Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has labeled claims from an outgoing MP that he turned a blind eye to bullying allegations as “fantasy without foundation.”
- Upper house MP Kaushaliya Vaghela said she had been bullied and intimidated by people close to the Premier
- Daniel Andrews has rejected claims Ms Vaghela’s bullying complaint was not taken seriously
- The state opposition has called on Treasurer Tim Pallas to withdraw comments he made about Ms Vaghela’s “state of mind”
The Premier was conspicuously flanked by four female Labor MPs as he spoke for the first time since MP Kaushaliya Vaghela told the Herald Sun newspaper she had been bullied and intimidated by people close to the Premier.
Ms Vaghela sensationally crossed the floor of parliament to vote against her own party on Wednesday, in order to support a motion by disgraced MP Adem Somyurek.
Ms Vaghela, who has not responded to multiple requests to speak to the ABC, said in a statement yesterday posted to social media she had “suffered in silence for years”.
“And when I did complain I was treated as a nuisance by the Premier’s office,” her statement said.
Mr Andrews rejected that claim, confirming that a bullying complaint had been made against a person in his office, and that person was then sacked.
“There was an issue and it was dealt with appropriately and that person no longer works in my office and the suggestion that was not dealt with appropriately is simply wrong,” he said.
At a level crossing removal press conference today, Mr Andrews was joined by Jacinta Allan, Gabrielle Williams, Sonya Kilkenny, and Pauline Richards in a conspicuous show of support from four of his female party colleagues.
Ms Williams, the Minister for Women, defended the Premier against claims made by Ms Vaghela that he has a problem with women.
“The statements that were made and the claims that were made by Ms Vaghela yesterday do not reflect my personal experience nor do they reflect my observations, and nor do they reflect the work of the government,” she said.
“We have a cabinet of over 50 per cent women, we have… in the Premier’s own leadership team, his chief of staff and deputy chief of staff who are women, we have a caucus which is almost 50 per cent women.
“This is not the sign of someone who is a misogynist.”
Meanwhile, the state opposition has called on Treasurer Tim Pallas to withdraw comments he made yesterday about Ms Vaghela, and apologise.
In responding to the rebel MP’s comments yesterday, Mr Pallas appeared to question the mental state of Ms Vaghela.
“It is worrying for me that she said that, and it goes to her state of mind, and I hope, and I can assure her should she need assistance from the government, in any way, to help with her state of mind, we will support her in the way through this,” Mr Pallas had said.
The shadow minister for women and mental health, Emma Kealy, said the comments were a poor reflection on the Labor party.
“The Premier must step up today and condemn his Treasurer’s disgraceful comments and offer an immediate apology.”