By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A fiery political row erupted over funding for the state’s Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC).
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien told Parliament on 25 November that IBAC’s funding had been slashed by $4.4 million in the 2020-’21 state budget.
“IBAC is currently conducting major investigations into branch-stacking by Labor Party MPs, the dealings of Labor donor John Woodman and your government’s association with the United Firefighters Union.
“Premier, is it a mere coincidence that the year IBAC is investigating the Labor Party is the same year it is having its budget slashed?”
Premier Daniel Andrews said IBAC had received “$49 million and indexation for each of the out years – exactly what IBAC sought”.
The future funding included IBAC keeping its unspent funds from previous years, Mr Andrews said.
“You are wrong,” he told Mr O’Brien.
“I say to you again: you are not much good at writing budgets, and you are no better at reading them.”
Mr Andrews said Mr O’Brien omitted the “members of the Liberal Party who were bribed, it would seem” investigated by IBAC.
The commission is investigating Casey councillors, state Labor MPs and developers over alleged corrupt land deals as part of Operation Sandon.
Later, shadow Special Minister of State John Wells doubled down.
“Not only has Daniel Andrews cut IBAC’s funding, now he’s lying about it.”
A State Government spokesperson said IBAC was receiving an extra $27.1 million – a 20 per cent rise – over four years.
it was continuing to ensure IBAC had the resources needed to “investigate corrupt conduct and fulfill its statutory obligations”.
“The additional funding will allow IBAC to expand its important work – and to assist with the agency’s transition to budgetary independence.”
A month before the budget, IBAC Commissioner Robert Redlich stated IBAC faced serious constraints due to its “current, perilous budgetary position”.
Its core funding had been “largely static” since it was founded eight years ago, despite a significantly growing workload.
“IBAC cannot investigate a significant number of complaints of serious misconduct which may warrant our investigation.
“Exposing and preventing corruption cannot be adequately done on a static, inadequate budget.”