Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
Exiled MP Will Fowles is under pressure to stand down from his lucrative committee post before the panel grills Labor Party bosses about possible electoral reforms in hearings scheduled for Thursday.
The Ringwood MP resigned from the parliamentary Labor Party on Saturday at the request of Daniel Andrews after the premier’s office referred Fowles to the police over an alleged assault.
Will Fowles, pictured after a Canberra hotel incident in 2019.Credit: Joe Armao
Without a formal complaint from the accuser, police have not launched an investigation.
Fowles has strenuously denied he assaulted a government employee last Wednesday night after parliament wrapped up for the day, and said he was “shocked and distressed” to learn a claim had been made against him.
He remains an independent MP in the lower house and chair of the electoral matters committee, which will hear from outgoing Labor Party secretary Chris Ford and assistant state secretary Cameron Petrie on Thursday, as well as the state director of the Nationals, Matt Harris, and of the Greens, Martin Shield.
On Sunday, Andrews said he was getting advice about removing Fowles as chair of the committee, which Fowles was appointed to as a government MP with a pay bump of almost $20,000.
On Monday, Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said: “That is being worked on at the moment; we’ll await the outcome of that.”
Membership of committees is a matter for the houses, meaning they tend to be government controlled. It would be up to the committee to expel Fowles as chair, in a meeting, if he did not resign.
Such a meeting had not been arranged before Thursday, two committee members told The Age on condition of anonymity to speak frankly about internal committee matters.
But Fowles’ position is viewed as untenable, and he will face pressure to stand down if it is not resolved by Thursday.
The parliamentary probe is looking at possible reforms to upper house voting, donation reform, the performance of the Victorian Electoral Commission and behaviour at polling booths.
Other witnesses scheduled to appear before the committee this week include minor parties such as Animal Justice and the Victorian Socialists, teal independents and ABC election analyst Antony Green.
The Age contacted Fowles on Monday to ask if he intended to resign as chair but did not receive a response.
Andrews released a statement late on Saturday evening confirming his office had received information from a government employee about an alleged assault and had referred the matter to police.
Victoria Police acknowledged the referral in a statement on Sunday morning, but said it had not received a complaint from the alleged victim.
A complaint has not been made to the Speaker’s office either, meaning Fowles is unlikely to face a ban on entering the parliamentary precinct.
Last year, the Speaker and president of the upper house took the unusual step of banning Liberal backbencher Neale Burgess from entering parliament after several allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards Victorian parliament staff.
Burgess denied the allegations, which were investigated by the Department of Parliamentary Services.
Fowles is likely to remain a member of the Victorian Labor Party, which has not received a complaint to investigate, a process that would take months.
In a statement on Sunday, he said he expected his resignation from the parliamentary party to be temporary.
“It is not true. There was no assault,” Fowles said.
“The details of the claim have not been put to me. I strenuously deny any allegation of assault.”
Fowles opened up about his mental health and alcohol and substance abuse after he kicked a hole in a door at a Canberra hotel in 2019 in a dispute over his luggage. He took time off on paid leave and returned to parliament before being re-elected at the November election.
On Sunday, Andrews said the fresh allegation was more serious and of a different nature than the 2019 incident.
Get the day’s breaking news, entertainment ideas and a long read to enjoy. Sign up to receive our Evening Edition newsletter here.
Most Viewed in Politics
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article