Victorian Lower house speaker Christine Fyffe. Photo: Joe Armao
State Parliament's Speaker and President are at odds over plans for an independent watchdog to crack down on MPs' entitlements in the wake of the controversy surrounding Geoff Shaw.
The Sunday Age reported last week that MPs' perks look set to be overhauled, with Premier Denis Napthine admitting the system required greater oversight and more transparency.
One idea being pushed by the government is a commissioner for parliamentary standards, who would oversee entitlements, investigate misuse and help members interpret the code of conduct.
But Parliament's two most senior officials - both of whom are currently responsible for monitoring the system - are split on whether such a move is worthwhile.
Lower house Speaker Christine Fyffe said she supported a new oversight body, telling The Sunday Age: ''Other jurisdictions have them and it would be advisable for us to have one.''
But upper house President Bruce Atkinson was unconvinced, questioning ''the number of ombudsman, inspectors, monitors and commissioners that we set up'' in Victoria.
''The system as it stands works for all those people who are prepared to accept personal responsibility and do the right thing,'' he said. ''The system perhaps lets us down where somebody pushes the envelope. Will we be better off with another system? I'm not sure.''
The entitlements debate comes almost two weeks after the government suspended Mr Shaw for 11 sitting days over the misuse of his parliamentary car. With Parliament resuming on Tuesday, the government will have its authority tested in the lower house, where it no longer has Mr Shaw, a former Liberal-turned-independent, holding the balance of power. This means both the government and opposition will have 43 votes, and the Coalition must rely on the Speaker's casting vote to pass legislation if Labor opposes it.
Ms Fyffe has convened a meeting with Parliament's standing orders committee on Wednesday to discuss the process of setting up a new commissioner.
State MPs receive a range of perks in addition to their annual salary, including an electorate allowance (up to $43,000 a year); allowance in lieu of a car ($16,500 to $25,000); and a second residence allowance (minimum of $23,659).