Today I rise to speak on the reports made by the Integrity and Oversight Committee into the independent performance audits of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and the Victorian Inspectorate. Of specific interest to me is a minority report completed by the member for Sandringham and the member for Rowville, conveniently located at page 385 of this extensive and riveting report. This minority report discloses some of the significant challenges throughout the performance audit process, providing context to the conclusions made in the report.
There are two reasons the report gives for opposing the committee’s adoption of the performance audits. The first is the performance auditor’s inability to do what both the law and the committee required. The second reason explains that the legislative framework underpinning the performance audit process is simply inadequate. The minority report concludes that:
… due principally to the misrepresentations of the auditor’s capacity to undertake this audit, their final reports contained in the Majority Report are not independent.
It is interesting to see the report discuss concerns about the quality of work undertaken by the auditor as well. The auditor’s plans were said to be well short of the committee’s expectations. The plans, I quote, had:
… little overall detail and omitted reference to significant and essential components of a plan such as key risks and mitigation strategies, reference to past annual reports and other similar documents, audit criteria, timelines and key staff members.
At the conclusion of the audits the auditors themselves acknowledged that they were ineffective and unable to undertake the audits to an acceptable standard.
There are further concerns raised throughout the minority report, including about the legislative framework in place for the audit process. This framework, outlined in the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Act 2011 and the Victorian Inspectorate Act 2011, was found to be inadequate and failed to provide the necessary clarity the committee required. The report summarises that absolute independence cannot be ensured for the audit under the current system. This minority report is not asking for wide-sweeping changes to the legislation; instead it calls for further clarity and allowing an audit to function as it normally would.
A further point covered in the minority report speaks on the conduct of the subcommittee chair in relation to directing the auditor. On Thursday 6 October 2022 the chair of the subcommittee issued an email to the auditor instructing them to act in a particular way. Some might call the amount of direct engagement from Labor MPs ‘interference’, something that is not ideal when trying to achieve independent audits, which we have recently seen. It also further demonstrates the auditor’s inability to undertake the performance audit themselves. This level of assistance, which the report says was maintained during the course of the performance audit, legitimately calls into question the independence of the audit. It is not unreasonable to state that a completed performance audit report, as included in the majority report, albeit without an expressed audit opinion, would not have been achieved without the ongoing oversight and assistance of the subcommittee.
The centralisation of power, the complete disrespect for taxpayers money, the gaslighting of Victorians and the downplaying of clear integrity concerns are leaving constituents across my electorate embarrassed to live under this Premier. I wholeheartedly agree with my constituents. Government MPs continue to blindly follow the Premier and hide from their duty to call out improper conduct. Victorians deserve better. The conduct of this government is embarrassing, and I hope members opposite find the courage to consider these very real issues.
As members of this place, we have a duty to act with integrity and honesty in our dealings every single day. Sadly, this government continues to be shaded by corruption investigations, while members of Parliament on that side of the house blindly follow the Premier. I have also spoken to many former politicians who are appalled by the current standards of behaviour accepted by this government, which we saw yesterday with the dreadful treatment of my colleague the member for Eildon by the Premier.
While here I want to congratulate two residents of my electorate, Alexander ‘Sandy’ MacKenzie of Avenel and Pat McNamara of Nagambie, who were among some 1192 Australians celebrated in the King’s Birthday 2023 Honours List. Both were appointed a Member of the Order of Australia, in part through their services as longstanding politicians who acted with profound integrity. Mr MacKenzie received his award for significant service to the people and Parliament of Australia, to education and to conservation. He was a federal MP serving as a National Country Party member for Calare in New South Wales from 1975 to 1983. The honours list citation for my electorate’s other awardee Mr McNamara states the Nagambie resident received his order of Australia for significant service to rowing, to the Parliament of Victoria and to the community through a range of roles. Mr McNamara was a National Party MP in the Victorian Parliament from 1982 to 2000.