Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (10:43): I rise to support this motion, I think echoing the previous members, with a great degree of sadness, a great degree of disappointment. When I also watched this unfolding on television and then in the newspapers the next day, sadly I was not surprised and sadly I do not think the Victorian public was surprised—shocked, maybe, by the language, shocked that this was exposed but not surprised that it was happening, not surprised at all. That is why we often hear the disdain that our community has for politicians.
I feel very privileged to be here. I feel passionate about being here. I am passionate about representing my constituency. I am passionate about the policies that I want to advocate for. I feel very fortunate to have this extraordinary opportunity, and I take it very seriously. But that is not enough for our community now. We need to do a lot more, and I do not know whether an investigation by the Ombudsman or whether an investigation by IBAC will actually restore that faith that we should have and that we must try and restore because it is not there now.
To see the disdain that Mr Somyurek not only treated his constituents with but treated his colleagues with, the disdain that he treated this Parliament with, as a member of the crossbench—and probably, I have to say, as a woman—I felt it. When the minister could not remember my name in a committee process, when the minister would barely answer a question when I was seriously trying to further understand in the committee process about local government legislation that was going to affect my community, which were questions that my community were concerned about—the ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or nonanswers that we received! This was someone who clearly treated this place with contempt.
Now, maybe that is something we should explore. Was he in fact in contempt of this Parliament? Some years ago I was actually charged with contempt of Parliament. Long before I was a member of Parliament—and certainly not as a minister—I threatened to take legal action against some senators when I thought what they were doing was not correct and was not within their duties. Now, that enraged the senators at the time, and I and my partner, Robbie Swan, were charged with contempt of Parliament. Ultimately we were not found to have been in contempt, but I would say that the accusations against me were far less than what we have seen the accusations against Mr Somyurek are. I mean, talk about threats—my goodness. The threats he was making against his own members,
against other ministers, were contemptible. It was worse than that: it was misogynistic. But I certainly think that we could consider whether in actual fact he was not only treating this place with contempt but he was actually in contempt of this place.
I am pleased that we are all in furious agreement about this motion, but I hope that we actually take this seriously. I hope that we actually do change the way that we act. I hope that we can bring the public with us with these changes. I hope that maybe this will lead to greater transparency. I know,
sitting on the crossbench, that we are not about to be in power, as it were, and it is the power that has corrupted this. It is the power that became the only reason for him being here. It was not the policies; it was not the people. It was about the power.
Crossbenchers are not affected by that in the same way. We come here with passion. We certainly may not all agree with each other—and that is entirely evident in many of the debates that we have had in this place—but I respect everyone here because they are passionate and they are here for the right reasons, even if I may not agree with those reasons. However, they are here for the right reasons and they are here to represent the people of Victoria. They are not here to power play, which is what we have seen.
Maybe this does need a complete change. We are seeing the trust in our politicians, in our political process—even in our parliamentary processes—decline, decline, decline. That is the saddest thing—that this comes as no surprise to our constituents. It comes as no surprise to our community. That is the saddest thing about this motion. It is the saddest thing about what we have all been dealing with this week—and not only this week. In my short period in this place we have seen, consistently, these questions about, ‘Are we behaving in a proper manner? Are we behaving in an admirable and an
honest and honourable manner?’. And I think time and time again we have found that we are lacking. I hope, yet again, that this might be a final wake-up call for us to change this—to really work hard to restore that faith. May this be a tipping point in this Parliament.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Norther Metropolitan
Motion by Mr Davis 17/6/20
Mr DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan—Leader of the Opposition) (10:10): With a heavy heart I move this motion:
That this house:
(1) pursuant to section 16 of the Ombudsman Act 1973 refers the following matter to the Ombudsman for investigation and report:
(a) allegations aired on 60 Minutes and in the Age that the Honourable Adem Somyurek, MLC, and other ministers misused members’ staff and other budget entitlements against the provisions of relevant statutes, guides and rules of the Parliament of Victoria for internal Australian Labor Party
purposes, including ‘branch stacking’;
(b) any other breach of applicable policies, laws or codes in relation to these allegations;
(2) supports other relevant Victorian authorities, including the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) investigating these allegations for potential corrupt behaviour and breaches of the Crimes Act 1958 and other Victorian laws;
and requires the Clerk to write to the Victorian Ombudsman and the IBAC Commissioner to convey the terms of this resolution.