Gaming inquiry ‚an embarrassment‘

Victorian Premier John Brumby says a parliamentary committee inquiry into gaming licence tenders was nothing more than a smear campaign and its final report is an embarrassment to the Opposition.

The committee, dominated by non-government MPs, tabled its final report today, delivering an open finding with insufficient evidence to prove allegations of improper conduct by the State Government, Tattersall’s or lobbying firm Hawker Britton.

The 15-month inquiry examined allegations that Tattersall’s received secret government advice about the tender through lobbyist and former Labor MP David White after he dined with then premier Steve Bracks.

Mr Bracks also attended a Tattersall’s board meeting, of which there are no formal records showing what was discussed.

The alleged advice related to floating the company to ensure success in the tender.

Mr Brumby said Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu should be embarrassed by the final report.

„Twelve days of hearings, 58 witnesses, 15 months of smear and innuendo from the Opposition and not one skerrick of evidence, not one iota of fact, not one single conclusion that supports anything Mr Baillieu and the Opposition have said in relation to gambling,“ Mr Brumby said.

The inquiry was an abuse of parliamentary process that enabled the Opposition to poison reputations under legal protection, he said.

„It’s been an opportunity for the opposition to make, in privilege, all sorts of smears and innuendo about the Government, about the former premier, about others involved in this industry – all of them, it would seem, without any foundation whatsoever,“ Mr Brumby said.

„This report today is a profound embarrassment to Mr Baillieu, to the whole of the Liberal Party, who had no hesitation in smearing people’s reputations over the last 15 months.“

In the final report, the committee’s two Government members, Matt Viney and Martin Pakula, said the open finding was an abrogation of the committee’s responsibilities.

„The open finding … broadly nominating the Government and two companies, confirms what members suspected from the outset – that the Opposition established the inquiry with the intent of smearing the former premier.

„Having been unable to find any evidence to substantiate their allegations, they chose to say nothing at all,“ the two Labor MPs said.

They estimated the inquiry cost taxpayers more than AUD 2 million.