Victoria’s Opposition has been hit with two scandals caused by its senior members on the same day, raising concerns about cultural issues within the party.
Shadow treasurer David Davis was escorted out of a multicultural gala dinner for getting drunk and misbehaving, while Liberal MP Wendy Lovell has been subject to harsh criticism for her comments on social housing.
Lovell, who was the housing minister under the Liberal government until 2014, remarked during a debate on the Greens party’s homelessness bill in the upper house on March 23 that it was pointless to erect social housing in well-off suburbs.
“There is no point putting a very low income, probably welfare-dependent family in the best street in Brighton where the children cannot mix with others or go to the school with other children or where they do not have the same ability to have the latest in sneakers and iPhones etc.,” she said.
“We have got to make sure that people can actually fit into a neighbourhood, that they have a good life and that people are not stigmatising them because of their circumstances.”
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said that Lovell’s comments were “exceptionally clumsy,” but she did not have ill intent.
In contrast, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews condemned Lovell’s remarks, saying they were shameful and “fundamentally wrong.”
“I see some pretty pathetic attempts to try and explain this away—she meant well. No, she didn’t,” he told reporters.
“This is an appalling example of the Liberal Party’s postcode snobbery,” Housing Minister Richard Wynne said.
“Matthew Guy should step in and apologise, not just on behalf of the Liberal Party; he should apologise to all those who have lived in public housing.”
At the same time, Greens party leader Samantha Ratnam said the comments were disrespectful and carried on existing stereotypes about social and public housing residents.
“There were members of parliament who spoke so passionately and eloquently yesterday about growing up in public housing,” she told reporters.
“Unfortunately, the Liberals have form when it comes to these kinds of myths and stereotypes.”
In the meantime, Davis made a public apology on March 24 after media outlets reported his drinking incident at a gala event on March 19.
“It’s clear I did the wrong thing on Saturday night, and I’ve apologised for that. I’m quite remorseful,” he told reporters.
“I did drink too much, and thereby that’s my mistake.”
Victorian Deputy Premier James Merlino said Davis had a pattern of misbehaviour due to drinking and called on the Opposition leader to “clean his own house”.
Guy, who was also present at the event, only noticed the incident on March 23.
“He wouldn’t be the first politician to commit this sin, and I’m sure he’s not the last one. He’s apologised for it. That’s the right thing to do. I’ve expressed my disappointment to him about that,” he said.
The two separate scandals were causing trouble for the Opposition following the incident of the Liberal member for Kew Tim Smith crashing his car into a home in Hawthorn while being intoxicated in 2021.
A breath test showed that Tim had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.131, nearly three times the upper legal limit for driving. He was subsequently dismissed from the shadow attorney-general position and will not recontest in this November’s election.