Victorian government under pressure to implement integrity reforms laid out following release of progress report

Victorian government under pressure to implement integrity reforms laid out following release of progress report
  • PublishedSeptember 14, 2023

The Victorian Labor government is under pressure to implement several key reforms outlined in a bombshell report that was handed down 12 months ago.

Operation Watts, a joint report from Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission and the Victorian Ombudsman, uncovered branch stacking within Victorian Labor.

It found a “catalogue of unethical and inappropriate behaviour”, including the misuse of public resources and ongoing corruption risks.

Chief among the recommendations from the report was a Parliamentary Ethics Committee being established.

It also called for a Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner, which could investigate future breaches of standards.

On Thursday a progress report was tabled by the two bodies, which critiqued the government over its commitment to install the integrity reforms.

Ombudsman Deborah Glass said the government has a “mixed report card” one year on from the report being tabled.

“Ones that don’t require legislation, I think they’ve made some good progress but the biggest ones we have not yet seen,” she told 3AW.

“A Parliamentary Ethics Committee, which would be cross party, preferably with a non-government chair was one of our key government recommendations.

Ombudsman Deborah Glass said the government has a “mixed report card” one year on from the report being tabled. Picture: Sky News Australia

Ombudsman Deborah Glass said the government has a “mixed report card” one year on from the report being tabled. Picture: Sky News Australia

“And a Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner, an independent person who would be empowered to investigate breaches of standards.”

Asked whether she has seen progress from the government, Ms Glass said that’s the question she wishes she could answer.

“That’s the question we have been asking the government for some time,” she replied.

“There is a bit of a gap with the speed the Premier accepted the recommendations and the speed with which they are being implemented.

“We haven’t yet seen any draft legislation, as far as I know no consultation has taken place.

“If they were going to meet the timetable that we proposed, we would be seeing these things by now.”

Premier Daniel Andrews dismissed the concerns, insisting the dual agencies are “not in a position to know” the progress, given they are not in his Cabinet.

He thanked both for the report, claiming that a “power of work” has been done since Operation Watts was released.

“The heads of integrity agencies are not the Cabinet and I would say to them, with the greatest of respect, there has been a power of work done to this point,” he said.

“And we will have very significant updates to make quite soon. Cabinet has a lot of things to deal with and I am not at liberty to go through what is and isn’t on the Cabinet agenda.

“Those agencies, and all Victorians, can be assured a power of work has gone on.”

When asked about the timeline, Mr Andrews said the recommendations are “being dealt with right now”.

“Will have a lot more to say soon,” he added.

Operation Watts determined that while the misconduct was “unethical and not in-line with community standards”, there was no statutory provision which could prompt a criminal investigation.

SOURCE: SKYNEWS

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