Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Victorian State MP Lizzie Blandthorn (Image: Facebook)

Victorian Labor MP Lizzie Blandthorn is chair of the state’s parliamentary Public Accounts and Estimates Committee.

That means she’s responsible for grilling Premier Daniel Andrews and his ministers over their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One of the ministers to front the committee this week was Jobs Minister Martin Pakula, whose department has found itself at the centre of the hotel quarantine saga.

But Pakula has another connection to Blandthorn. Blandthorn is married to Pakula’s chief of staff.

On Thursday, Liberal MP Richard Riordan MP said the relationship should have been disclosed — “this was a situation that should have been made known to all members of the committee before we started,” he said.

Blandthorn said such a suggestion was “offensive”, claiming she had received advice from the clerk of the assembly that she was not required to reveal her relationship because her husband was not a witness to the committee.

“This is not the 1950s, in my judgement to suggest that my husband’s roles provides a conflict for me is archaic,” she said. 

Yes, sexism still exists in politics.

But given that Pakula is at the centre of the hotel quarantine debacle, and this inquiry has the potential to unearth a whole lot of detail about what went wrong, the fact that the chair of the inquiry has a potential or perceived conflict of interest isn’t sexist.

It’s something the public deserves to know. 

Peter Fray

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