Premier Daniel Andrews has rebuffed a request from Victoria’s anti-corruption commissioner for changes to laws he claims are holding up important integrity reforms.
On Tuesday, The Age revealed Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption commission’s head, Robert Redlich, had complained to the attorney-general that laws allowing people to challenge his draft findings in court were delaying the timely release of corruption reports.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has rebuffed moves to overhaul IBAC legislation.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
The opposition seized on the commissioner’s request and will introduce amendments to the upper house on Wednesday that will direct the Supreme Court to prioritise any cases that delay corruption investigations.
On Tuesday, Andrews rejected the push to overhaul IBAC legislation, saying it was a matter for the Victorian Inspectorate, which oversees IBAC.
“All of our integrity agencies are in constant discussion with their minister, the attorney [general],” Andrews said.
“The parliament makes the laws and if I weren’t satisfied with those laws, I’d be standing here today announcing changes … and I’m not.”
The opposition’s push for amendments comes after The Age published details of a letter Redlich had sent to the state government and the opposition seeking support to amend the IBAC act to ensure cases of privilege – in which people named in investigations claim they do not have to disclose evidence – are prioritised.
Robert Redlich has called on the state government and opposition to support “useful amendments” to IBAC’s governing legislation.
The commissioner also canvassed a second amendment that would limit any legal challenges on natural justice grounds, which currently provides people who are subject to adverse commentary in corruption probes the chance to respond before any findings are released.
“Given recent challenges, these would be useful amendments to IBAC’s governing legislation,” Redlich wrote.
Shadow treasurer David Davis said the Coalition’s amendments would directly address Redlich’s concerns.
“The opposition will introduce a bill that will remove roadblocks to the tabling of IBAC reports while preserving a proper balance and without trampling on the rights of those named in any IBAC reports,” he said.
Redlich claimed the current settings had delayed the release of his inquiry into alleged corruption of the planning system in Melbourne’s south-east.
The Operation Sandon report, which is expected to recommend sweeping changes to integrity processes at a local government level, was expected to be tabled in parliament in the first half of this year but has been delayed by the Supreme Court intervention.
In March, Melbourne property developer John Woodman, who is mentioned in the draft report 1450 times, sought an urgent Victorian Supreme Court injunction to prevent the watchdog tabling its report, claiming he had been denied procedural fairness and that IBAC had breached its statutory obligations by not providing him with a reasonable opportunity to respond to the draft report.
Woodman had law firm Duxton Hill file proceedings in the Supreme Court, seeking more time to respond to the commission’s draft report on its long-running investigation.
On Tuesday, Supreme Court judge Tim Ginnane granted an order jointly requested by IBAC and lawyers acting for Woodman to close the court to the public until further notice.
Ginnane said airing the allegations in the presence of the media would put the proper administration of justice at risk and potentially disclose information of other people featured in the report without providing them with a chance to respond.
Both parties agreed to release redacted submissions on Wednesday because of the public interest in the matter.
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