A very bad look, Dan: High Court bid to block the Victorian Ombudsman from probing Labor’s alleged rorting

Clearly, the Andrews government doesn’t want an investigation of alleged misuse of parliamentary staff during the last Victorian state election. It has appealed a decision  to allow the Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass to investigate alleged rorting all the way to the Court of Appeal and lost.  But according to the Andrews government, the Courts, as in the case of incarceration of juveniles in adult prisons, are still getting it wrong.

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The Victorian Court of Appeal: Victoria’s peak judicial body.

The Age: The Andrews government will launch a costly High Court bid to block the Victorian Ombudsman from probing Labor’s alleged rorting of parliamentary funds.

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Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass

The staff are alleged to have campaigned at the election – instead of working to support MPs in their parliamentary and electorate duties, as they are meant to.

The Court of Appeal last month ruled Ombudsman Deborah Glass was free to probe the allegations against Labor.

The ruling came after the government attempted for a second time to use the courts to block Ms Glass from investigating the so-called “rorts-for-votes” scandal.

Attorney-General Martin Pakula said he would go to the High Court to challenge last month’s decision.

Doing so, said Attorney-General Martin Pakula, would “protect the architecture of Victoria’s integrity regime, particularly regarding the relationship between the Ombudsman and the Victorian Parliament”.

Pull the other one Martin!  It whistles Dixie.

There is an apocryphal urban myth about why Jeff Kennett lost power to little-known Labor leader, Steve Bracks.

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Kennett was involved in the long-running battle with Auditor General Ches Bardgwanath and many people in the liberal heartland believe that it represented a fundamental attack on the democratic rights of the Victorian public. This group of people swung to the Labour Party in the next state election denying  the Liberal party government for the next 11 years.

The move by the government is wrong in principle. Every government should be open to the scrutiny of its independent auditors, the Auditor General and the Ombudsman in particular.

It is also exceptionally bad politics for two reasons.

The general public, or at least the very small proportion concerned about this issue, will be left with the impression that the government has something to hide and is prepared to pay a lot of taxpayers money to keep it hidden.

The second is that the High Court challenge has now put this particular issue back in the spotlight.  What Andrews should have done is allow the Ombudsman to conduct her investigation an, if the finding was negative, issue a mea culpa and mumble about administrative  confusion etc etc.

But no, in the middle of the media silly season where the newspapers are dominated by articles such as  Bridie Smith’s How much can a koala bear, the government pulls a stunt like this.

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