Business of the house

19 June 2018

Mr PESUTTO (Hawthorn) (13:51:14) — It is always interesting to listen to the member for Essendon, with his endless classical quotes. I think I could probably offer him one, though — Shakespeare’s Queen Gertrude from the great play Hamlet, ‘More matter, with less art’. I think that is what the member for Essendon ought to take on board.

While I am on the subject of that fantastic play — one of the greatest in the history of literature — it begins, if I am not mistaken, with the words there is something rotten in the state of Denmark. One might say that about this government because time is running out for this government. Time is running out because the government has only a few more occasions to clear the rotten odour around the standing of this government.

This government stands out with a record all of its own. It has been subject in only three and a half years to four police investigations, with one IBAC investigation currently underway.

Ms Allan — On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, as entertaining as the member for Hawthorn started off — and we gave him some room to share his literary knowledge of Hamlet — I would encourage you to bring him back to the government business program. We do have a bit of latitude on this debate, but not that much. I would ask that you bring him back to the substance of the —

Mr T. Smith interjected.

Ms Allan — ‘Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio …’.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member for Hawthorn, please speak to the government business program.

Mr PESUTTO — The reason I am raising these matters of standing and integrity is because we maintain that it is important for this house to deal first with the misconduct, now substantiated and long substantiated, that surrounds and condemns the conduct of the former Speaker and former Deputy Speaker.

As the member for Box Hill rightly pointed out, nowhere in the Westminster world and at no point in the history of the Westminster tradition have we ever seen such an unseemly demise of the two most senior presiding officers of this esteemed house, and yet we have never done anything about it. It sits there like a rotten odour around this government, along with the other matters, including the dictaphone matter which was investigated by Victoria Police, and red shirts — a damning report which was made by the Ombudsman and which likewise we have not dealt with. We have not dealt with other matters surrounding the conduct and integrity of this government. It is therefore so important that we deal with this matter of the former Speaker and former Deputy Speaker. The Victorian public has every right to know the full and complete truth.

While the investigations to date did uncover a great deal of material that itself was damning, we need a full and complete investigation, and that is why the Privileges Committee ought to look into it. It seems a little ironic that the government should have on its government business program a bill the Victorian Independent Remuneration Tribunal and Improving Parliamentary Standards Bill 2017.

Well, if the government were truly committed to improving parliamentary standards in this place, then it would debate and bring on the matter of the Privileges Committee looking into the conduct of the former Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

Let us remember why this is important. It is important because despite the gravity of what was substantiated against the two presiding officers, there has never been a personal explanation from them. I sit in wonder at how and why neither of these two members of this house, who between them have decades of service to this house that is now blemished because of what has happened, have taken the opportunity to show us respect and show the Victorian people basic respect and stand in their place and explain what they did, why they did it, what they are going to do about it and whether they are actually contrite about it. Until that happens nothing will clear the stench around this government, particularly in light of all the other damning matters I have already mentioned.

So in the absence of the former Speaker and former Deputy Speaker taking the opportunity to stand up, fess up and atone for all that happened, we maintain that all government business should be subordinate to a Privileges Committee investigation.

About the Author