Senator FIFIELD (Victoria) (10.41 p.m.)-In February this year I rose in the adjournment debate to lament the political demise of the member for Isaacs, Ms Ann Corcoran. Ms Corcoran, as senators will be very well aware, is a diligent and hardworking local member who is well regarded on both sides of the chamber. You will recall that Ms Corcoran fell foul of a factional fix to move on some very decent members of parliament. The move failed in the case of Mr Crean but succeeded against the member for Corio, Mr Gavan O’Connor, and Ms Corcoran. Despite this, I can attest that Ms Corcoran is still working hard. I regularly receive her ‘Corcoran Isaacs News’ and see her at most community functions I attend in Melbourne’s south-east.
The individual who won preselection against Ms Corcoran was Melbourne silk Mr Mark Dreyfus QC. Mr Dreyfus was installed by the ALP central panel despite being heavily defeated in the ballot of local party members. Mr Mark Dreyfus QC may be known by Victorian senators opposite as the author of the 1998 Dreyfus review into the Victorian branch of the ALP. In that report Mr Dreyfus stated:
Membership makes a party, not the other way around. Labor is, or should be, people-not vehicle, not structure, not hierarchy.
Yet it was structure and factional hierarchy, not people, that secured Mr Dreyfus his preselection.
Senator Conroy interjecting-
The PRESIDENT-Senator Conroy, we have to put up with you for 20 minutes later on; I do not want you to start now, thank you!
Senator FIFIELD-Mr Dreyfus went on to say:
A measure of the party’s self-confidence should be an easing of the discipline, the ‘closed backroom-ness’ that formal factionalism inevitably brings.
I guess Mr Dreyfus was banking on this easing of factionalism occurring only after he had managed to secure his own preselection. The fact is, rotten though the process may have been, Mr Dreyfus is the endorsed ALP candidate for Isaacs. You might expect, having been preselected over a year ago, that Mr Dreyfus would be living in the electorate he seeks to serve-you might, but you would be wrong. He lives in Malvern in the seat of Higgins, and he has no intention to move either before or after the election.
Senator Conroy-You are a genius!
Senator FIFIELD-Mr Dreyfus told the Age on 7 February last year that the measure of a good MP is not where they live but how hard they work for local people. But he remains unabashed. Only last week-
Senator Conroy-Mr President, I rise on a point of order: does reading the Age into Hansard constitute giving a speech? Is it relevant?
The PRESIDENT-Senators quote from all sources, Senator Conroy.
Senator Conroy-Or just read slabs of the Age into the Hansard.
The PRESIDENT-There is no point of order.
Senator FIFIELD-It is not just the Age. Mr Dreyfus is unabashed and unashamed. Last week he told the Chelsea, Mordialloc, Mentone Independent that it is not where you-
Senator Conroy-Mr President, on a point of order: I was just wondering, now that he has demonstrated how well read he is, if it is relevant at all to be just quoting from-
The PRESIDENT-Senator, if you are going to continue to take frivolous points of order, I will have to come down on you. Remain quiet.
Senator FIFIELD-I closely read not just the local papers but also everything that Mr Dreyfus produces. He has produced a lot of material in the electorate of Isaacs-a lot of personally addressed mail. It is a very slick, professional, well-financed, union backed campaign. I must admit to being surprised not to read anywhere in Mr Dreyfus’s material that he does not live in the electorate. Nowhere does he mention that he lives 20 kilometres away in the suburb of Malvern. Nowhere in his material to the electorate does he mention that he has no intention to move, and nowhere in his direct mail to his prospective electors does he mention that he has no intention of moving.
But what I have read, in his personally addressed letter to residents of May 2007, is that Mr Dreyfus is keen to represent ‘you and other local residents’. He uses the word ‘local’ to try and convey that he is local. In the same letter he also invites the same local residents to fill in a survey so he can ‘be a strong voice for our community’. He refers to ‘our community’ as though he is part of it. In another letter, back in March of this year, Mr Dreyfus informed residents that he was standing as ‘your local Labor candidate’. He uses the word ‘local’ again as though he lives just around the corner.
You could not say he fibs. You could not say he lies. But he does seek to leave the impression that he is local. But to be local means you live in the area. We know he does not. We know he lives in Malvern. Even being charitable, to claim to be local means you must at least work in the area, even if you do not live there. But we know Mr Dreyfus does not work in Isaacs. He has chambers in the city. The location of Mr Dreyfus’s chambers-
Senator Conroy-I rise on a point of order. Does putting your office in an electorate make you a local, Senator?
The PRESIDENT-There is no point of order, Senator. If you continue on in that fashion I will have to name you.
Senator FIFIELD-Mr Dreyfus’s chambers are in Bourke Street. The location of his chambers shows he does have a bit of a sense of humour. His chambers are in Latham Chambers.
You cannot sneak around using the words ‘our’ and ‘local’ and pretend to be a local. The people of Isaacs will not be fooled. Mr Dreyfus spruiks a post office box in Mentone, and a back-alley shopping strip address in Chelsea, as his point of contact. But it takes more than a database and a mail-merge to show that you have local knowledge.
Mr Dreyfus is not relying on hard work and local commitment to win Isaacs. His campaign is extremely well resourced. He has the unions behind him, he has the local state members behind him and he has the Bracks Labor government behind him. Today, under the headline ‘Silk’s purse’, we learnt that documents obtained by the Herald Sun under freedom of information reveal that Mr Dreyfus was paid handsomely by the Bracks government to help them foist a toxic dump on the people of Mildura.
I told the Senate on 8 February this year that Mr Dreyfus was paid in excess of $50,000 for this task. I was wrong. The Herald Sun revealed today that Mr Dreyfus was not paid $50,000; he was paid $340,000. Now, it will not surprise anyone to know that Melbourne has no shortage of barristers. There are plenty of them around but the Bracks government managed to pick and pay one of their own. So, you have a well-known friend of the Bracks government pocketing $340,000 to prosecute an issue on behalf of the state government against the wishes of the people of Mildura.
But perhaps there is some good news for the people of Isaacs in this $340,000. Perhaps Mr Dreyfus could use this $340,000 pocketed from the Victorian taxpayers to buy himself a home in the electorate-to move into the electorate and start engaging with the community. I would like to be helpful to Mr Dreyfus. I know Mr Dreyfus has a successful and busy practice at the bar. He is a busy man, so I have gone to the trouble of helping him out. I jumped on realestate.com.au this afternoon and have located a selection of properties which would neatly fit within his price range-the $340,000. There is a lovely two bedroom unit in Station Street, Carrum, for $345,000. According to the advertisement you can ‘see the boats from your front window and walk 100 metres to the beach, supermarket and train’. Not a bad spot!
There is another nice unit in Bridges Avenue, Edithvale, for $345,000, and it comes with a stone and stainless steel kitchen and ducted heating. That sounds nice. In Clifton Park Drive in Carrum Downs there is a three-bedroom house for $339,000, complete with a meals-and-family room that opens onto a sunny paved pergola entertainment area. Or perhaps the address that is more to Mr Dreyfus’s taste is Chardonnay Drive in Skye. There is a four-bedroom house for $339,000 with a great outdoor entertaining area and rumpus/theatre room. All of these properties would enable Mr Dreyfus to live in the electorate, and all of them are within his budget-or thereabouts-of $340,000 courtesy of the Bracks government and Victorian taxpayers. All of them are locations which are good enough for the people of Isaacs, but not good enough for Mr Dreyfus.
In contrast, the Liberal candidate, Ross Fox, lives in the electorate. He participates in local community groups. He is fighting for local issues. He is out and about in the electorate, talking to people, finding out about the issues and working to address them. He is not waiting for the outcome of the election before he starts working to earn the trust of the people of Isaacs; he is seeking to earn their trust now. When Ross Fox wants to visit the Mentone Post Office, he need only stroll a few blocks. He does not have to drive 20 kilometres to collect his mail from the PO box at Mentone, as Mr Dreyfus does.
Mr Dreyfus ignores the people of Isaacs and he ignores their local papers. Time and again the words, ‘Mr Dreyfus could not be contacted,’ appear in the local papers. The editor of the Chelsea, Mordialloc, Mentone Independent said on 13 February:
Since his endorsement early last year I have found Mark Dreyfus very difficult to track down for a comment on anything.
If this is the approach Mr Dreyfus intends to take when he seeks to become a member of parliament, one can only imagine how he would conduct himself in seeking to represent the people of Isaacs. Mr Dreyfus cannot be bothered winning a local preselection. He cannot be bothered talking to local journalists. He cannot be bothered moving into the electorate. But he can be bothered picking up a cheque for $340,000 from the Bracks Labor government. I think Mr Mark Dreyfus QC has his priorities wrong. He should just admit he has no interest in representing the people of Isaacs. His only intention is to seek to win the seat of Isaacs to try and become Labor’s Attorney-General. That is not a good enough reason to seek a seat in parliament.