[News] Coalition needs to watch its outbursts as integrity campaign comes to a head

“BREAKING: Daniel Andrews and Labor have been referred to the corruption commission over vote rigging,” Southwick posted.

Even at its worst, the Druery issue does not amount to vote rigging. This kind of language is inflammatory in an environment where a small but growing group of far-right actors in Victoria are prone to conspiracy theories about the government.

Some of them carried gallows outside Parliament during anti-lockdown protests and called for Premier Daniel Andrews to be jailed.

The Liberal candidate in the premier’s Mulgrave electorate, Michael Piastrino, repeated the jailing call last month and on Friday, in response to the Druery stories, called a press conference outside Andrews’ electorate office alongside leaders of the Freedom Party and called for the election to be “postponed and for the state government to go into administration pending an independent inquiry given the election can no longer be deemed valid”.

It is not clear if Southwick and Staley intended their message to speak to this audience. They may not have. But, after what we’ve seen in Donald Trump’s America, all sides should be on notice that promoting false narratives about the legitimacy of voting in politics can be dangerous.

David Southwick.Credit:Eddie Jim

Thursday’s Coalition referral to IBAC is the latest in a long line of Coalition complaints to the watchdog seemingly designed to do little other than allow MPs to claim IBAC is probing Andrews.

“Five confirmed investigations, another on the way,” Southwick claimed.

Let’s have a look at those figures.

There are four known IBAC inquiries involving Labor MPs. In only one, from what is publicly known, is the premier a key focus. The fifth refers to a potential IBAC inquiry into the red shirts scandal, which the Ombudsman has already looked at multiple times. IBAC is conducting preliminary assessments on a new whistleblower complaint, as it does with many tip-offs that do not lead to full investigations.

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The sixth refers to the Coalition’s referral about Druery’s links to Labor on Thursday.

Writing to IBAC in response to newspaper stories that are unlikely to be of interest to the agency devalues its role and carries the danger of turning it into a political football. It risks devaluing the currency of IBAC at a time when the premier is caught up in real inquiries.

The Coalition’s biggest challenge in Victoria is to appear to be a credible party of government. For much of this campaign they have managed this, but the latest claims about vote rigging undermines that effort. It enters risky territory when it alleges “vote rigging” and calls for the premier to be jailed.

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