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Liberal leader Jeremy Hanson calls for inquiry into Joy Burch Menslink affair

Liberal Leader Jeremy Hanson has called for an inquiry into the Menslink affair in which Education Minister Joy Burch's son visited schools with the youth mentoring group last year without a Working with Vulnerable People card.

Mr Hanson said Ms Burch must answer whether she had any influence in Menslink's decision to take on her son, who was on bail and awaiting sentencing on an aggravated robbery charge at the time. Lloyd Burch visited schools last year with the Menslink Silence is Deadly program, but when the group discovered it had been taking him into schools without a Working with Vulnerable People card it self-referred the breach to the Office of Regulatory Services and was fined $2500.

Education Minister Joy Burch's involvement in her son visiting schools with the youth mentoring group Menslink is the ...
Education Minister Joy Burch's involvement in her son visiting schools with the youth mentoring group Menslink is the subject of a call for an inquiry by Liberal leader Jeremy Hanson. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Mr Hanson said Chief Minister Andrew Barr should establish an inquiry, headed by an ex-judicial officer or similar to ensure it was transparent, independent and outside the political process, free from any suggestion that it was politically motivated, so confidence could be restored in the Education Minister.

Ms Burch should be stood aside as minister while the inquiry was done, he said.

"The entirety of this issue needs to be examined because there are a lot of interconnecting parts here regarding who knew what and when, and in particular what the minister knew, did she use any influence in her position as an MLA or as education minister, and what led to these pretty extraordinary events," Mr Hanson said.

Mr Hanson will move for the inquiry in the assembly on Wednesday, but to be carried by the assembly his motion  would need the vote of the Greens Shane Rattenbury, who is a minister in the Barr Labor government.

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Mr Hanson has spoken with people at Menslink and said it was clear that they were equally concerned about what had happened.

Ms Burch had not provided an adequate explanation of her role in an affair that had caused "at the very least significant reputational damager to Menslink as an organisation, which is extremely unfortunate, a breach of law, and the exposure of school children to an individual that both Menslink and school principals have said should not have been in schools, certainly not without a working with vulnerable persons clearance", he said.

It was not good enough for Mr Barr to declare the matter closed, with questions still unanswered.

"It's clear that the community deserve a full explanation of what has occurred, why school children were put in this situation, why Menslink breached the law and what role, if any, or what influence the minister brought to bear, given her conflict of interest." 

The affair has left Menslink deeply unhappy, with staff concerned they weren't told Lloyd Burch was on bail for aggravated robbery and they wouldn't have taken him into schools to talk to teenage boys if they had known, and the organisation's board saying he should not have been in schools in those circumstances.

Then chairman Peter Clarke said he and the board had been "absolutely aghast" at the discovery and had phoned  the principals of the schools Lloyd Burch visited to explain what happened and to apologise.

He has written a report on the affair, which the Office of Regulatory Services will not release.

The Menslink chief executive, Martin Fisk, did know about Lloyd Burch's conviction, and wrote references for Lloyd Burch in the case, including a reference for his October court sentencing, where he escaped a lengthy jail term partly on the basis of his work with Menslink.

Ms Burch has refused to respond to questions about her role, if any, in facilitating her son's work with Menslink. She has said only that the issue had nothing to do with her ministerial responsibilities. Her son was an adult and responsible for his own volunteering, she said.

A spokesman for Mr Barr has dismissed the issue as an "administrative oversight" and "media hysteria", backing Ms Burch's insistence that it had no bearing on her ministerial responsibilities.