Senate debates

Thursday, 26 August 2021


Victoria: Community Services

1:48 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] The Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the I Cook Foods affair has revealed more disturbing evidence, inviting a conclusion that the food-processing firm I Cook Foods was illegally closed by the Victorian government in a conspiracy with Dandenong city council, the purpose being to remove I Cook Foods as a commercial competitor to Community Chef, a heavy-loss-making business set up by the Victorian government and owned by local councils. Significantly, Community Chef's establishment in 2009 relied heavily on a $9 million grant from the federal department of infrastructure, a bizarre way for the Commonwealth to provide such funding. The relevant ministers at the time were Mr Albanese and Mr Andrews.

Recently, I asked the department of infrastructure for all documents relevant to this $9 million grant. The department replied that the relevant documentation held by the department cannot be disclosed to any other party without prior consent in writing. Why this secrecy? Who is this unnamed party or parties? I call on him, or them, to urgently provide this consent. Today, I am writing to Mr Albanese in the event that he is one of these unnamed parties, asking him to consent to the release of these documents. Given the serious criminal and corruption implications of the evidence emerging in Victoria, it is imperative that full transparency exists. I call on the Labor leader to support my request so that the people of Australia can be confident that the Commonwealth was not involved in this apparent conspiracy.