Appointment of a Parliamentary Integrity Adviser for the 60th Parliament

Danny O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (10:21): Thank you to the member for Laverton for her very kind words and her chairing of the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee. I want to speak today, though, on the issue of integrity with respect to the report on the appointment of a parliamentary integrity adviser for the 60th Parliament by the privileges committees of both chambers, the Council and the Assembly. The committees resolved to appoint Professor Charles Sampford as the parliamentary integrity adviser in the report tabled in June of this year. I would like to acknowledge the work in the past of Ray Purdey, who was the previous parliamentary integrity adviser but also a very long-serving, very wise and helpful Clerk here in the chamber who did a fantastic job. I had at least one occasion to speak to Ray about integrity issues, and I would encourage all members of the chamber, indeed all members of both chambers, to take the opportunity to speak to the integrity adviser and to take part in the education sessions that he will no doubt be running, which are highlighted in the report.

The role in the report indicates that the integrity adviser is to provide advice on request to current and former members on ethical issues and integrity matters relating to their role as a member of Parliament. There are also education and training functions of the parliamentary integrity adviser. I think this is a serious issue facing us here in this chamber, and I particularly think the government has a very serious problem with integrity. My colleague the member for Kew has outlined a number of issues where we have had at least five IBAC inquiries touching on the government – operations Watts, Daintree, Sandon and Clara, with Operation Richmond still to come. I was probably most perturbed a week or two ago when the latest jobs for mates issue arose. There is no doubt that there is justification from time to time for governments to appoint former MPs and ministers to important roles, and that will happen on both sides. But what I was concerned about when the latest appointment was raised of former Minister Foley to another government agency, on a fairly significant package, on top of a previous appointment to a hospital board, on top of former Minister Merlino being appointed to the Suburban Rail Loop Authority and Minister Neville as well to positions, was the response of the Premier and the complete arrogance in the way he took it. I was concerned that in particular there was a sense from the Premier that he was above anything – above any accountability – on these issues.

If you look at the history of this government, you can list a number of them. I have mentioned the IBAC inquiry reports. You can look at the red shirts issue, you can look at the issues of the former Speaker and Deputy Speaker with respect to living away from home allowances, you can look at the hotel quarantine forgetfulness of the government, you can look at the Labor branch-stacking issues, which, yes, did result in certain members of one faction being demoted and one kicked out of the party – but somehow or other the Socialist Left got off scot-free and there is no issue with that – but most particularly, I think, look at the concerns raised by the former Commissioner of IBAC Robert Redlich. The letter that he sent to the Speaker and the President alleged serious concerns about the government’s activity with respect to IBAC’s inquiries and suggested that members had actually asked an auditor to ‘dig up dirt’. To have that raised and then have the Premier say ‘I don’t know anything about it because it wasn’t sent to me’, which is totally disingenuous, and to have the Premier then refer to Robert Redlich as ‘a bloke who used to run an agency’ in such belittling terms frankly provided the groundwork for members of the Integrity and Oversight Committee to then go after Mr Redlich when he appeared a couple of weeks ago in what I thought was absolutely disgraceful behaviour, trying to discredit him and trying to undermine him.

Belinda Wilson: That’s not true.

Danny O’BRIEN: It is absolutely true. I would not be speaking up if I was you, member for Narre Warren North.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Through the Chair, member!

Danny O’BRIEN: That was a disgraceful performance on behalf of the government members – trying to belittle someone who the government, when he was appointed as the IBAC Commissioner, said was ‘one of Victoria’s most eminent and well-regarded jurists’.

Members interjecting.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Members on my right will come to order!

Danny O’BRIEN: The government has an integrity problem. It needs to do something about it. Some members in particular should be speaking to the parliamentary integrity adviser.

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