MP probe dropped

Po­lice can­cel $6m union in­quiry

Herald Sun - - NEWS - ALEX WHITE alexan­dra.white@news.com.au

THE crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion against Vic­to­rian La­bor MP Ce­sar Mel­hem, prompted by a re­fer­ral from the trade union royal com­mis­sion, has of­fi­cially been dropped.

Vic­to­ria Po­lice told the pow­er­ful La­bor fig­ure he was no longer un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion ear­lier this year, af­ter find­ing no rea­son to pur­sue TURC’s claims there could be 11 pos­si­ble of­fences re­lated to al­legedly cor­rupt con­duct.

Vic­to­ria Po­lice set up the $6 mil­lion Task­force Her­a­cles to in­ves­ti­gate Mr Mel­hem and other trade union­ists, but the group was dis­banded last year.

Shadow at­tor­ney-gen­eral John Pe­sutto has writ­ten to po­lice Chief Com­mis­sioner Gra­ham Ash­ton to clar­ify why the probe has been closed.

It comes af­ter the case against CFMEU of­fi­cials was thrown out of court this week and con­cerns have been raised about the com­mis­sion’s ef­fec­tive­ness.

CFMEU bosses John Setka and Shaun Rear­don were hit with black­mail charges in 2015 af­ter Bo­ral ex­ec­u­tives made state­ments to the royal com­mis­sion into trade unions.

How­ever, the pros­e­cu­tion this week ad­vised that the charges would be with­drawn.

Mr Mel­hem wel­comed the news his in­ves­ti­ga­tion had been dropped.

“I am pleased Vic­to­ria Po­lice have looked at the ma­te­rial and they have made a de­ci­sion to not pro­ceed,’’ Mr Mel­hem said.

“It has been a dif­fi­cult pe­riod and now I can move on.

“There is no ques­tion in my mind the royal com­mis­sion was an ab­so­lute witch hunt by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.”

Mr Pe­sutto said it was con­cern­ing how many La­bor MPs had been in­ves­ti­gated this term.

“It says some­thing about the in­tegrity and char­ac­ter of the An­drews La­bor Gov­ern­ment that so many se­nior po­lit­i­cal fig­ures have faced such se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions,’’ he said.

“Vic­to­ri­ans de­serve a gov­ern­ment that will put them first and not treat the re­spon­si­bil­ity and priv­i­lege of lead­ing as an all-you-can-eat buf­fet for rorters.”

Mr Mel­hem stepped down as Whip in the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil amid the furore over his past union deal­ings, but may now raise his hand for se­nior po­si­tions again.

The Reg­is­tered Or­gan­i­sa­tions Com­mis­sion is still con­sid­er­ing the Mel­hem case but that would not lead to any crim­i­nal con­vic­tions.

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