Something red and rotten in the state of Victoria

Caption: A Victorian Labor MP cooperates with police.

Australia has had its share of corrupt politicians, but few were as ?colourful? as the aptly-named Tommy Bent. Renowned as one of the most corrupt politicians in the history of Victoria, Bent was a leading speculator in that state’s late-19th-century land boom. He shamelessly used his political office to benefit his property developments and to buy votes by promising railway lines to MPs in key electorates.

Even Tommy Bent might well raise an eyebrow at current premier Daniel Andrews.

As a health minister in the Brumby government in the late 2000s, Andrews was caught up in the systematic manipulation of hospitals data. As opposition leader, Andrews was at the centre of another scandal, when a reporter?s dictaphone was stolen by Labor staffers, and details of private recordings leaked.

His record hasn?t improved in government.

Key union allies have been caught up in corruption scandals, and a former union leader in his government was forced to resign. In return for vital electoral support, Andrews rewarded the militant United Firefighters Union by backing its takeover of Victoria?s iconic volunteer Country Fire Authority.

The biggest scandal to hit Andrews is boiling over right as he faces an imminent election. Quote:

A former Labor ?Red Shirts? campaigner who blew the whistle on the misuse of MP staff allowances during the run-up to the 2014 Victorian state election has hit out at government ministers who have refused to co-operate with a police investigation into the rort. End of quote.

The Andrews government is treating the law with contempt. During the 2014 election, the Andrews Labor party illegally used taxpayers? money by paying political campaigners ? the so-called ?Red Shirts? ? from parliamentary allowances meant to be reserved for electoral staff. Andrews then spent another million dollars of taxpayers? money trying to thwart an ombudsman?s investigation. Now, 21 of his MPs are simply thumbing their noses at the police. Quote:

Former Labor campaigner Jake Finnigan was one of more than a dozen campaigners caught up in a string of dawn raids by Victoria Police fraud squad detectives in August as they investigated Labor?s so-called ?Red Shirts rort?.

But yesterday, Mr Finnigan called on Labor ministers involved in the rort to resign after reports surfaced that they were refusing to co-operate with the investigation, and had declined fraud squad requests to come in for questioning.

He spoke out as former chief commissioner Kel Glare called for Labor MPs who refused to co-?operate to be arrested. ?They?ve done everything possible to avoid scrutiny,? Mr Glare told the Herald Sun. ?They should be arrested, and the allegations should be put to them.? End of quote.

As is so often the way with socialists, there appears to be one law for the proles and another for the political nomenklatura. Quote:

An angry Mr Finnigan yesterday accused ministers of hypocrisy for refusing to co-operate with police, even though many of the campaigners were subjected to much worse ?during the dawn raids.

?These ministers were meant to help uphold the system of law and order in this state but have refused to co-operate with an investigation into the party, while the unwitting dupes who worked underneath them and for them were subject to strip searches and dawn raids,? he said, issuing a blunt message: ?Resign, you cowards.?

News of the ministers going to ground on the investigation has surfaced just six weeks out from the November 24 state election.

Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton revealed last week that police could wrap up the investigation, and potentially lay charges, ahead of the election. At an announcement in Kyneton yesterday morning, Premier Daniel Andrews endured more than a dozen questions on the investigation, but refused to respond beyond saying it would be ?inappropriate? to comment. But Mr Andrews told 3AW?s Neil Mitchell in July: ?Everybody should co-operate and everybody will.? End of quote.

Except that they quite evidently aren?t. Quote:

Emails seen by The Australian between police and potential witnesses reveal pressure on police to wrap up the investigation. Police refer in the emails to ?pressure? from their bosses to get out?standing documents this week. End of quote.

What is even more astonishing is that Victorians are apparently gluttons for punishment. Opinion polling suggests that the race will be narrow, but that the Andrews government is even still in contention is frankly astonishing.

Then again, Tommy Bent has a whole suburb (Bentleigh) named after him, got a state funeral, and still has a commemorative statue gracing the wealthy beachside suburb of Brighton.