SAVE US FROM DAVIS: Victorian Health Minister looking sick over lying about who paid his legal bills

Ted Baillieu’s closest ministerial mate, Victorian Liberal upper house leader David Davis is a loudly ticking time-bomb for the Victorian Liberal government, party insiders have told VEXNEWS.

They point to his disastrous day yesterday where the Opposition asked him in Parliament whether he’d received a personal financial benefit from anyone in relation to the payment of a huge legal bill he’d incurred after slagging off then Labor state secretary Stephen Newnham.

Davis denied it in the Legislative Council chamber, arguably misleading the house or certainly leaving a very misleading impression:

Hon. M. P. PAKULA (Western Metropolitan) — I thank the minister for his answer. Following on from my initial question, I ask him in his capacity of representing the Premier whether to the best of his knowledge any minister has obtained personal financial benefit from moneys raised by the 500 Club?

Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Health) — I do not administer the 500 Club, and in that sense I cannot really answer the member’s question.

Carnage ensued when it became clear that Labor hard-man Martin Pakula had proof that Davis had received the personal benefit he had impliedly denied.

He went on to say:

Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Health) — I am confident that nothing that has been donated to me by the 500 Club would compromise my role as a minister.

Not good. His refusal to answer reasonable questions on the issue again in today’s Question Time doesn’t look good either.

In some past administrations, his position would have deemed untenable.

Davis has also failed to disclose the enormous gift on the Parliamentary pecuniary interests register, insiders say, although he can update the register this year and still be within the reasonably loose guidelines.

He ought to do so immediately. He ought to come clean about the whole sordid mess. It’s always the cover-up that kills you.

Davis’s defence is that the Liberal party supported him and that’s no problem. And if the 500 Club funded the gift then that’s OK too because they are part of the Liberal party and indeed it’s true that it is a large and long-established organisation. But it’s also true they collect money from lots of people, many of them with direct exposure to decisions Davis will and does make as Health minister.

Davis clearly picked the wrong target in Stephen Newnham, perhaps Labor’s best campaign strategist in a generation.

That’s part of the danger here in ministers receiving such large gifts, from their own political party or otherwise. He might not know who gives the 500 Club or Liberal party money but those giving it sure do. And they might have an expectation that the minister and gift recipient should be grateful for their largesse. Davis could have lost his home potentially, if the gift had not been made. So we can reasonably assume he’s very grateful.

Indeed, under the government’s proposed IBAC, there is little doubt the circumstances of the gift from the Liberal party to the minister and his own interactions as Health Minister with those who donate to it will be given considerable scrutiny by the absurdly over-funded anti-corruption body which will have not much else to do except terrorise the prominent. The chip-on-the-shoulder brigade attracted to work at agencies like IBAC could very well see that the party or its fundraising arm was being used to launder money from businesses with commercial stakes in the Health sector to pay off the Health minister’s debts. Nonsense probably but that’s exactly why anti-corruption commissions are such a dangerous joke.

So he’s on dangerous ground. And presumably is much more careful to use parliamentary privilege not his own letterhead to make dangerous claims about his foes.

Davis clearly picked the wrong target in Stephen Newnham, perhaps Labor’s best campaign strategist in a generation.

The headlines below are not the headlines a government wants the day after its budget, which was strangely not particularly well received in any event, on television news or in the newspapers:

They were slammed for lacking vision and failing to have a debt reduction strategy, Labor talking points that were enthusiastically repeated by the media who’ve given Ted and his crew a shorter honeymoon than Price William and Pippa’s sister had. This is not an accident, it’s the price the self-indulgent Premier has paid for employing Josephine Cafagna and not properly engaging with potential allies in the press who were reasonably kind to Brumby and Bracks and Kennett but only because they made the effort.

Check these out. And all because Davis made a secret of who had funded his legal bills.

Question Time cut short over MP rort claims

Minister denies aid for defamation bill

Liberals paid MP’s legal bill

Question time suspended after Vic budget

‎The Liberal party’s well-regarded state director Damien Mantach claimed that Davis’s law firm had issued the bill to the 500 Club “in error” which gives rise to questions why they were billing them in the first place. Presumably, their slow-paying client had told them to do so.

While close with Baillieu and unlikely to be dumped unless charged with a serious crime, Liberal insiders think Davis has been a surprisingly inept minister.

His handling of the relatively straight-forward matter of releasing a health blueprint within 150 days of being elected was an embarrassing nuisance for the government and reflective of what is said to be a somnolent approach to his duties. When the document was eventually released, it showed every sign of being quickly cobbled together.

His foolish decision to defend a loser defamation case – against all legal advice – and then to stick his party with the bill has caused those advising Baillieu to seriously and loudly question his judgment.

Others say that his drinking when in Spring Street is still on the verge of being out of control. Long-heard whispers about inappropriate relationships, including with a person working a the Australian Medical Association, also do him no good in party circles where his factional foes are keen to run him down.

His role as a factional uber-hack for the Baillieu group is probably the only reason the underperforming minister is being retained by Baillieu.

It’s well-known within government circles that the two spending ministers Deputy Premier and Police Minister Peter Ryan and Davis were able to circumvent Treasurer Kim Wells and get their spendin bids approved by the Premier. Baillieu is keen to keep both men sweet, Ryan because he succumbs to his strong-arming persuasion and recognises his superior political intellect and in Davis’s case because they are chums. The two have attracted considerable ire from cabinet colleagues who express great angst about the Premier’s favoritism.

Baillieu has foolishly allowed the normal business of political party fundraising to appear far more tainted and sleazy than it probably really is.

This time last year, Labor had a 1500 person budget function where anyone who was anyone showed up to be bored to death about the largely non-controversial document. We assume it was a highly profitable enterprise.

This year, the newly elected Liberals had about 400 people show up to an event that was apparently run at cost and had plenty of school-kids attending, either as a form of corporal punishment or perhaps to discourage those showing some interest in public life.

This is the time of the political cycle where they should be riding high, raising a fortune from all those businesses who were caught supporting Labor and assumed Brumby would be elected but were keen to make amends.

Business is being made to feel as welcome by the Baillieu government as one of Osama bin Laden’s wives these days at the Abbottabad market. Many complain they can’t get access to Baillieu or his ministers. They are greatly puzzled about the fact that the previous Labor government was much nicer to them than the Libs. They assumed it was a temporary phenomenon and that the glory days of Kennett keeping Victoria open for business would return. There’s currently no sign of it.

It’s worth considering where this sordid David Davis fundraising scandal started.

newnhamDavis put out a foolish press release – not protected by parliamentary privilege – that made spectacular claims of wrongdoing against then ALP party boss Stephen Newnham.

It referenced the Ombudsman’s report into Brimbank council and essentially radically misrepresented the contents of the report to have a go at Newnham. While the report was scathing about many – based on very little at all as it turned out – it said nothing of an adverse kind about Newnham at all. The release didn’t even get much of a run in the press, it was just a silly and self-indulgent exercise by Davis who’d been provoked into it by a cheeky letter from Newnham to Davis.

Being as gentlemanly as the average lizard, Davis privately blamed the mistake on a staffer.

The shrewd and gutsy Newnham – against quite strong resistance by the buffoons in Premier Brumby’s office and some in the caucus – obtained legal advice which assured him that he had a strong defamation case against Davis and proceeded to sue. Several know-all ministers strongly opposed the move, we are told. Newnham was proven right when the whole proceedings seemed to drive Davis completely mad and it appears to have cost the Libs well in excess of $200,000.

Out of the job for nearly two years, the astute and tough former state secretary is still tormenting his adversaries. He has every reason to be amused about the whole thing.

Newnham’s cunning plan compares with the Premier Ted Baillieu’s puzzling defamation proceedings against the ALP, in relation to seemingly undisputed claims that his real estate firm profited from the previous Liberal government’s sale of schools and hospital sites.

Red Ted shows no signs of backing off and it seems neither side are willing to settle the case out of court, with Labor salivating about the prospect of having the incoming Premier filmed walking into the Supreme Court building like he’s defending fraud charges and potentially being subject to embarrassing cross-examination about the circumstances of his commercial involvement in previous state government asset sales, many years ago.

Many thought Labor’s attack ads on Baillieu were far too soft at the last election (other than his mates at The Age who were appalled by them or at least pretended to be), a fact that haunts many of them given they lost government by one seat. They’ll be keen not to constrain themselves in any respect ahead of the 2014 state poll by apologising in any respect. Suing on an attack ad where the facts underlying the ad are not disputed and are at least to some extent politically embarrassing is clearly moronic, a proposition that would be advanced by anyone pretending to be in the business of providing political advice to the Premier, as the Logies attending Baillieu private office purports to be.

Speaking of political embarrassment, there is much talk of the political curtain dropping on Victorian Speaker Ken Smith, whose crude partisanship, sleazy Chinese business entanglements and general ineptitude are now the widespread subject of mirth and disparagement across the state Parliament.

While Davis will be saved, the end is surely nigh for the red-faced Smith whose increasingly frenzied hand-signals are evidence not of waving but of drowning. He is quite possibly the most over-promoted self-important boof-head in Victorian history (excluding faux-battler Les Twentyman, of course [photographed here getting stuck into a slap-up solo feed at a very expensive upmarket yuppie eatery in South Melbourne last weekend]).

The political cycle is getting shorter. Bad news travels faster than ever. Secrets harder to keep. Cynicism for those we elect has perhaps never been higher. Federal Labor has been a victim of all that, compounded by having an ideologically sound but psychologically troubled first Prime Minister and its continued desire to fight on every possible front including imposing a jobs-exporting carbon tax that won’t solve the problem it is said to be designed to fix. And then there’s Dutch disease, the gutting of our manufacturing base because of the high dollar, something that’s going to hit Victorian industry very hard in the next few years.

The Victorian Liberals aren’t picking fights everywhere like Labor’s Club Fed All-Stars but they do seem surprisingly uninspired when they should be triumphant about an unexpected win and seizing the middle ground and reform agenda to set themselves up for successful future battles.

They should have let their ministers hire all the ministerial staff they needed, when they needed them, without the absurdly overdone Star Chamber process that stripped out anyone who’d offended the Premier or his factional entourage. When ministers do photo ops announcing policies that government agencies emphatically contradict, you know there’s a serious behind-the-scenes issue. When the state Treasurer complains to colleagues about Premier’s office staff meddling in his budget, you know that they have taken centralisation too far. When one minister couldn’t get up as a chief-of-staff someone who is allowed to be the deputy federal director of the Liberal party and then supposedly had four other well-credentialed nominees vetoed, you know that there is a power-mad, score-settling quality to decision-making at 1 Treasury Place that makes former Brumby COS Dan O’Brien look like a model of virtue, self-discipline and prudence. (O’Brien, by the way, is headed to the federal bureaucracy, in a senior regional development role working under Minister Simon Crean, which many think is even more punishment than he deserves for his role in the demise of the Brumby government)

At the moment, nearly six months in, all is not well for the Baillieu brigade. They have plenty of time to turn it around but the passion to do so just doesn’t seem to be there. Yet. Maybe it will come with time after a good Kennett pep-talk or something.They have neither the slickness of Bracks nor the rugged determination, bias for action and vision of Kennett. Maybe they aim to offend as few as possible by not doing a lot. But that’s very risky when you’ve been elected pledging to “fix the problems” – many of them intractable problems incapable of quick fixes.

The Libs have arrayed against them in state government the vested interests of those who deliver government services, in child protection, hospitals, schools, trains, trams. And there’s not a Liberal ally among them, even the AMA spokesman seems hostile and the unions in those sectors are not Tory friends either. And yet the government will rely on these chaps not to leak, not to undermine and not to publicly complain about government policies and errors. It’s why the “Roskam thesis” (conservatives will tend to win more federal elections than they lose because the Commonwealth’s responsibilities in national security, the economy and immigration are vote-winners for them but that Labor will tend to do better in state elections because it is principally responsible for service delivery) should drive a real sense of urgency and need to achieve great things in this government. They don’t have a moment to lose. They need at least a sip of some partially watered-down Kennett Kool-Aid. Stat.

There a few of them capable of it. The softly-spoken intellectual power-house of the show, Attorney-General Robert Clark probably should be Treasurer although has a big job de-Hullsing the Justice Department, an important task on which he has embarked very promisingly. Matthew Guy is also promising although his sound pro-development, pro-jobs instincts may be undermined by meddlers from Baillieu’s office. Peter Ryan is the stand-out, of course, only disqualified from being Premier because of the Coalition structure. Transport Minister Terry Mulder has surprised on the downside and Gordon Rich-Phillips the other way round, of him expectations were so low that he has stunningly exceeded them and should look for promotion. The rest, well, they’ve all been a bit flat.Almost disappointed to have won. The only one savouring it seems to be Ken Smith with his constant dubious delegations from China and his buffoonery as a highly partial speaker. The rest are either struggling with poisoned chalices or are just plain invisible.

The public will give Baillieu the benefit of the doubt for quite some time but the doubts are certainly now creeping in, much sooner in the political cycle than they should be and for that – in no small part – he can thank scandal-plagued ministers Dalla-Riva, Davis and Speaker Smith. All three should go and the fact that Baillieu won’t punt any of them will continue to eat away at his leadership in a way that will take a while to register in the public mind, but will inevitably eventually occur unless they start emulating the can-do Kennett way, at least to some extent. The assumption they can coast by for a decade, forever falling short of their impossible promise to “fix the problems” in service delivery is just dead wrong. Don’t take our word for it, ask John Roskam. And bring in Jeff Kennett for that pep-talk. It’s urgently needed.



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56 responses to “SAVE US FROM DAVIS: Victorian Health Minister looking sick over lying about who paid his legal bills

  1. 500 CLUBBER

    Yes we own that member.

  2. anon

    Baillieu sure is surrounded by some bright sharp talent including Davis, Wreford, Dalla Riva NOT!!!

  3. Chris

    And the common factor in all the stuff ups? Well, that would be the ever-self promotional yet completely delusional chief of staff wouldn’t it?

  4. Adrian Jackson

    David Davis is one of my local MP’s (Southern Metropolitian) and he does a good job.

    I note that Labour still lost the state election – ha ha – so much for the master tactical.

  5. Anonymous

    The master tactician nearly lost his wife her seat.

  6. 500 clubber

    Jolly good fellow. So glad we pay his bills.

  7. 500 clubber

    It was a little rich having to pay the legals after the stoush with that dreadful Laborite newham….

  8. Capt moonshine

    Yes in my day we just pistol whipped labor trouble makers…. Rather poor show the 500 club was drained in this manner….

  9. Sargent android jackass

    David is a very fine recruit. It is an honest mistake to utter a lie outside of parliament and I am sure he is wiser from the experience and next time he chooses to be loose with the truth he will make sure he is safely within the confines of the parliament.

  10. Clueless Davis

    Who opened my mail?
    Who paid my bills?
    Why did I open my mouth?

  11. notice to all club 500 members

    Members of the 500 club are hearby given notice that the annual $500 membership will be $1000 until the David Davis legal bill is paid off.

  12. Action jackson

    If only I had had the 500 club to cover my bills I would still be in power….. Bloody credit cards….

  13. Donkey Dave

    …some one had breached my privacy and viewed legal documents that do not exist….

  14. Ben

    I voted Liberal. That said, I’m not tribal and this David Davis character does seem very tricky from what I read here and have observed (not to mention sly, opportunistic, and sleazy).

    And this got me: “Being as gentlemanly as the average lizard, Davis privately blamed the mistake on a staffer.”

    Oh my. Sent a shiver down my spine. That tells me a great deal. What a ratty thing to do. Ungentlemanly indeed.

  15. First aider

    Quick we need to administer the truth serum to the health minister.

  16. Mountaineer with a compass.

    A beautifully written piece of biblical truth, original testament style.

  17. Ben

    Adrian Jackson: What makes David Davis so good? I also hear that Doyle is kind to his baker and butcher.

    He “does a good job”? He is doing a job on all of us by the sounds of it. But seriously, provide some examples of this goodness you speak of.

  18. Anon

    Shame for the ALP that no one gives a f*&k nor understands why this matter re who paid Davis’ legal fees is of any significance.

    The Libs most be hoping that the ALP keeps “pursuing” D-Squared over this matter, as opposed to things that actually register with voters.

    Looks as if Baillieu is set to be a three-termer.

  19. Bollocks

    Newnham; Kororoit 2008 election dirty tricks; revolting undemocratic stuff. Looks like the sneaky little former ALP State Secretary has sown up his retirement benefits…

  20. Alison

    All Ted, the insipid, has done so far is talk down the state – I don’t get it!

  21. Lowraine Woeful MP

    I wish you would all leave David Davis alone. He is the best Health Minister I have ever come across. I visited him in his office recently complaining about a weird rash I have in my lower region and he was only too keen to provide prompt medical treatment and inspect my rash and smear some soothing cream onto it. Arrhhh !!, the joys of being an MP in Government.

  22. Anon

    David Davis epitomises everything about the Liberal Party. Arrogant and low enough to publicly slander someone and then, when found to have legally defamed this person, organises a third party pay for legal bill. Ted will be a one term Premier and all I can say is thank god, for Victoria’s sake.

  23. Adrian Jackson

    Anon (5 May 11, 17:53 hrs) Who is the master tacticians missus?

  24. Anon

    Labor pursues David Davis while local Libs sell the budget to voters. Very good strategy. I wonder which political wizard devised it?

    Martin Pakula must be found a safe lower house seat to he can take on the role of next Labor leader!

  25. Boofa

    Davis I’ve mysteriously got the same itchy rash on Percy, can I have some of ya ointment otherwise ‘er indoors’ will hit the roof.

  26. Sir Lesley Twentytonneguts HRH

    Fill quickly I’ve got an urgent meeting for 20th Man Fund over a few bottles of free piss at Walters.

  27. Adrian Jackson

    Following the murders, stabbings, drug abuse, crime, booze abuse at the Gatwick Hotel (flop house) in Fitzroy St, St Kilda, can the new Minister for Health re activate the Sunbury Mental asylum that that silly Cain/Kirner government troglodyte Kay Setcher closed down.

    The criminally insane should not be walking the streets which was Minister for Lunatics Kay Setchers solution to closing Sunbury. Naturally modern facilities are need for the loonies not Dickensian ones

  28. Ben

    “The criminally insane should not be walking the streets…”? True Adrian. Nor the Houses of Parliament.

  29. Bollocks

    Nice try Andrew! Even the doltish Libs wont’t fall for your resurrect Kennett campaign. Everyone knows that Jeff illegally sold off Victoria’s electricity assets, among other public assets which weren’t his to sell. The ALP finished off the job. Victoria is now bankrupt of publicly-owned assets. There is virtually nothing left to sell. Hence the hordes of unwelcome immigrants to feed the greedy developers and other corporate and governmental parasites.

    With Kennett, Bracks and Brumby, Victoria has turned into an unliveable, overcrowded hell.

  30. Geoff Shaw

    New Rule is NO POOFTAS in Frankston.

  31. JO

    so is this is what is meant by the Liberal Managment model? This is why they are not in the busines world!

  32. Singapore govt

    Thank you kennett. We now own your energy. Always pleased to do business with liberals.

  33. Evil Bastard

    Looking forward to Adrian Jackson enjoying the new asylum he is so keen on.

  34. Davis the reformer

    The Liberals could move Davis to education where they want to destroy the government system they hate.
    Davis is the right man for a demolition job.

  35. streetfighter

    Yes let’s see loose lips Davis take on the education union – the Health Union is too inept to bother him.
    Move Davis to education.

  36. Baillieu's advantage

    Baillieu has a distinct advantage.
    His plan is simple – run up Victorian debt and run down Victorian services and then blame Federal Labor.

    To help him in this task he has a raft of ‘deadbeat Ministers’, you know the types who are never around except to cash in their taxpayer cheques, who will happily wreck health, education, the police and transport.

    His plan is flawless.

  37. spoilt Baillieu

    Would anyone expect ‘poor little rich boy’ Baillieu to take any responsibility?

    His ministers also have no limits.

  38. Kennetts crumbs

    Kennett sold most of the state – what is left for this Liberal bunch to sell?

  39. no life savers

    Baillieu comes from the lofty heights of privilege and will always swim outside of the flags.

    His Ministers will also follow this no-rules-for-me style.

    Putting faith in this lot is futile.

  40. not happy Ted

    Victorian Liberals are all debt and no delivery.

  41. not happy Ted

    Was the Davis legal bill paid by 500 club by cheque or paper bag?

  42. safer payments

    Liberals have learned their lesson.

    Next time no cheques – go back to brown paper bags.

  43. rich get richer

    How many Liberal related family companies are active in growth area corridors?

  44. Anonymous

    @rich get richer May 12, 2011, 8:33

    Interesting, is that why the planning Minister is the most popular Minister in Liberal MP ranks.

  45. rich get richer

    Yes, apart from this personal benefit issue of Davis the wider issue of the long standing Liberal habit of combining personal business and pubic service is a worry.

    The land deals of the 70s come to mind and then Stockdale’s distasteful post-privatisation appointments.

    This time around we have a real estate king as Premier and his young side kick in charge of planning!!!

    This is a sure fire recipe for the rich to get richer.

  46. we cannot afford Baillieu

    More Liberal Land deals are already being planned in the growth corridors.

    Victorian taxpayers are being loaded up with debt while the Liberals developer mates are loading up with mega profits from overpriced land sales to mainly interstate and overseas investors on the fringe of Melbourne.

    This is Liberal plunder again.

  47. why is there no Juliar stories

    Ho come there are no gillard stories, you could fill the whole blog with her failures??

  48. Anonymous

    What an accurate precise! Bravo! The new Lib govt is pathetic. All they seem to do is criticise the former govt and put everyone offside by their unapproachable dictatorial behaviour. I agree the benefit of doubt cup will over flow soon and not helped by Davis who is a slippery snake. He is a useless Minister and should never been giving that role let alone Health. He excels as being a henchman and displayed that well in his role in opposition. All this and Kapel just prove that Ballieau is weak and not leading the way Victorians want. Davis’ legal fees need to be further investigated. I would be really annoyed if my fund raising donation was used as payment. Speaker Smith will be next….2 boof heads being protected for the wrong reasons. If they weren’t in their roles there would be no embarrassment or potential for their blundering ways. Btw, Davis home mortgaged to pay the fee?…I am sure his home is worth more than $200k. (but given his wife kicked him out we wouldn’t want her and the kids homeless)
    How about not paying him his annual salary which equates to roughly that figure cause frankly he is not doing his job and will soon cock up our Health system even further.

  49. Silence of the libs

    Liberal hangers on and rejects who haunt this site know that a huge land carve up is going on with liberal leaning developers set to clean up. But where is the cash for the Adrian and joes of the liberal party?

    The parade has passed you guys by and now you must sit and watch the greedy libs gobble up contracts and land developers get drunk on mega profits while the govt sinks the state with a doubling of debt.

    No wonder you are both so silent as the moral corruption and intellectual dishonesty that is the coalition eats into the very fibre of this state.

  50. 5 hours of indecision

    Baiilieu needs to figure out which side of law and order he is on?
    Five hours on overland and they order some probe?
    Why undermine the commissioner in this way?
    The gangland bosses are laughing.

  51. Fess up liberals

    Time to fess up liberals?
    Whose family businesses benefit in the ‘fall guys’ planning fiasco? You all know but do not want to rock the gravy train.

  52. Liberal party tradition

    Aston, bolte and now baillieu.

    The liberal tradition continues???

  53. Nice guy 2 fall guy

    This nice young planning minister is not going to say no to the uglies in the liberals and he cannot say no to his premier….

    Bit by bit he will turn from nice guy to fall guy in four short years….

    But the users will get off Scott free guy… Think before you sink boy……

  54. Android jackery

    The liberal party is full of selfless servants to the public……..

  55. Baillieu won't failyou

    Jobs for the boys.
    Contracts for donors.
    Favours for the powerful.
    Baillieu won’t failyou rich liberal mates.

  56. Bollocks

    Michael Cannon’s book ‘The Land Boomers’ about the amazing land crash in the 1890s also explains where the Bailleau millions came from originally.

    Politicians including premiers were up in their ears in the scams.

    Seems to run in the family. Hmnn.

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