Flat White

Does integrity matter to the Teals? Let’s see

6 June 2022

4:00 AM

6 June 2022

4:00 AM

Before it was taken down last week, the out-sized Josh Frydenberg placard on the side of my home in Surrey Hills had ‘corrupt dog’ scrawled across it. It had been vandalised in numerous other similar ways during the federal election, but by the end, I got sick and tired of cleaning it.

Where I live, in Kooyong, many voters have sent a message that they care deeply about issues of integrity. Rightly or wrongly, this was perceived to be a weak point for the Morrison government.

With upcoming state elections, we’ll soon be able to test if the Teals were genuine in their concerns, or whether they were simply a plausible excuse to give high-profile Liberal men a metaphorical kicking.

The Teals did particularly well in Victoria, knocking off both the Treasurer in Kooyong and Tim Wilson in Goldstein. Good luck to them. I, for one, hope integrity features just as strongly at the Victorian state election this November as it did at the federal election.

When the Victorian state Liberals were last in power, we established the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, which has done outstanding work ever since.

It has shone a light on the appalling behaviour that has clearly become normalised within the Victorian branch of the Labor Party. The Premier himself has been hauled before IBAC at least twice.

In all, six Labor Cabinet Ministers have lost their jobs in this term of Parliament alone, most notably, Adem Somyurek. Somyurek says Labor ‘stole’ the 2014 election after misappropriating public funds through the Red Shirts scheme.

Sometimes, issues of corruption generate significant interest inside the beltway, yet fail to cut through with voters. But Victorian Labor’s malfeasance, unlike that of the Federal Coalition, is so bad that it might make it into the election discussion.

We should all care that our leaders act with integrity because when they don’t, fundamental services suffer; people suffer.

Let’s take child protection. I need to admit that when it comes to child protection I’m deeply biased. You see, I was born into the care of the State in Victoria.

After some months in foster care as a baby, I was put into a permanent placement with a wonderful family. After the mandated period (then 12 months) this generous family adopted me.

This isn’t a sob story or a hard luck story. I’m incredibly lucky to have been born in Victoria at a time when the child protection system functioned really well under an outstanding Minister – Labor’s Pauline Toner – our state’s first female cabinet Minister.

Back then, being born into the care of the state could act as a springboard to a life of real opportunity. Not any more.

Last week at the Victorian Parliament’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee, we learned that over 2,500 young people with confirmed cases of abuse or neglect have not even been provided with a case worker. That’s over 16 per cent of all kids in the system.

We are also aware that, in this term of government, a record number of Victorian children known to child protection have died. More than half had not been allocated a worker. So, it matters.

The Child Protection Minister, Anthony Carbines, took to ABC radio to play down the significance of this metric. Nothing to see here…

His spin didn’t wash.

Carbines’ bizarre, train-wreck interview precipitated a huge response from listeners, all with their own stories of the failures of child protection under Labor. The ABC’s Virginia Trioli has now described the interview as ‘notorious’.

It was particularly odd for Carbines to assert that a huge number of unallocated cases is not a problem as the previous Minister – Luke Donnellan – had bragged about reducing the unallocated rate to 4 per cent just a year earlier.

I’m not a great fan of Luke. He resigned after coming to the notice of IBAC and admitted to breaking Labor Party rules. But to his credit, he worked to drive down the number of unallocated child protection cases. Then had had to quit. The vital Child Protection portfolio was shifted on a temporary basis to Richard Wynne, the Minister for Planning. Go figure. Finally, it was given to Anthony Carbines, who – in a long Parliamentary career – had never previously held a front bench position.

Carbines has also been implicated in the corruption probes that are dogging the government. Last December it was reported that he ‘gave a taxpayer-funded job to one of sacked powerbroker Adem Sumyurek’s chief branch stackers’.

In the midst of all this, the Andrews Labor government dropped the ball, and vulnerable children are suffering as a result.

Being born into the system, I know far better than most that the Child Protection portfolio matters. That’s why it deserves a senior Minister who is committed for the long term; like Labor’s Pauline Toner in the 80s or the Liberal’s Mary Wooldridge from 2010-14.

State Labor’s corruption scandals have robbed us of that. So, for the sake of our most vulnerable kids, let’s hope integrity matters just as much to Victorian voters in November as it did in May.

Dr Matthew Bach – Victorian Shadow Minister for Child Protection 

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