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) (12:22): (144) Further to the extraordinary intervention of the minister’s office, Minister, the FOI fought by your department but finally released shows Matthew Dawson in your office was involved in the approval of the ‘Sensitive: good to go’ Melbourne Water Maribyrnong River flood inquiry email of 15 December, and Shailla Van Raad, one of your ministerial staffers on 19 December, said in an email directing the department:

We anticipate that this will get some good media pickup in the coming days.

Hence, I think we need to prepare for this and some of the questions to come.

Isn’t it a fact, Minister, not only that your staff knew that Nick Wimbush was to be appointed despite his obvious and self-declared conflict of interest but further that they actively approved the department’s proposed course of action in writing, including his appointment?

Harriet SHING (Eastern Victoria – Minister for Water, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy, Minister for Equality) (12:23): Mr Davis, you have just referred I think to a date which is after the appointment of Mr Wimbush, which was made on 15 December. I responded to a media inquiry in relation to Mr Wimbush’s appointment, which was the first that I had heard of this matter. Let us just be really clear, I was sworn in as the Minister for Water at 5:30 on the 14th.

David Davis interjected.

Harriet SHING: Mr Davis, I am going to take up that interjection. Let us be really clear. I am going to pick you up on that, Mr Davis. In October the floods wreaked havoc across rural and regional Victoria. As you would be aware and as I would hope that you would respect, it is really important that, election campaigning notwithstanding, people in their greatest hour of need have assistance from governments. That is why the work continued, including to provide bill relief and assistance to those who were affected by inundation or cut off because of floodwater. That is why, as government, we continued during that caretaker period in matters that went beyond party politics to provide support, assistance, relief and recovery to towns, businesses, households and residents all over the state.

Mr Davis, again, you can try as much as you want to try to invoke this conspiracy that I was somehow involved in Mr Wimbush’s appointment. I have said it on numerous occasions, and I will say it again: I was not involved in Mr Wimbush’s appointment or in the process by which probity audit advice and information were sought or received by Melbourne Water. I was not involved in any changes to the appointment of Mr Wimbush. These are matters that are entirely for Melbourne Water, as they have remained.

David DAVIS (Southern Metropolitan) (12:25): Goodness! Minister, did any of your ministerial office staff talk to you on 14 or 15 December about their approval of the department’s appointment, or were they freelancing?

Harriet SHING (Eastern Victoria – Minister for Water, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy, Minister for Equality) (12:26): Again, Mr Wimbush’s appointment was confirmed to me in response to a media request and a request for information about Mr Wimbush’s appointment. That is when I found out about Mr Wimbush’s appointment – that is, after Mr Wimbush had been appointed and that decision had been taken by Melbourne Water.