Michelle O’Byrne MP
Deputy Labor Leader
19 December 2018
  • Hodgman needs to get serious about properly investigating Courtney scandal
  • RTI documents reveal need to take investigation further
  • Government has form on billing Tasmanians for Minister’s controversies

The Hodgman Liberal Government needs to finally get serious and investigate how much Sarah Courtney’s personal relationship has cost Tasmanian taxpayers.

Ms Courtney was shifted sideways from her former Ministry after an investigation concluded she had breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct over her personal relationship with DPIPWE Secretary Dr John Whittington.

But Deputy Labor Leader Michelle O’Byrne said new information contained in Right To Information documents released yesterday showing Dr Whittington had tasked his department with relocating him to Launceston – Ms Courtney’s electorate – for two days each week warranted further investigation.

“Why was this request made, why did Dr Whittington suddenly decide he needed to be in the north each week and, importantly, what were the costs of his relocation to taxpayers?,” Ms O’Byrne said.

“Emails released under RTI show departmental staff went to considerable lengths to source office space for Dr Whittington.

“The use of taxpayer’s money was not included in the scope of the original investigation into Ms Courtney’s breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct and any expenses claimed must now be forensically examined.”

The facts are:

  • Ms Courtney returned from China with Dr Whittington on 13 September
  • Damian Bugg’s investigation concluded Ms Courtney should have disclosed the relationship to the Premier on the same date (Source – Bugg’s Memorandum to the Premier)
  • On 24 September Dr Whittington instigated the Departmental search for an office to work in Launceston. (Source – DPIPWE Right to Information Disclosure Log)
  • The Premier announced the findings of Mr Bugg and DPAC’s investigations on 31 October, but it did not examine the possible misuses of taxpayer funds.

“Tasmanians deserve better than this,” Ms O’Byrne said.

“If there is one example that taxpayers have been ripped off in the course of Ms Courtney’s relationship, the Premier has to take action.”