The Victorian Ombudsman has decided to conduct two separate investigations, one into Labor’s “red shirts” scandal and another into the alleged politicisation of the public service, in response to parliament referral.
In February, the upper house of the Victorian parliament passed a motion calling for a re-investigation into the red shirts affair to be headed by Ombudsman Deborah Glass.
The scandal involved Labor’s misusing $388,000 (US$270,000) in taxpayer funds to pay casual electorate officers to wear red shirts and campaign for the party in marginal seats in the 2014 Victorian state election, which was not a part of their duties.
Labor already repaid the above amount following a previous inquiry into the scheme.
Former Labor MP Adem Somyurek, who initiated the motion, also called on the ombudsman to look into the allegations that the public service was politicised because Labor activists were “stacked” into the sector.
In a statement released on May 10, Glass stated that she would deal with the parliamentary referral in two parts.
Part one involves probing into the red shirts scheme and the allegation of severe corrupt conduct of Victorian public officers, while part two covers other matters.
She also mentioned that former Commonwealth Ombudsman and Australian Information Commissioner John McMillan would lead the public service investigation.
“He has never worked in Victoria and brings an open mind to the issues under investigation,” Glass said.
Furthermore, the ombudsman has published an issues paper that explains the scope of the investigation and calls on public members affected by the politicisation in Victoria’s public service to make a submission.
The deadline for submissions is July 15.
This comes as the upper house debates a motion on May 11 that calls on Premier Daniel Andrews to step down as leader due to a separate investigation into the alleged corruption of government officials concerning local planning decisions.
In particular, the motion initiated by the Opposition requests the premier “stand aside from all official responsibilities” until the Victorian anti-corruption watchdog submits a report on the probe to the parliament.
It also demands Andrews not to make any executive or administrative decisions while waiting for the final report.
So far, the premier has declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.