Victoriaâ€™s Manufacturing Minister Richard Dalla-Riva has finally admitted claims made by VEXNEWS two years ago and repeated in the Victorian Parliament this week that he used Police databases to spy on his neighbours.
He insists that this was justified because he was investigating letterbox bombings of his home in 1993. Todayâ€™s Aged newspaper reports that he has confirmed our initial report and â€“ perhaps showing signs of strain â€“ said he would be â€œvowing to push for an anti-corruption investigation into the Labor frontbencher (James Merlino)â€ who repeated some elements of the VEXNEWS story during this colourful week in state politics. A minister interfering in investigations of the yet to be established Independent Commission Against Corruption would probably be putting his job in serious jeopardy, the whole point of these bodies apparently being that they operate independently of ministerial whim. So heâ€™d better watch that, and we understand RDR will be counselled against such outbursts by the Baillieu/Cafagna hierarchy this morning.
Leaving that aside, and there are questions about the timing of the spying that are unresolved, now that he has admitted our central claim, the obvious question arises how did we know?
While we are obliged to protect sourceâ€™s confidentiality what we can disclose for the first time is that Dalls-Rivaâ€™s wife, Sadie, apparently also in law enforcement, has boasted to her neighbours of the fact that this checking of the neighbourhood had occurred. While we wonâ€™t name our source or the identity of the neighbour, we remain in contact with the former and their recollections â€“ when we checked this week â€“ are unchanged.
We can also disclose that at the time we reported the story, we checked it with a number of Mr Dalla Rivaâ€™s parliamentary colleagues and while we havenâ€™t kept notes from two years ago, one specifically confirmed that theyâ€™d heard this story before, another said Dalla Riva had discussed the sort of information cops could access and another said something to the effect of â€œthatâ€™d be right.â€
Mr Dalla-Riva, like so many in law enforcement, no doubt did fine work where he put himself at risk for the common good. If crimes were committed against him by rogues he was pursuing, then it would be perfectly legitimate that they be investigated, in the normal way.
But many questions remain unanswered. Why, for example, was he personally investigating letter-bombs deployed against him and his family? VEXNEWS understands it is normal Police practice for officers to investigate offences against themselves or close family members. Perhaps an exception was made in this case.
On what authority was information disclosed in these checks disclosed to others? Was that a breach of the law or is it permissible to tell neighbours such things? Or is it – to use a word splashed around by him very often in the chamber – corruption?
The Opposition â€“ which is to be commended for growing a pair and having a go this week â€“ has rightly called for a corruption inquiry into this matter.
We hope the Office of Police Integrity or other responsible agency has a close look at the corruption claims. Whether the community standard is that such behaviour would demand the Ministerâ€™s departure is a different issue, itâ€™s worth keeping in mind that this happened a long time ago, long before he was an elected official. Many in the Liberal party room think that Premier Baillieu would not hesitate to axe him after serious hostilities between him and Baillieu/David Davis following Dalla-Rivaâ€™s forced resignation from the shadow ministry, so he could be vulnerable there even if the issue would not normally justify his removal.
But either way, from the Ministerâ€™s own mouth, we have an admission and confirmation of the central claim made in a VEXNEWS story that no-one else could or did publish some two years ago.
We are first the worst.