PAUL AUSTINJuly 23, 2010
STATE Parliament is expected to launch an investigation into the leaking of a secret report on the Hotel Windsor redevelopment scandal, as Labor and the opposition go to war over the affair.
The government yesterday accused the opposition of being behind the leak, while the Liberals said Labor had been caught trying to cover up a scandal ”that goes all the way to the top of the Premier’s office”.
The Age yesterday revealed that a draft report by the upper house committee investigating the affair recommends forcing senior government advisers to give sworn evidence on whether Premier John Brumby and Planning Minister Justin Madden were involved in a bid to corrupt state planning laws.
The draft report condemns Attorney-General Rob Hulls, saying his order that ministerial advisers defy subpoenas to appear before the committee was a contempt of Parliament.
Treasurer and government upper house leader John Lenders said the leak of the draft report was itself a serious contempt of Parliament, which he would refer to the president of the Legislative Council, Labor MP Bob Smith, for investigation.
Mr Lenders demanded Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu ”come clean” and reveal whether he or anyone associated with the Coalition was involved in the leak.
He said the leak reinforced Labor’s view that the upper house committee’s inquiry was ”nothing more than political street theatre being stage-managed by Mr Baillieu”.
Mr Lenders said the hardline stance of the upper house committee – dominated by non-Labor parties – was undermining a separate investigation by the Ombudsman into the planning process for the $260 million revamp of the heritage hotel.
”Mr Baillieu should let the Ombudsman carry out his investigation without the political side-show of an upper house witch-hunt,” he said.
Opposition legal affairs spokesman Robert Clark challenged Mr Lenders to ”put up or shut up” about the leak.
He said in the absence of any evidence that the opposition was behind the leak, people were entitled to conclude that Labor was trying to distract attention from its attempts to hide the truth about the affair.
The upper house committee and the Ombudsman launched investigations after the leaking in February of a media plan from Mr Madden’s press secretary that outlined a strategy to run a sham public consultation on the redevelopment.
The press secretary, Peta Duke, emailed the plan to Mr Brumby’s chief media advisers, George Svigos and Fiona Macrae.
Mr Madden, who says the plan was all Ms Duke’s work, in March granted a planning permit for the revamp, which will include a new 26-storey glass tower behind the 1880s hotel.