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PROBED: Notorious Victorian Ombudsman faces investigation

victorianombudsman Given that Victoria is probably the least corrupt jurisdiction in Australia, which Transparency International has judged one of the least corrupt countries on Earth, it seems highly unlikely that the result of the new state government inquiry into anti-corruption agencies will be to recommend yet another one.

But what many have missed is that the review to be conducted by Elizabeth Proust affords an opportunity to closely examine a multitude of allegations that have been made against these agencies, including the office of the Victorian Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman is paid nearly $400,000 per annum. He is one of the state’s highest paid public servants and is almost certainly its least accountable. Ironically perhaps, his office is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Many believe his staff run amok.

Staff within that office including Lachlan McCulloch have been accused earlier this year by the Sunday Herald Sun, VEXNEWS and other prestigious publications of acting beyond their power, acting thuggishly and highly inappropriately.

McCulloch, a former Police officer who has written a string of books containing embarrassing revelations about his conduct on the job, should certainly be the focus of any serious review. No doubt he thought he was doing his job as best he knew, but it seems the Office of the Ombudsman had not adequately prepared the aggressive former cop for the more genteel world of probing public servants. He clearly hasn’t been sufficiently well trained. And that’s not just his fault, it shows there are systemic problems.

More than that, when the Sunday Herald Sun made normal inquiries about the conduct of the Ombudsman’s office, it’s response has become the stuff of legend in media circles. The Deputy Ombudsman himself personally threatened a reporter, claimed he “knew all about him” and refused to co-operate with even the most reasonable inquiry. That’s not a sign of a healthy and transparent culture within the Ombudsman’s office. They cannot root out corruption and secrecy and impropriety by themselves acting secretively, corruptly or improperly.

Realistically, we are not optimistic that a great cultural change will come in the Victorian Ombudsman’s office. Its disgraceful handling of the Brimbank council investigation is an injustice that will probably never be remedied. Its clumsy entry into the political world apparently caused much internal angst within their small Ombo office with Brouwer telling several colleagues that he would “never again” do an investigation into local councils, referring all inquiries back to the Local Government department for their inspectors to deal with.

But if the Proust review recommends a parliamentary committee be established to specifically oversee agencies like the Ombudsman, then we’ll at least have taken one step towards ensuring that excessive conduct like that exhibited by Lachlan McCulloch can be scrutinised, reviewed and punished in the future.

One Labor MP who preferred not to be identified agreed with VEXNEWS on this but said it “looks likely that there’ll be some formal parliamentary oversight of the Ombudsman with a committee at the end of this.”

Another seasoned political observer told VEXNEWS that he reckons John Brumby had a cunning plan with the Proust review. “No government lasts forever. Brumby wants to be re-elected. But he probably isn’t planning to be in office for another decade. My mail is that he wants to establish an all-powered anti-corruption commission just before it becomes obvious the Libs are going to win government. It will be his gift to them to curse their first years in office. He is nothing if not John the Merciless.”


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  1. Brouwer must go if its a fair review.

    Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009, 11:20
  2. I’m being blamed for just following orders

    Posted by Sgt McCulloch | November 24, 2009, 11:32
  3. What about the bullying claims against the ombudsman office? Any word? Any response Andy? Nobody bloody knows because you can’t even listen to the bloody tapes. You have murders who walk into a police station and walk out with there tapes. This just proves that Hulls your charter of human rights does not exist you idiot! As for you our earnest Premier John Brumby who of course has never won an election as Premier. I want to know Brumby what are you as the Premier going to do about correcting the Minister for Local Government who doesn’t seem to understand the difference between fantasy and reality? You are showing the same arrogance of the late Kennet government.

    Posted by god help us Rob Hulls is deputy prmier | November 24, 2009, 11:45
  4. McCulloch only don’t what I told him to do not hiding the fact that his a thug. Caine and the left were calling all the shots on Brimbank it wasn’t in my hands. Apparently it was sour grapes the John Caine Jnr never got the seat of Derrimut. I do what I’m told they got me the job!!

    Posted by Brouwer | November 24, 2009, 11:51
  5. Andrew well done for exposing Brouwer, there needs to be a public inquiry into the Ombudsman office..immediately Brouwer must be held accountable for the illegal inproper conduct of his office

    Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009, 11:57
  6. Brouwer will be xposed for his corrupt practices and being a political appointee paid $400K, who got you your job Brouwer will you take the oath and tell the truth??

    Posted by Brouwer is a political hack | November 24, 2009, 12:00
  7. Human rights charter by Rub Hulls doesnt exist with Brouwer’s practices, I hope this will be a public review to expose the corrupt office of the Ombudsman!!

    Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009, 12:05
  8. After a he said you said political investigation by Brouwer the end result was many losing their jobs, sacked council!

    Posted by Shame on you Brouwer | November 24, 2009, 12:09
  9. McCulloch the truth will come out soon of what you did. RACIST PIG

    Posted by LM Racist | November 24, 2009, 12:11
    Anybody (other then Minister’s) can be subpoenaed in a court of law you thugs. Let’s play ball.

    Posted by wild wild west | November 24, 2009, 12:51
  11. Andrew, Will this review be open to public submissions?

    Posted by Question | November 24, 2009, 13:04
  12. Former Premier John Cain’s little mate George Brouwer is to be investigated by another former senior Cain era bureaucrat. Any Conflict of Interest issues Brouwer?

    Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009, 13:11
  13. Question good question champ but do you really think the government care what you think? They will send your submission to the relevant department for a response saying “thank you for your letter. We have reviewed your letter and thank you for your valid input”. If they cared they wouldn’t have behaved in such a sick manner using people as escape goats.

    Posted by god help us Rob Hulls is deputy prmier | November 24, 2009, 13:14
  14. If Minister’s have nothing to hide they should be more than happy to front up to court..anyways anyone can be subpoenaed former MPs current Mps, advisors you name it…including notorious Brouwer.Slowly but surely it will all unravel. Lets get ready to RUMBLE!!

    Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009, 13:23
  15. When it’s all said and done and all court proceedings are over. The amount of damage to Brumby in particular his private office is going to be the equivalent of a 8.3 magnitude quake striking 1 Treasury Place and bringing down the entire premiers office and revelling all there dirty little secrets. The only people laughing will be Tim Holding & co because Brumby will not have a leg to stand and Madden’s leadership ambitions will be torn into pieces. Truth is the daughter of time my friends.

    Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009, 14:07

    Posted by conrad | November 24, 2009, 14:32
  17. i think Brouwer would fit very well with a job in South Australia, Brouwer, Give Cain a call or meet up with him at the usual place!

    Posted by City Observer | November 24, 2009, 14:46
  18. Posted by wild wild west | November 24, 2009, 12:51

    Does that include Dicky Dick’s local government advisor Nick Quinn, my word that would be funny. My bet is he would have an anxiety attack in the witness box.

    Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009, 15:44
  19. George can i please come this time.

    Posted by McCulloch | November 24, 2009, 15:53
  20. Yeap cnr of Exhibition and Collins Street
    See you there guys

    PS: John I think i might be out of work soon pls call me re NEW JOB

    Posted by Brouwer | November 24, 2009, 15:54
  21. Brouwer the people of SA need you to head up an investigation into Premier Rann’s conduct & affairs..

    Posted by SA Calling Brouwer | November 24, 2009, 18:01
  22. I would say there would be a couple of others who share the name Nick taking the witness box, NOTE: all welcome on the day seats will be limited so get in early.

    Posted by Brouwer a human rights abuser | November 24, 2009, 18:06
  23. ”I thought his behaviour was well over the top,” says a highly regarded former hospital administrator, Denis Swift, who was interviewed as part of the Kossmann investigation and sideswiped by adverse mentions in the report tabled last October.

    ”I wasn’t allowed legal representation … The discussion at the interview was nothing like what he wrote in the report – it was a bit like character assassination.”

    Posted by Bachelard on the mark | November 24, 2009, 18:12
  24. The Ombudsman enquiry into Brimbank and subsequent sacking of the elected councillors was an apalling abuse of process, and political manipulation. Pages and pages of conversations, innuendo , made the Ombudsman froth at the mouth with excitement..but no charges were laid .The newly elected coincillors found themeslves to be collateral damage for nothing but political grandstanding and froth and bubble. If people are sacked in a workplace they are afforded an industrial hearing by an independant arbiter , if the Ombudsman implies there was enterenched corruption but cannot lay a single charge ,a Democratically elected council is sacked.The Ombudsman for too long has had carte blanche to investigate, interrogate , accuse and destroy peoples lives and reputations ..in the real world you are innocent till proven guilty …quite simply put a report is not a charge .and it is not a political triumph for any Democracy to have people rights railroaded for the sake of political expediency.

    Posted by anonymous | November 24, 2009, 18:21
  25. It may have been a new council but more then half of them were on the previous council and Marion Martin was sacked from the former Sunshine Council (unlike she told us on Stateline). If there was corruption in the his unethical report it would have been referred to the DPP and charges would have been laid. The ombudsman office produced nothing but a flimsy political sh!t sheet and character assignation with many people losing there jobs in tough economical times Mr Brumby.

    Posted by Power to the People | November 24, 2009, 18:37
  26. Look out people Roby Hulls might pass legislation to protect government staff from being subpoenaed. He is capable of anything our Roby.

    Posted by Rob Hull's human rights charter doesn’t exist | November 24, 2009, 18:41
  27. It’s interesting to note that the Law Institute of Victoria is reported recently as saying that ‘the coercive powers of the Victorian Ombudsman run the risk of eroding the rule of law in the state and should be reviewed by an independent judicial inquiry’.

    Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009, 18:53
  28. The sacked Brimbank Council took the heat for the bigger fish , it smacks of political expediency and is just one example of why there is a crisis in the integrity of Governance in Victoria. The Ombudsman report made strong inferences and conslusions , but the Govt did not pursue a full investigation…Any Questions why??Instead a totally incompetant Minister awkwardly ordered a toe cutter to sack the council…it’s the West ..nobody cares and nobody will ask questions. I hope Mrs Proust critically examines the way a Govt has appointed it’s own people to supress the “stench” in the West …and reveal how Democratic process has been thwarted and subverted by these bureacrats .

    Posted by anonymous | November 24, 2009, 18:53
  29. one of his past positions,George Brouwer, Director, Victorian Major Events Company

    Posted by Brouwer is a political hack | November 24, 2009, 18:57
  30. another position head of the Department of Premier and Cabinet during the premiership of Labor’s John Cain Jr, head of OPI & Ombudsman Office on 2 salaries at the time.

    Posted by Brouwer is a political hack | November 24, 2009, 19:03
  31. A culture of secrecy rules in Victoria’s public service when it comes to releasing documents under Freedom of Information (FoI) laws, the state’s Ombudsman says.

    In his 2008-09 annual report, Ombudsman George Brouwer said that during a number of investigations into FoI complaints he found an emphasis on protecting documents rather than releasing them.

    “I remain concerned about the culture surrounding FoI practices in some areas of the public sector,” he said in his report tabled in state parliament on Wednesday.

    “Often, agencies act against the intention of the FoI Act by restricting rather than facilitating the release of information.”

    Posted by FOI | November 24, 2009, 19:07
  32. Cost of sacking a Local Council = Nil
    Cost of seriously pursuing an investigation of the alleged perpertrators of the entrenched “alleged” corruption & branchstacking over the years as per the claims of the “ombudsmans report” , some strongly well known in Labor circles = $too much .A+B= political expediency

    Posted by respekt the west | November 24, 2009, 19:13
  33. Real people also lost/sacked from their jobs, i hope Mrs Proust critically examines Brouwer and his political illegal conduct. This whole issue will not go away for Brumby he can count on it!!

    Posted by Time will tell | November 24, 2009, 19:36
  34. Brimbank may be the circus that will unravel the Great One.It was an absolute joke …Proust must investigate the complete failure of this report and the disgraceful way it was handled and pursued by faceless highly paid bureacrats. The rights of people usurped , peoples reputations destroyed , an entire council sacked,and not one single charge laid.It’s called the Ombudsmans kangaroo court..a PR exercise in bullshit.

    Posted by respekt the west | November 24, 2009, 19:39
  35. to 18;53 you can spin it any way you like Brouwers report had no evidence in your own words “strong inferences and conclusions by Brouwer” Brouwer is not the LAW.

    Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009, 19:48
  36. Absolute power corrupts absolutely..

    Posted by anonymous | November 24, 2009, 19:57
  37. Posted by Brouwer is a political hack | November 24, 2009, 19:03

    I wouldnt call it a premiership the state was debt ridden!

    Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009, 20:04
  38. Posted by FOI | November 24, 2009, 19:07

    FOI doesnt exist in the ombudsmans office but thugish behaviour does. Time to put your charter in place Hullsy

    Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009, 20:09
  39. Inferences were made conclusions were drawn that “branchstacking” and “undue influence” occured in previous councils and that the current council was “unworkable” does this amount to breaking a law? , no charges laid , no further investigation pursued by the DPP, 12 councillors sacked on the the flimsy account of being “unworkable”no charges laid , no law broken.The Ombudsman report was all fanfare no substance, yet unrestrained in its pursuit to destroy peoples reputation without any recourse.If Proust has any teeth , a full review of this disgraceful process needs to be pursued.

    Posted by anonymous | November 24, 2009, 20:10
  40. hear hear allegations of branchstacking has been the corner stone since the creations of the labor and liberal partys. Tell me something i dont no brouwer.

    Posted by Anonymous | November 24, 2009, 20:24
  41. How does the Ombudsman and his toe cutter define workable? Every committee , every group , is organic with different views and opinions, factions coexist in every organisation including political and non-political ones. It’s called pluralism, and it is participatory democracy . People belong to political parties , are they breaking the law?? People work for an elected representative and are elected for council and work happily between both positions without “undue influence” ..are they breaking a law? The Govt.The inference that people walk into a council job and just learn to “Govern” with no support, no counselling, and are then sacked for being “unworkable” ..no crime, no charge, no further investigation..political thuggery

    Posted by anonymous | November 24, 2009, 20:55
  42. Andrew big thanks for questioning the methods and process employed by Victorias most powerful public servant and his Office.We do live in a pluralistic society, and cannot underestimate the importance of protecting our citizens rights and their right of “association”. It is not criminal to “think” and have a political viewpoint and belong to a political group.Our Democracy is sacred and nobody is “greater” then it. People deserve to be treated fairly and without stigma and innuendo.It is high time the unethical methods are bought into the full perspective of the “law” , all citizens of Australia deserve nothing less then this.

    Posted by anonymous | November 24, 2009, 21:31
  43. media’s very quite on this one Andrew. Brouwer & his mates calling journo’s again!!

    Posted by Anonymous | November 25, 2009, 9:52
  44. Well there old stomping ground the Age reported this morning, but of course didn’t make first page. Slowly but surely the Ombudsman ship is sinking.


    Posted by Anonymous | November 25, 2009, 10:36
  45. Brouwer must be held accounctable for the conduct of his office i hope the review will be conducted in the full view of the public!!

    Posted by Anonymous | November 25, 2009, 16:13
  46. What a rort this fascist is.

    An extensive petition was forwarded to this martinet in recent times, outlining gross departmental misconduct ranging all the way from select field officers through to those at the top.

    Georgie’s response? Well, nothing less than Machiavellian. After having spoken to the malfeasant egomaniac seated near the pinnacle of that corruption, in turn, little Georgie accepts that that certain department’s mal-conduct was justified in light of the exculpatory (unfounded and untested) allegations it made in turn against the complainant.

    The Ombudsman’s Office then went to formally dismiss the complaint on plainly prejudicial grounds.

    What Georgie does next to obliterate the slime trail is further remarkable. Upon certain department instructing one of its looney tune acolytes to head up a ‘complaint about the complainant’, little Georgie then has the road paved to totally neglect the indictments that had previously invited his ailing fame to the table in the first place.

    The mere fact that the Terms of Reference of the Ombudsman’s own Act forbids his office’s involvement should not be seen as a thwart either.

    Though the subsequent allegations conveyed to Georgie smack of ad hominem fantasy, he fails to acknowledge that simmering tidbit, which can only point to two conclusions, in that the guy is insidiously bereft of good judgement or patently corrupt. Given the desperate flair to his reports, it can safely be concluded that the latter has prominence over the former.

    It gets better (read worse). Georgie goes on to decree that his report derives from an “investigation” conducted by his office. A totally absurd notion given that his report, in reality, is nothing more than a review of the files as “made available” to him, selectively and slanted. Further to that, his office fails natural justice more so by not rendering ‘the soon-to-be-named before parliament’ the according procedural fairness.

    Justifiable requests for materials are denied, his biased report is then tabled on the face of a so termed investigation. Parliament, the media and the misinformed public, generally take for granted whatever this guy says and does.

    Sound familiar?

    Anyone in Victoria who has the misfortune to encounter the crinkled tin-god, be afraid, be very afraid…

    Posted by be_afraid_victoria | May 7, 2010, 12:27


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