THE Ombudsman’s report into the 2014 Victorian election campaign funding controversy is a damning indictment of politics in this state, and demonstrates yet again why many voters have lost faith and confidence in their elected representatives.
On many levels, and with few exceptions, politics has become a battle where those on the sidelines face the daunting prospect of having to choose the least worst, rather than the best, party to serve us into the future.
Former Northern Region MP Margaret Lewis stands accused of misusing more than $24,000 of taxpayers monies in the lead up to the November 2014 state election. Her predecessor Candy Broad, is accused of misusing almost $6000.
The report accepts that none of the MPs embroiled in this controversy deliberately misled or misused public monies, and that the 21 MPs believed their actions were legitimate and that they had acted in good faith at all times.
But regardless of their intentions, they were wrong, their actions were wrong, and their actions breached the members’ guide, against whose standards they can expect to be held accountable.
It was somebody’s job, in all 21 MP’s offices, to know the rules. It was also the 21 MPs job.
Ignorance is no excuse.
Victorians have every right to feel cheated, ripped off and angry that this has happened.
Once upon a time, we expected politicians to demonstrate the highest standards of accountability, integrity and honesty. Sadly, that expectation has been eroded away to the point where we almost shrug our shoulders and expect quite the opposite.
Ombudsman Deborah Glass is stating the obvious when she says more needs to be done to rebuild the public’s trust in politicians. The problem is, many Victorians may now harbour sufficient doubts about the pollies ability to do so.
On Wednesday, during a torturous 35 minute media conference, Premier Daniel Andrews stumbled over an apology when pressed by a rampaging media. It was not his finest hour.
Mr Andrews kept reiterating it was most important that monies be repaid and that they had.
He was wrong.
What was most important was that a sincere apology be made and some responsibility accepted for this major error of judgement. Paying back the almost $388,000 was the easy part.
An apology, to be sincere, needs to reflect the sincerity and an acknowledgement that the community’s expectations have not been met in this set of circumstances.
Believing something to be right does not make it right, no matter how hard you try, or how many times you repeat it.
It just isn’t that simple, but then again, few things are.