Justice Legislation Amendment (Access to Justice) Bill 2018

28 March 2018

Ms Ryan — I rise in support of the motion moved by the manager of opposition business that we should immediately establish a select committee into the rorting of those opposite, which has been so thoroughly uncovered by the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman has referred to the elaborate scheme established by those opposite as an artifice, and it is just disgraceful that they would now claim that they believed they were doing it all within the rules. We as individual members of Parliament have a responsibility to follow the guidelines of Parliament. It is not enough for me to stand up and say, 'Oh, well, the Leader of The Nationals told me it was okay. Oh well, the Leader of the Opposition told me it was okay'. We have individual responsibilities, which those opposite are now seeking to shirk.

I believe that the manager of opposition business is entirely correct in moving that we must immediately establish a select committee to deal with these matters. Those opposite have refused to give full consideration to the Ombudsman's report. They have refused to answer key questions about what they knew and when. We have seen today in question time that the Premier and the member for Lara have both misled the chamber by telling Parliament that they knew nothing and that they did not have staff in their employ in campaigns, yet here we have clear findings from the Ombudsman that the member for Lara funded electorate officers to support the member for Bellarine.

These are serious allegations, perhaps more serious than this house has ever seen. That you could have a political party rort $388 000 from the taxpayer and effectively cheat their way into government to rob the Victorian public and steal an election is total corruption, and those opposite must front a select committee with the powers to investigate these issues as a matter of priority. We know that those opposite, as the manager of opposition business said, used the defence of exclusive cognisance to hide behind, to hide their guilt and to refuse to front up to the Ombudsman. The fact that they now claim that they cooperated with the Ombudsman's inquiry is the most ridiculous farce.

They hid from the Ombudsman. The Attorney-General, who sits at the table, fought the Ombudsman all the way to the High Court to prevent her from being able to investigate these issues. Why would they do that? They did not really care about testing a legal principle. They cared about hiding their guilt. They wanted to hide their guilt from the Victorian public because they well knew that they had breached parliamentary guidelines, that they had rorted the system and that they had stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Victorian public, which delivered them a result in office. We know that because we know that the Premier, in the wash-up of the last election, attributed Labor's win in the 2014 election to the red shirts brigade. Now we see that not only have they stolen money from their parliamentary electorate offices but they have also used the resources placed at their disposal during the campaign, their second car, to ferry around this brigade of paid parliamentary electorate officers in active campaigning.

This is the biggest scandal to hit the Victorian Parliament in years — in decades. Those opposite must answer for it. They must front a select committee, as moved by the manager of opposition business, and they must explain themselves, because they have been shown up to be absolute cheats. They are thieves. They have rorted the public purse. We have had the member for Tarneit and the member for Melton both stood down from their positions. There is just a litany, one after the other, of scandals to hit this government where they have rorted the public purse. It is time that they face the music, that they face up to a select committee and they explain themselves, not just to this house or to the Ombudsman but to the Victorian public, who deserve better.

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