Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Maribyrnong River flood review

David DAVIS, Harriet SHING

Maribyrnong River flood review

David DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan) (12:12): (141) My question is for the Minister for Water. Minister, will you confirm that you were formally briefed on the Maribyrnong River flood review and Nick Wimbush by the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action on 22 December?

Harriet SHING (Eastern Victoria – Minister for Water, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy, Minister for Equality) (12:12): Mr Davis, I routinely receive information, briefings, updates and details of the matters relevant to all four of my portfolios, and that includes water. This is part of ongoing conversations and discussions that I have with people from within the department. Obviously, after the October 2022 flooding events there was a need for Melbourne Water to look at what had occurred, and it set the terms of reference by which that review would be undertaken.

I was sworn in as the Minister for Water on 14 December. At about 5:30 pm the following day Mr Wimbush was confirmed as the appointed head of the review as part of a process that Melbourne Water had undertaken following its own processes relevant to the probity matters and to the decisions made by Melbourne Water. There have then been conversations, as there should have been and as is appropriate to have taken place, with Melbourne Water, through the department and to me about the way in which the appointment had occurred – ‘had’ being the appropriate tense there, because, Mr Davis, despite how hard you may try, I was not involved in any of the processes associated with the appointment of Mr Wimbush, with the advice of the probity officer and with decisions taken by Melbourne Water around its review, and that is the end of it.

David DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan) (12:14): I notice the minister has refused to indicate that she actually did have a briefing. I actually have that briefing here, so I can confirm to the house she was briefed on the 22nd. That FOI released to my office this week, including that material, saw the release of 38 documents, and I note that on 40 occasions ministerial staff were emailed, including seeking approvals, where ministerial office changes to releases and proposals were clearly documented. Does the minister still stand by her claim that she and her office were not up to their necks in tailoring and approving the work of the Maribyrnong flood review?

Harriet SHING (Eastern Victoria – Minister for Water, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy, Minister for Equality) (12:15): Mr Davis, I have answered this question on multiple occasions now, but let me spell it out for you again. It is important that I am aware of, apprised of and, as the Premier has indicated applies to many portfolios, kept in the loop about the work that is undertaken across departments, entities, agencies and organisations. This includes being updated on information as it is provided, for example, in response to media requests. That is precisely what occurred in the instances that you are referring to, and again it is important that you understand that, as part of Melbourne Water’s technical review, decisions are made by Melbourne Water. They are not ministerial decisions. The appointment process, the probity advice, the decisions by Melbourne Water were not the subject of any consideration by me.