It would be fair to call Bill Tilley a straight shooter.
Unlike some of his state and federal political colleagues who excel in the art of waffling on without actually saying anything, Bill Tilley tends to tell is like it is – or at least, as he sees it, and doesn’t leave you “wondering”.
But the member for Benambra took a more subdued approach in what he would declare to a parliamentary audit into politicians’ use of a residential allowance scheme, and that has seen him come under fire.
Victoria’s deputy premier James Merlino went full throttle with his attack on Thursday, making an over-the-top call for Mr Tilley to pay back $300,000 in entitlements.
“What makes Mr Tilley so special that he can refuse to co-operate with a Victorian Parliament investigation into his usage of the second residence allowance?” Mr Merlino asked.
True to his usual form, Mr Tilley labelled the comments “just base low-rent toxic politics”, and referred to Mr Merlino’s party pack as “blowhard try-hards”.
Since resisting full co-operation with the investigation, Mr Tilley on Thursday provided a further 74 pages of personal information to the audit.
Mr Tilley maintains the inquiry has been “invasive”, and his decision to withhold some documentation was based on his belief it was an intrusion on his family.
As a former police officer, he points out that some of the information sought by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers is the kind of information that police would need to seek a warrant to obtain.
But making the comparison between a parliamentary audit and a police investigation is hardly reasonable. In our day-to-day lives, at some time we all have to – or will have to – provide information to third parties that would otherwise not be accessible. Whether it be applying for a passport, credit card, loan, or seeking to rent a premises, the list of examples of us all having to provide personal information to another party is long. None of us have to like it but we have to do it, at times, to get what we want.
It is true Mr Tilley did not appreciate the intrusion on his privacy. What is not true is the inference that the Benambra MP had done anything wrong. He has not. James Merlino was just playing politics, and playing it poorly at that. He should not need reminding that this particular audit was brought about by a couple of world champion rorters who play on his own team.