IN MY OPINION: Vlahos could cost Labor the election

IF the Labor Party does not form government after the March 17 state election, a local Member of Parliament may have provided the final nail in its coffin.

Last Wednesday, the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC), Bruce Lander, delivered a report into the scandal over the mistreatment of residents at the Oakden Older Persons Mental Health facility.

Among the many revelations in the report was a scathing assessment of Member for Taylor Leesa Vlahos’ role in the scandal as the Minister for Mental Health, responsible for the facility’s management.

Ms Vlahos, who resigned from her ministerial role last year and bowed out of the election race earlier this month, escaped being charged with ‘maladministration in public administration’, despite “her failure to act” after being made aware of the problems at the facility.

In an indictment of the lack of remorse Ms Vlahos showed for her role in the Oakden fiasco, Mr Lander’s report concluded that she’d tried to deny it was her ministerial responsibility to act; she
was “a very poor witness”; she sometimes became angry; and “on occasions she shouted at (Mr Lander)”.

“She blamed others for mistakes or failings, whenever and wherever possible,” Mr Lander wrote.

Ms Vlahos didn’t even commission the ICAC report into the scandal – the consolation claim Premier Jay Weatherill made in her defence last year – and even refused to consent to being identified in the report.

Despite committing to the report’s 13 recommendations, Mr Weatherill has since come under fire for his government’s management of the victims’ complaints and, in particular, of his repeated declarations of support for Ms Vlahos in the past.

While trying to shrug this off by saying Ms Vlahos is no longer a member of the Labor Party, the fact is that taxpayers are still paying her salary as the Member for Taylor.

This is despite Ms Vlahos never having lived in the local electorate while serving it, and trying to vacate it for a guaranteed eight-year stint in the Upper House at the upcoming election.

The Bunyip repeatedly attempted to make contact with Ms Vlahos to ascertain whether she felt the people of Taylor had been appropriately represented during the whole Oakden scandal.

The Bunyip also reached out to her when she recently announced her resignation from politics to see if she wanted to reflect on her time as the Taylor MP, and send a final message to her constituents.

In each instance, we received no response.

This seems to be emblematic of the lack of transparency and remorse shown by Ms Vlahos and, for many others, this criticism may extend to the entire Labor Party come March 17.

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Matteo Gagliardi joined The Bunyip in August 2016 with almost two years experience in regional print media, having previously worked at a community newspaper in Swan Hill, Victoria. Covering politics, local government and crime, Matteo likes to sink his teeth into hard-hitting issues, but also enjoys spending time getting to know the Gawler community. Matteo also has a passion for science, agriculture and the environment, and has previously worked as a media officer at the Australian Science Media Centre.

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