement is a sham. This announcement really is a diversion, concocted to provoke a conversation. It is not real reform, because if it was real reform, everyone would be treated the same way. There is no way known that Labor is going to treat the unions the same way as other legitimate donors are currently treated. They will treat the union movement as a special case because, quite frankly, 80‑odd per cent of Victorian Labor’s revenue comes from affiliation fees from trade unions. The Premier is many things, but he is not going to sacrifice his home‑ground advantage, which is the rivers of gold from the union movement.

If a bill ever comes before this house on campaign finance reform, I will be very interested to see how it treats affiliation fees and indeed the union movement more broadly. I am prepared for the conversation. I am prepared for the debate. I think it is a good debate to have, and I think it is important that we look at reforming our campaign finance laws, because transparency is good for democracy.

I know, as someone who has been a member of Parliament now for three years, that donations and indeed fundraising are the bane of a lot of our lives. So if the public are prepared to pay for more of our elections, that is fine, but let us have that debate so they are fully informed about what it actually means. Let us also ensure that there is a level playing field and that the rules are applied to all.

I am slightly sceptical and cynical about the timing of this announcement, knowing that the Labor Party has a Northcote by‑election that it is predicted to lose. The Greens have been talking at length about campaign finance reform in this place for many years, which Labor has mocked them for. I just think we should be well aware of the political context in which this debate was launched on Monday, as it were, with the Age newspaper in cahoots.