Wednesday 13 December 2017 Assembly
The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! I have accepted a statement from the member for Kew proposing the following matter of public importance for discussion:
That this house expresses concern on behalf of all Victorians at the number of formal investigations surrounding the Andrews government.
Mr T. SMITH (Kew) (14:02:06) — The matter of public importance submitted in my name goes to the very integrity of the Victorian government. We express grave concern on behalf of all Victorians at the number of formal investigations surrounding the Andrews Labor government. Quite frankly, is there an integrity organisation in the state of Victoria that is not investigating Labor MPs? The answer is: probably not.
We have the Ombudsman investigating the Labor red shirt rort campaigners. We have the police investigating the member for Melton. We have IBAC investigating Khalil Eideh in the other place. The government lost the Minister for Corrections almost a year ago because he was caught transporting his dogs from one side of Victoria to the other in his ministerial vehicle — he chauffeured dogs in his limousine.
This goes to the very heart of what is wrong with this rotten, sleazy, crooked Labor government that is, quite frankly, losing the trust and respect of the Victorian people. The enormous swing against this government evidenced in the Northcote by‑election goes to the very heart of the public’s questioning of the integrity of this government. They are sick of seeing Labor rort the taxpayer in a way that we have never seen before in the state.
There is the outrageous conduct of the members for Melton and Tarneit. These crooks stole money from the Victorian taxpayer —
Mr Riordan — Pilfered!
Mr T. SMITH — Pilfered money, for their own ends. These people decided to live 70 kilometres from their electorate and pocket the second residence allowance to line their own pockets. This sort of behaviour is not what we would expect here in Victoria; it is the sort of behaviour we would expect in a banana republic overseas.
The police are investigating the member for Melton and we await with great interest as to what their investigation will find. The member for Melton is not here. The member for Melton has actually been very quiet. He is probably in his caravan, which is where he was living when he was claiming the second residence allowance to the tune of $170 000. The Premier said that when integrity legislation was introduced into this place, if the member for Melton had not repaid his monies, he would use his numbers on the floor of the Parliament to compel him to do so, but that has not occurred. That legislation was introduced this week, and the member for Melton has not repaid that money. I am very concerned that the member for Melton will fly the coop and evade this place and its authority over him when he leaves this Parliament at the end of this year, hopefully never to be seen again.
The member for Tarneit also rorted $40 000 of monies that he was not entitled to. He went to Queenscliff and lived down there whilst claiming that he lived in his electorate. This again was another shocking rort, perpetrated by the former Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, a disgraceful rort by a person who was meant to set the standard for this place.
But that is not the only Presiding Officer from the Labor Party who is currently in a spot of bother. Khalil Eideh in the other place has been referred to IBAC for allegedly using his printing allowance to pay for Labor Party branch memberships. Could you imagine that type of conduct going on? We understand that there could be further illegality connected to Khalil Eideh with regard to the importation of illegal tobacco through his brother’s business just down the road from his electorate office. The simple fact is that Khalil Eideh is still the Deputy President of the upper house. He has not been sacked by the Premier and he still maintains the confidence of the Labor Party room. It is simply outrageous that this man still collects 25 per cent above the basic wage of an MP. He is a rorting crook and he ought to be sacked by the Premier, and the Labor Party ought to review their confidence in him.
There was a certain irony when I was putting together my notes for this afternoon’s matter of public importance, about just how long it took to document all the extraordinary rorts that have gone on under the Andrews Labor government. There is the prolonged case in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and indeed the High Court, in which the Andrews Labor government is desperately trying to prevent the Ombudsman from investigating the misuse of electorate officers in the lead‑up to the 2014 election. You would have thought that if you had nothing to fear, you would have nothing to hide, but it was obvious from the Attorney‑General’s rather desperate attempt in the High Court to stop the Ombudsman investigating that they are very, very concerned about what the Ombudsman will find with regard to the misuse of electorate officers in the lead‑up to the 2014 election. We await the Ombudsman’s investigation with great interest. I understand that the Premier himself was interviewed by the Ombudsman in recent weeks, and indeed all political leaders from 2014 have been interviewed by the Ombudsman. This would suggest that this is a very serious investigation that goes to the heart of this Labor government, a government that has had, frankly since May 2015, incident after incident, rort after rort, scandal after scandal.
The Steve Herbert dogs issue that I referred to earlier received international coverage about how a minister could possibly use his limousine to transport his own pets from one side of the state to the other. That was quite extraordinary. We mere mortals who do not have chauffeur‑driven limousines could not believe that he had sent his driver down to his place to transport his dogs up to Trentham. Why? Because clearly the man had visions of grandeur. Lord Herbert of Trentham, I dubbed him, and quite rightly so; he was acting like some sort of middle European royalty, and it was just disgraceful conduct.
Where do you stop? There is also the relationship with John Setka, the relationship with Peter Marshall, the relationship with every dodgy dealer in town. This goes to public confidence in all politicians — indeed, in our entire Parliament. The printing rort issue was quite extraordinary. There is the inquiry into the $200 000 cash‑for‑stacks scandal. Using that sort of money to pay for Labor Party branch memberships is quite extraordinary. The level of branch stacking that has been going on in the western suburbs of Melbourne with people like Kim Carr and Khalil Eideh is a scandal that I suspect next year will prove devastating to the Labor government’s re‑election chances.
To return to Steve Herbert and the extraordinary lengths he went to to rort his limousine entitlement, or to the member for Tarneit and the extraordinary lengths he went to to get around the requirements of the second residence allowance and what he did in moving down to Queenscliff, or to the member for Melton, who is being investigated by the police, you would have thought that the carry‑on by the Labor Party over the previous four years about the misbehaviour of the former member for Frankston, Mr Shaw, would have given them some idea that you do not breach the rules of the Parliament; indeed, you do not steal from the taxpayer. Mr Shaw found himself before the Magistrates Court, and I suspect that is where the member for Melton will find himself next year.
The Premier loves to buy friends on Facebook. He loves to buy votes, although it did not work so well for him in Northcote. He certainly loves to spend taxpayers money to boost Labor Party Facebook pages. It is this sort of disgraceful contempt that he has for taxpayers money that again is leading the public to the view that the rorting, sleazy Andrews Labor government will not be re‑elected next year.
We believe that the member for Melton in particular ought to be referred to the Privileges Committee. We made this point today and we will make it for the next year — that is, that these people, who have systematically rorted the taxpayer and the Parliament, ought to be judged by the Parliament. I think the fact that the Labor Party still maintains confidence in these people — at the very least the member for Tarneit still sits in the Labor party room — shows that they really have escaped any formal punishment by the Labor Party.
Why? Because the Premier for one needs the member for Tarneit’s support — indeed he needs Stephen Conroy’s support — on the floor of the Parliament. He also refused to bring the member for Melton before the Privileges Committee or indeed to use his numbers to boot this man from Parliament as we have called on him to do many, many times. He is a complete hypocrite when it comes to people on his own side who have clearly done the wrong thing. This was not the case four years ago, when he tried to boot the member for Frankston out of Parliament or indeed when he tried on a number of occasions to refer him, and he did successfully refer him, to the Privileges Committee.
The public are sick of the double standards from the Andrews Labor government. They want a government that treats their money with respect — no more tearing up of contracts, no more hiding Labor MPs who have done the wrong thing. There is such a stench about this Labor government, and they do not seem to care that they have preselected for the seat of Ripon a staff member to the member for Melton. Ms Sarah De Santis is an electorate officer to the member for Melton. The Pyrenees Advocate says:
Labor sources have confirmed that the Liberal Party’s claims about Ms De Santis working for Mr Nardella are probably correct, and that by not selecting a local candidate, Labor effectively has shut itself out of the contest in Ripon.
The carry‑on by Labor about the current member for Ripon and the fact that she was not born in the local area has been simply outrageous. They have made the case on a number of occasions that they wanted to preselect a local. They have not preselected a local at all; they have preselected someone who lives in Geelong. They have preselected someone who works part‑time for the rorting member for Melton. Why would you be so short‑sighted?
The local Labor Party members in Ripon were not that short‑sighted. They wanted to preselect a local member of the Labor Party and a local health worker, but they did not succeed because the all‑powerful central panel of the Labor Party overruled them. The Socialist Left faction, the Premier’s own faction, overruled them, and I believe Ms De Santis won by one vote. So we have got an unpopular local candidate there in Ripon, in what the Labor Party has been talking up as a key campaign.
Honourable members interjecting.
Mr T. SMITH — Now they are chirping. The simple fact is they have preselected a hack who works for a very, very unpopular man who may well be before a court of law next year because of the way he stole $170 000 from the Victorian taxpayer by rorting his second residence allowance. Labor has regurgitated one of his staffers to stand in a key marginal seat. I must say I find that sort of hubris and arrogance simply breathtaking. It is simply breathtaking the way that the Labor Party has rolled this lady out with no care in the world as to who she works for. That stench of the member for Melton will be taken with Ms De Santis to the ballot box next year, and the people of Ripon will quite rightly reject her, as they will reject the Andrews Labor government, their rorts, their sleaze, their murkiness and indeed their general dodginess in the lead‑up to the next election.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Before I call the member for Essendon, I remind members in the house to refer to members by their correct titles during the matter of public importance debate.