The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (15:37): I want to address the stench that attracts to the carcass of the current Labor government and the many reasons I believe for the government’s problems. The first I want to address is the quality of advice it receives from the ministerial staff within its offices. Sadly, what we see in these ministerial offices is a combination of factional hacks or wholly owned subsidiaries of the various factions in the Labor Party, union lackeys, failed candidates but, overall, people with very little or no experience in the particular portfolio area for which they are meant to be advising the minister.
If I look at the area of health, for example, and if I go through the ministerial advisers—Louca, Marcuccitti, Ngo, Runnel, Picton and Digance—I ask the minister and the government what expertise in the portfolio of health do these particular individuals bring to the more than half a million dollars in salaries that are being paid to advise the Minister for Health? There are a range of significant problems in terms of ministerial officers. In September last year, I raised the issue in the Budget and Finance Committee of Mr Vanco, who used to be in Mr Holloway’s office, in relation to concerns I had with a particular transaction and the purchase of a property in the department. We were advised this week that that is still with crown law seeking advice.
I have raised issues in relation to a senior officer within former minister Caica’s office in relation to the ‘cartridgegate’ scandal and $20,000 worth of cartridges purchased within that ministerial office. That issue, we understand, is still being investigated. We have seen publicity in relation to a former officer in minister Rankine’s office, Andrea Lowe, in relation to allegations about the Victims of Crime Fund, which is proceeding through the courts. I ask the government today whether Mr George Vlahos, who is a senior officer within minister Kenyon’s officer, is the same Mr Vlahos who was convicted under the occupational health, safety and welfare act in December 2011 of offences which led to the injury of an employee of that particular company?
The second issue I raise is the arrogance and incompetence that we see in ministers of this government; in particular, I refer to the arrogance of ministers in this chamber in their refusal to answer genuine questions. I give the example of questions I raised two years ago in relation to minister Gago’s interference in a public sector appointment for a Labor mate, Karen Hannon. I asked the questions in May 2011: whether Ms Hannon had applied to be a member of the tribunal; had been interviewed by a panel and had been unsuccessful in her application; and, after that, whether minister Gago personally intervened and directed that Ms Hannon not only be appointed as a member of the tribunal but also given the plum job of presiding member.
You will be aware, Mr Acting President, that minister Gago, after resorting to personal abuse about that particular issue, two years later has not had the courage to come back into this chamber and answer any of those questions. She resorts to personal abuse in responding to them; in essence, by inference, denying all the allegations and then, for two years, refuses to answer those particular questions. Obviously, one could be led to believe that there is substance to the questions that have been put; if it were the opposite, the minister would have been back in here very quickly denying the allegations. Two years of silence and arrogance would lead us to believe, or accept, that minister Gago is guilty of interference in a senior public sector appointment. Her silence is damning of this particular minister.
Sadly, that is what we see from this government: arrogance and refusal to answer questions, whether it be in this chamber, Budget and Finance committees or other committees. From the performance of minister Gago in this chamber, the arrogance and her shameful performance, I think most observers would accept that Ms Gago, perhaps with the Hon. Bernard Finnigan, would vie for being the two worst leaders of the government this chamber has ever seen. It would be a bit of a battle between the two of them, and I am not sure which way I would vote, but certainly they would be the two worst leaders of the government in this chamber. All we see from this government minister is a resort to personal abuse, arrogance and a refusal to answer questions.