Labor’s damaging fire services report cover-up continues

Date

Wednesday 15 September 2021

Labor, along with five crossbenchers, have again voted to silence victims and cover-up the release of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission’s (VEOHRC) report on systemic bullying in the Country Fire Authority and Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

Earlier this year, the Upper House passed a resolution requiring the Leader of the Government to table in the Council the VEOHRC review into the nature, prevalence, drivers and impacts of discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation in the CFA and the MFB.

The Attorney-General wrote on 19 May 2021 in response to the order to produce these documents stating that the Government does not hold a copy of the Review and that the VEOHRC advised that it cannot provide a copy of the Review to the Government due to Orders made by the Court of Appeal on 4 October 2018.

Today, the Liberal Nationals moved a motion requiring the Commissioner and the Executive Director of the VEOHRC to provide the Review to the Council, noting

  • the accepted practice in the New South Wales Legislative Council that if documents are legally in the custody and control of an agency rather than a Minister, the agency is required to comply with an order to produce those documents to the House, and
  • the legal opinion tabled in the New South Wales Legislative Council on 18 November 2015 by Mr Bret Walker SC, reiterating the right of Australian State Houses of Parliament to demand documents from all government agencies, directly if necessary, consistent with their ancient privileges and powers.

However, Labor’s Upper House councillors and Andy Meddick, Fiona Patten, Samantha Ratnam, David Limbrick and Tim Quilty from the crossbench today voted to defeat the motion rather than see VEOHRC forced to provide the damaging Review to the Council and, through it, the Victorian public – continuing the cover-up.

Victorians are sick of the lies and cover-ups and know it’s time for a change in government. A Liberal Nationals Government will deliver accountability and transparency.

Comments attributable to the Leader of the Opposition on the Legislative Council, David Davis:

“The original motion passed on the voices and therefore did not require a vote. Today was different, with Labor members and their fellow travellers on the crossbench calling for a vote and ultimately defeating the motion.

“The only thing that had changed about today’s motion is that the Andrews Labor Government could no longer simply refuse to provide the Review, VEOHRC would have been required to provide it.

“This document lists the longstanding problems, discrimination and bullying against women. How dare Labor and the crossbench block a document detailing the terrible discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation in our fire services. It’s time the truth came out.”

Comments attributable to the Shadow Minister for Emergency Services, Brad Battin:

“For too long the Andrews Labor Government have continued to hide the report that allowed victims to speak out.

“The Union and the Labor Party should be working their hardest to hear the victims and ensure the culture is improved, not working to silence the victims.”

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