I rise to join the debate on this matter of public importance (MPI). When you have a self-indulgent motion like this before you, the first thing you do is you refer to original promises and test the claim in the MPI. Last year there was a lot of rhetoric around accountability, openness and transparency. The now Premier said in November 2010:
There will be no hidden agenda, no spin, no secrecy. Accountability and transparency will be the principles that underpin our government …
I am happy to make that newspaper report available to the house. When did the Liberal Party or The Nationals give any indication that within seven months of coming into government they would sack the Chief Commissioner of Police and force the Director of Public Prosecutions out of office? We have witnessed a disgraceful period in the history of the relationship between government and the independent office of the Chief Commissioner of Police. You cannot be open, accountable and transparent with the Victorian community if you cannot be open, accountable and transparent within your own government. That is what we have seen.
The Minister for Police and Emergency Services said this of the former Chief Commissioner of Police:
I’ve not seen the like of the campaign that’s been run against him, never seen the like of it in my 18 years in politics and in my similar time in private life … It is unremitting and it’s remorseless.
The minister was talking about his own government, his own colleagues and his own staff. Behind the back of the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and the then chief commissioner, the chief of staff to the Premier and the Premier’s closest adviser, Michael Kapel, met with Sir Ken Jones, the deputy governor of Victoria Police, at Sir Ken Jones’s home. The Minister for Police and Emergency Services said this was inappropriate; the Premier on the other hand said the meeting was held in good faith and was appropriate. However, the Premier could not say what was discussed. He could not say if the future of the then chief commissioner was discussed. He could not say whether the police minister was informed.
He could not say if Ken Jones was offered a position as either the chief commissioner or the head of an independent, broadbased anticorruption commission. He could not say whether it was some grubby exercise to gather dirt on the chief commissioner. All he could say was that the meeting was held in good faith.
The senior police adviser to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Tristan Weston, had his authority to work in secondary employment immediately revoked by Victoria Police following an Office of Police Integrity investigation. Mr Weston subsequently resigned from Victoria Police to avoid answering any questions. The Premier says Tristan Weston has his full confidence, yet the Deputy Premier has made it clear that Mr Weston will not be returning to his office as an adviser and will not be advising the government on police matters. Why is this? The minister refuses to say why.
How can Mr Weston have the full confidence of the Premier while the Deputy Premier is refusing to work with him? If that is not an indication of whom Mr Weston’s true masters are, I do not know what is. This is a complicit Premier and ignorant minister. What role has Mr Weston played in this shameful episode? Why was he under investigation? Why did Victoria Police feel it necessary to immediately remove authority for his secondary employment?
This government has been up to its neck in an orchestrated campaign to undermine the independence of the office of the police commissioner. This was a black day in the history of Victoria. It is not just the Labor opposition that says that. Former Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett said:
I believe a shocking precedent has been set and that a chief commissioner has been forced to resign because of an unrelenting campaign against him. Some will be celebrating for all the wrong reasons.
And they did. On the day of the announcement of Simon Overland’s forced resignation, all around this Parliament government members and government staff were smiling. They had smiles on their faces. They were proud of their cowardly and disgraceful behaviour. They were proud of the role that they played in destroying the independence of police command. They should hang their heads in shame.
John Silvester from the Age has this advice for the Minister for Police and Emergency Services:
And mate, it might be time for you and Ted to call in your …troops for a coach’s address as it is clear people in both your office and the Premier’s have no idea about police independence. Which is why they stuck their bibs in behind the scenes and tried to become players in police politics.
It is an absolute disgrace.
The process to select the next Chief Commissioner of Police is now under way, and it is under way with a significant and unfortunate legacy from this whole sorry saga. Every candidate for the position of chief commissioner will know that if they fall foul of this government, it will stop at nothing and it will not hesitate in getting in the gutter until they are gone. Toe the line or you are out — that is the message from this government to police command.
We saw a glimpse of that yesterday at the press conference with the acting chief commissioner and the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. The acting chief commissioner was asked whether he could work with Mr Weston if he was reinstated. Behind the acting chief commissioner’s back, Big Brother-like and overbearing, the minister intervened and said the question was ‘irrelevant’. Irrelevant to whom?
The journalist, Stephen McMahon from the Herald Sun, rightly persisted and asked the question and Ken Lay responded.
Under this government, it is their way or the highway. The right of the media to ask any question it sees fit and the right of Victoria Police to answer questions independent of the Victorian government are out the window. Who does this minister think he is? This is not a dictatorship where the only ‘relevant’ voice and opinion are of those who drive around in big white cars.
This underhanded behaviour and secrecy continues around the removal of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Jeremy Rapke. When pressed on his relationship with former Office of Public Prosecutions solicitor Stephen Payne, the Deputy Premier ran at 100 miles an hour away from their friendship and said the ‘association’ concluded almost two decades ago and that he had only ‘infrequent contact’. ‘Friend? What friend?
He’s not my friend’ is what the Deputy Premier said, but he was close enough to go in to bat for him, for a mate. It is reported today in the Australian that the Minister for Police and Emergency Services accompanied his ‘intermittent’ friend to a meeting with the then Minister for Health to discuss the sacking of a health board of which Mr Payne was a member. It seems the Deputy Premier is the go-to man for Mr Payne. I hope Mr Payne is not offended by the dismissive comments of someone he clearly thought was a mate.
The Premier and the Attorney-General are refusing to release the Vincent report. Why are the Premier and Attorney-General — this government — refusing to release this report? This secrecy about the relationship between the minister and Mr Payne is another reason why this report should be tabled.
Yesterday we saw another chapter in the shambles of the government’s protective services officers (PSOs) policy.
If members go back to their promise, they will see that government members said there would be PSOs at every single metropolitan station, but yesterday we were informed that that will not be the case and that PSOs will be moved. The policy, which I will also table, says ‘protective services officers on every train station’, and that they will give ‘blanket coverage’. It says also that ‘PSOs will be permanently stationed’ on every train station and that they ‘will be deployed exclusively on train stations’.
That will not be so, according to comments made at yesterday’s press conference. When are members of this government going to fess up and say what they are really going to do with PSOs? They have had seven months to work on this policy and they could not even answer the question ‘What does working in the vicinity of a train station mean?’. This is a shambles and it is over budget. Government members are not delivering where they said they would and they are not delivering when they said they would.