New Vic rorts-for-votes inquiry can start

A fresh inquiry into Victorian Labor’s systematic misuse of $388,000 in parliamentary allowances to partially fund the 2014 election campaign can start after weeks of deadlock.
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The committee had been in stalemate on who should head the inquiry because Labor and the Greens backed Greens MP Nina Springle, but the opposition and some crossbench MPs wants Liberal MP Gordon Rich-Phillips.

Independent MP James Purcell was instead appointed to chair the upper house committee on Wednesday, but Premier Daniel Andrews would not comment on the matter.

“It is totally inappropriate for me to run a commentary on that and I won’t,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“The composition of the committee, it’s work, that is a matter for the committee.”

But Opposition Leader Matthew Guy says Mr Andrews has some explaining to do.

“Daniel Andrews and his government needs to explain to Victorians about them stealing $400,000,” he told reporters.

“(Labor) are responsible for the greatest rort…in Victorian political history.”

The Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass found Labor MPs systematically misused parliamentary allowances to partially fund the party’s winning 2014 election campaign.

She found the MPs breached parliamentary guidelines by authorising electoral officer time sheets when the staff were instead working on campaigns in other seats.

However, she also found that MPs who participated believed it was within the rules and Labor has repaid the money.

Eleven of the 21 MPs involved are still in parliament, including Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings and Families Minister Jenny Mikakos in the upper house.

The committee can ask people outside parliament and lower house MPs to give evidence but it cannot compel Legislative Assembly members to appear.

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