Ports and Marine Legislation Amendment Bill 2017
Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I thought I had better contribute to this debate because this is a very serious matter and the Greens are quite rightly appalled at the actions of the former Speaker and the former Deputy Speaker which have resulted in their resignations — their misuse of the second residence allowance and the refusal of the member for Melton to pay back that allowance to the Victorian people, who are owed that money. This government has seemingly been racking up a list of issues regarding entitlements, including the allegations regarding the use of electorate staff for campaigning purposes. Every step of the way the government has been looking to block the Ombudsman's investigation into that matter and to stymie that investigation. There has also been the misuse of ministerial cars. It is quite clear that we do not just need a change to certain rules but rather we need a change to the entire entitlements system.
In regard to this motion that we should not proceed to any further business but address the motion put by the Leader of the Opposition to set up a select committee to look into these matters regarding the former Speaker and the former Deputy Speaker, from our perspective we have been advised of the audit committee's investigations into this matter. Specifically it is reviewing the eligibility processes and controls on the receipt of the second residence allowance by the members for Melton and Tarneit. My understanding is that that is due to be completed by 14 March, and my understanding is that the motion from the Leader of the Opposition is to set up a second select committee to look into these matters. Our view is that we would like to see the audit committee's investigation through to completion, at least to 14 March, and see what results come from that before we view what further actions or what further steps need to be taken. As I said, it is clear that we need not only a change to the entitlements and rules but also a change in how those are administered.
The government has said that the Special Minister of State is conducting a review. My feeling is that it is not enough for this to simply be happening through a minister in the government behind closed doors. As I said yesterday, my feeling is that we need an independent parliamentary standards commissioner. A parliamentary inquiry was set in train following the allegations regarding Geoff Shaw and the saga that followed. That inquiry was not able to be completed in the last Parliament. It was the view of the Standing Orders Committee of the previous Parliament that that should be taken up by the Standing Orders Committee of this Parliament, but that has not occurred. My feeling is that that process needs to be restarted.
I note that in this motion from the Leader of the Opposition there is not much in it by way of what to do in terms of the systemic change that needs to happen in this place. Rather, there is just a very broad statement about what measures should be taken by the house to restore its standing in the eyes of community. That is too broad; it is not specific enough. We really need an independent parliamentary standards commissioner to oversee the entire entitlement system. A process was put in place in the last Parliament for the Parliament to look at that and for the Standing Orders Committee to make a recommendation about how such a commissioner could work in Victoria. I think that process needs to be put in place because that is the outcome we need. This rorting by the former Speaker and the former Deputy Speaker is just another item in the list of abuse of entitlements that has been occurring under this government and the last government, and it needs to be put to bed.
That is one part of it, but another part of it is that members need to be upholding the standards that the community expect. I know there has been a lot of debate around members living in their own electorates. It is understandable that not all members can live right in their electorates, but if not, they should be able to live in neighbouring communities. I think it would be an expectation of Victorians that local members live in their local community or at least near it. Otherwise they are not meeting community standards. We certainly need members to reflect community standards.