Labor could face a public probe into accusations its MPs directed independent auditors to “dig up dirt” on Victoria’s integrity watchdog, with the opposition and Greens threatening to establish a parliamentary inquiry.
There were chaotic scenes at state parliament last week after an explosive letter written by former Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission boss Robert Redlich was published in the media.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Opposition Leader John Pesutto.Credit:The Age
That letter – which was sent to the lower-house Speaker and upper-house president – also raised concerns about the behaviour of some government MPs on parliament’s powerful integrity and oversight committee, and called for the panel to no longer be dominated or chaired by Labor representatives.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Premier Daniel Andrews suggested the allegations against his colleagues weren’t secondhand, but “third hand”.
“I’m not in the business of reading correspondence if not addressed to me. And I’m not in the business of accepting allegations that have no basis in fact,” he said.
“If it was such a massive matter for the government, why was it not sent to anybody in government or raised since? I would have thought that if anyone in the whole state knew how to access the integrity architecture, you’d have to say it would be the former head of one of those integrity agencies.”
Opposition Leader John Pesutto said the premier’s comments should concern every Victorian.
“Daniel Andrews … calls corruption allegations from Victoria’s [former] corruption commissioner third-hand news. That’s not arrogant. That’s delusional,” he said.
“If we don’t take this seriously as a state, if we don’t act on this and insist on the highest standards – insist on the truth, insist on accountability – what kind of state are we? Mr Redlich is not some petty underling. Mr Redlich is a distinguished former Supreme Court judge and Court of Appeal judge. His views ought to be respected.”
Pesutto said the Coalition would pursue the issue by attempting to establish an upper-house inquiry next week. However, he acknowledged such an inquiry would not be able to compel the premier to provide evidence.
“A select committee in the upper house is probably the most likely option,” he said. “Unfortunately, Daniel Andrews, I suspect, will never agree to a royal commission or judicial inquiry. That requires a decision [from] cabinet.”
Greens leader Samantha Ratnam said she was open to supporting a parliamentary inquiry.
“We take both the failure to pass on the letter and the revelations it contains very seriously,” she said.
“We’re talking to all parties about our options. It’s possible that a motion to appoint a select committee could succeed.”
Neither the government nor the opposition has a majority in the state’s 40-member upper house. The Coalition has 14 seats while the Greens have four. Working together, as they did last month to establish an expanded flood inquiry, the two parties would still need to find three other votes from the crossbench.
Coalition sources said those votes would most likely come from right-wing crossbenchers. When contacted by The Age, One Nation MP Rikkie-Lee Tyrrell said she would back a parliamentary inquiry into the Redlich letter.
“I would definitely support that,” she said.
Liberal Democrats representative David Limbrick and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Jeff Bourman said they wanted to see the wording of the motion before declaring their support.
The remaining crossbenchers in the upper house include two Legalise Cannabis Party MPs, one Animal Justice representative and former Labor minister Adem Somyurek from the Democratic Labour Party.
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