Matthew Guy says Phillip Island settlement avoided ‘lawyers’ picnic’ over Ventnor rezoning


Updated

September 04, 2018 13:04:49

Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has brushed aside revelations that he ordered a $2.5 million taxpayer-funded settlement to avoid political damage to his career while planning minister, saying the action averted a “lawyers’ picnic”.

In an escalation of the political battle on Spring Street ahead of the November state poll, Labor tabled documents showing that in 2013 Mr Guy ordered the settlement rather than face court because of fears it would kill his career.

The documents were among 80,000 from the previous Coalition government tabled in Parliament on Monday detailing Mr Guy’s decision in 2011 to rezone farming land at Ventnor on Philip Island, which he then repealed amid public backlash.

The action prompted prospective developers to sue the government.

But rather than fight the case which lawyers suggested the government could have won, Mr Guy ordered a settlement, with records of meetings noting he raised concerns about the political cost of fighting the case in court.

In one file note Mr Guy is quoted as saying: “This can’t go to court. I shall not be in the job if it goes to [court]”.

Mr Guy said he could not remember that comment.

Another record said Mr Guy was worried about being cross examined in court:

“I’m v. good in Q time . But Q time is very diff to a court of law!”

Mr Guy today said he “was not responsible” for someone else’s file note.

Labor accuses Guy of using taxpayers’ money ‘as a ransom’

Legal advice to cabinet from senior counsel suggested the case could have been settled for between $500,000 and $1 million, well below the final settlement of $2.5 million.

Mr Guy told reporters that the government settled to avoid a “lawyers’ picnic”, and that it was an appropriate decision to take.

“Proceeding out of court was the sensible way,” Mr Guy said.

“[Fighting the case in court] would have cost a lot more and I wasn’t prepared to pay more money for lawyers to go to court.”

Deputy Premier James Merlino said Mr Guy should resign and repay the money.

“Matthew Guy has used taxpayers’ money as a ransom to avoid going under oath and revealing exactly what happened around the Ventnor kitchen table,” Mr Merlino said.

“Matthew Guy’s behaviour is potentially criminal — he should resign and pay back this money immediately.”

Guy threatens to release Labor documents

As he entered Parliament today Mr Guy accused Labor of being grubby and trying to deflect from its misuse of taxpayer-funded staff during the 2017 state election campaign.

“I’m not going to take lectures from a government that is under police investigation, a government that wasted $1.5 billion to scrap the [East West Link] to try and tell me that I somehow after going through an appropriate legal settlement have done the wrong thing,” he said.

Mr Guy conceded the whole Ventnor saga was “clearly one I could have done without”.

But he promised that if the Coalition won the November election it would hit back at Labor and table confidential documents from the current government over the termination of the East West Link, as well as the bitter CFA industrial dispute.

Topics:

state-parliament,

government-and-politics,

urban-development-and-planning,

community-and-society,

melbourne-3000,

vic

First posted

September 04, 2018 12:24:12



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