Time Is Running Out For Libs To Produce Documents On Webb Dock

A motion was passed on March 12 that the Government would produce documents pertaining to Webb Dock by today. See full transcript below:

Mr TEE (Eastern Metropolitan) — On behalf of Mr Tarlamis, I move:

That this house requires the Leader of the Government to table in the Legislative Council by 1 April 2014 all relevant documents in the custody, knowledge or control of the Victorian government that relate to discussions or a decision to provide Patrick stevedores with compensation for relocating from Webb Dock East.

In moving this motion, I will make some observations. The concern I have is that the public has been made aware that there has been a payment of some $18.5 million of taxpayers money as compensation for disruption caused by the expansion of the port of Melbourne.

Of concern to me and the opposition is that the release of this information — the fact that we know that $18 million has been provided to Patrick stevedores — has been shrouded in secrecy. We have seen no disclosure by the government, no announcement and no documents. Nothing has been released. There has been no justification for the decision to pay $18 million of taxpayers money and no rationale for how that amount was calculated. People are concerned that the only reason we know about this payment is that Patrick’s parent company has disclosed the payment to the Australian Stock Exchange.

I think Victorians expect better. They expect a government that is going to be the source of information regarding the release of taxpayers money. There is a concern that this information is being provided by Patrick stevedores, or its parent company, but not by the Victorian government.

There is also a broader context to the release of this money. Patrick’s employees have a concern and a nervousness about a proposed restructure that would see a number of redundancies and an increasingly casualised workforce at Patrick’s in the context of this restructure. I know that the Maritime Union of Australia is concerned that the relocation from Webb Dock is triggering these discussions around redundancies and the casualisation of the workforce. The union’s concern is what if any is the connection between the payment of money to Patrick’s and the reorganisation of the workforce?

In many ways these discussions could not be occurring at a worse time.

We have seen a whole industry, the car manufacturing industry, effectively disappear, so there is a heightened tension and a heightened nervousness in workforces such as the stevedoring industry. People are very worried about their ongoing employment and whether they will have jobs in 12 months time. It is important that any suggestion that the arrangement between the government and Patrick’s is connected to the restructuring of Patrick’s operations is fleshed out. The best way to flesh that out is to make public the details of the arrangements between Patrick’s and the government. That is what this motion does. If we can clear the air by releasing documents which set out the arrangements, that would provide a greater amount of certainty and comfort to the workforce.

It is also the case that the enterprise agreement between Patrick’s and the maritime union provides that arrangements such as these might have an impact on the quantum of any redundancy payments.

That is another reason the workforce should be fully informed as to the circumstances of any matters such as these which may impact on their redundancy payments as well as their ongoing employment. The workforce has an expectation that the Victorian government will do everything it can to ensure their ongoing employment at the site. The workforce is concerned that this government has not done anything to help the workforce achieve that outcome. More of that can be revealed if these documents are released.

It is important for those workers and their families that all these arrangements be put out in the public. Most importantly, Victoria should not be the place for deals that are shrouded in secrecy.

It should not be a place for these secret arrangements that are announced via the stock exchange rather than via the government. This is taxpayers money, and taxpayers

Mr Drum — When have you ever been concerned about taxpayers money?

Mr TEE — Mr Drum, you might be quite happy for $18.5 million to just disappear into thin air with no discussion and no announcement, but at the end of the day we on this side think there ought to be greater transparency. The public ought to know why that money has been paid and what arrangements are in place. There is nothing untoward about providing enough information so the public can make sure they are getting value for money. That is all that is being asked — to make sure there is transparency so that everybody can know what is going on and people can make an assessment and make up their own minds about whether or not they are getting value for money.

Mr Drum might want to take a different approach, but on this side we are very clear that people have a right to know. This is not Mr Drum’s money. This is not the government’s money.

This is taxpayers money, and it is a lot of taxpayers money — $18.5 million — without a thread of information as to how it was determined that this money should be paid, what arrangements were put in place and what impact it will have on workers at the site.

I share the concerns of the workers on the site, who are asking for some transparency and some openness. On this side of the house we believe that whatever information can be made available should be made available so that people can see for themselves whether or not this was the right outcome. I would urge everyone to support this

To read the full session's transcript click here.