Secrecy prevails as details of $18.5m deal withheld by Vic. Government

The Victorian Coalition Government has shown its disdain for transparency once again, by choosing to ignore a deadline on releasing information regarding a multi-million dollar deal brokered with Patrick Stevedores.
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Jobs for Webb Dock workers are hanging in the balance 


The Government was given until April 1 to release documents pertaining to any compensation package awarded to the Asciano subsidiary for vacating Webb Dock, after a motion was passed in the Legislative Council.


But the Ports Minister David Hodgett responded to the request saying, “the Government is not able to respond to the Council’s resolution within the time period requested by the council.”


Mr Hodgett did not clarify when the information would be made available but stated in a letter to the Council Clerk that the Government first needed to liaise with affected third parties.


This latest development has further roused the suspicion of Ian Bray – Assistant National Secretary at the Maritime Union of Australia – after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request the union lodged with the Government earlier in the year came back with curious results.


First, Mr Bray said, the union was told that the Department of Transport had no documents on the matter and that the FOI would be forwarded to the Port Corporation. The Port Corporation FOI Officer responded on March 12 saying the documents either do not exist, or cannot be found.


“Accordingly, I have determined to refuse access on that basis,” she said in a letter to the union.


Mr Bray questioned why the Government was being so secretive when it was public knowledge that Patrick would be in receipt of at least $18.5 million after Asciano revealed as much in its half-year annual report announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange.


“Why are we being kept in the dark by the Government when the fate of 260 wharf workers at Webb Dock hangs in the balance,” he said.


Patrick will cease operations at the Webb Dock site later this year after being made to vacate the site as a result of the Port of Melbourne redevelopment and job losses will occur as a result.


“The company has stated its intention to turf a third of the workforce as and increase casualisation to around 75 per cent,” Mr Bray said.


 “Meanwhile the company is lining their pockets with an undisclosed sum of public money and the Government can’t even dignify us and the public with an answer.”


“Surely the public has a right to know where their money is being spent and $18.5 million is a substantial amount of money.”


This story was picked up by the Herald Sun and Nine News.


The MUA will be in the Fair Work Commission on April 8,9 and 10 to progress the dispute.