Glass urges action
Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass has criticised the state government's sluggish response to corruption findings.
More than a year on from the unveiling of Operation Watts, an anti-corruption report jointly presented by Ombudsman Deborah Glass and Victoria's Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), the Victorian government's reaction is described by Glass as lacking “signs of life”.
This report unearthed “egregious” and “extensive” misconduct committed by Victorian Labor MPs.
The list of misdeeds included rampant nepotism, pervasive misuse of public resources, and a deep-rooted culture of branch stacking that spanned decades.
It delivered 21 recommendations, including the establishment of a Parliamentary Ethics Committee and a Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner, as well as reforming the privileges committee to mitigate the dominance of the majority party.
On the day of its release, Premier Daniel Andrews offered an apology for the “absolutely disgraceful behaviour” exposed in the report. He pledged the government's acceptance of all 21 recommendations.
More than 12 months later, Ms Glass has presented a “mixed report card” on the government's progress.
She raises alarm regarding the inertia surrounding two vital recommendations – the ethics committee and the integrity commissioner.
“We've seen commitments to doing so but we haven't seen anything resembling consultation draft or legislation,” Glass asserts.
In her progress report, Glass acknowledges that the government is working on addressing many of the 21 recommendations.
However, with merely six parliamentary weeks remaining in the year, the critical legislative changes risk missing the deadlines specified in the report.
These deadlines require the government to pass legislation by December 2023 and establish the new integrity measures by June 2024.
Responding to the progress report, Daniel Andrews has hinted at work happening behind the scenes.
“Cabinet has a lot of things to deal with,” he remarked, withholding specifics but assuring that progress is being made.
Deborah Glass, who completes her 10-year term as ombudsman next year, acknowledges that she has effectively gotten under the government's skin, meaning her leaving could be an outcome they welcome.
Her concerns about the government's sluggish response echo a damning assessment by former IBAC chief Robert Redlich, who accused Andrews of misleading the public about IBAC reports.
Redlich additionally claimed that Labor MPs sought to tarnish IBAC's image by digging up dirt on the commission.
Andrews dismissed these allegations, characterising Redlich as a former official who had penned a questionable letter.