Member for Benambra Bill Tilley on the attack after deputy premier James Merlino suggests he should pay back $300,000

In the gun: Deputy premier James Merlino during a visit to announce Wodonga's new swimming pool when he was sport minister in 2008.

In the gun: Deputy premier James Merlino during a visit to announce Wodonga's new swimming pool when he was sport minister in 2008.

BILL Tilley has called Victoria’s deputy premier a “nasty low-rent piece of work” after being called on to pay back $300,000 in entitlements.

The member for Benambra was furious that James Merlino made the appeal after he did not fully co-operate with a parliamentary audit.

“When James Merlino was the sports minister in the Bracks government he was an interesting minister, he wasn’t too bad, you could do some business with him,” Mr Tilley said.

“In the last few years he’s just become a nasty low-rent piece of work.”

Mr Merlino asked “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?”.

“If Mr Tilley refuses to co-operate or provide the necessary documentation he must repay the estimated $300,000 he has claimed to date,” Mr Merlino said.

Mr Tilley, who gave more material to the audit on Thursday, said the $300,000 was not based on public records.

“He’s plucked it out of his bum, this is just base low-rent toxic politics and this bloke is meant to be the deputy premier,” Mr Tilley said.

“It’s unprofessional and they know I live in Wodonga; they’re blowhard try-hards and a bitter disappointment for the state.”

Mr Tilley did not initially provide documents to the audit because of concerned over his family’s privacy.

The examination of regional MPs was launched after Labor politicians Don Nardella and Telmo Languiller rorted the allowance.

Mr Tilley said he was out to protect his family’s “lifestyle” in not initially fully co-operating with the audit.

The Liberal politician gave an extra 74 pages of personal information to the audit on Thursday, in addition to an original file of 30 pages.

Mr Tilley said he had withheld material as he believed it intruded on his family.

On the attack: Bill Tilley blasted the deputy premier James Merlino after agreeing to provide more information to an audit following discussions with his Liberal Party leader Matthew Guy.

On the attack: Bill Tilley blasted the deputy premier James Merlino after agreeing to provide more information to an audit following discussions with his Liberal Party leader Matthew Guy.

“I put my hand up to be a public figure in the area, so it’s fair game, have a go at me, but I have to protect my partner, my daughter and certainly...our lifestyle and how much electricity we may use or may not use, how much water we use in our house,” he said.

“These are the things that affect every family in this district and I don’t think it’s particularly anybody’s real business on exactly how much we’re using.

“We struggle with our family budgets and I share and empathise with every family in this district the cost of power, the cost of gas, the cost of water.

“These are some of the things that are absolutely sacrosanct to our family unit and...that’s why part of those documents were redacted in the first instance.”

Mr Tilley said he told the auditors some of the material they sought would have required a warrant if they were police and he had to provide more detail than would be needed for finance.

“This is probably 15, 20, 30 times more than you would even go and get to get a home loan,” he said.

“I recently financed in the last couple of weeks a mobile office for this electorate so I can get out and I tell you what that finance gave a couple of pieces of documentary evidence and I had money to go and lease a caravan.”

Mr Tilley is “very confident” his extra material will result in the auditors saying he had co-operated in their final report.

Fellow North East MPs Tim McCurdy and Steph Ryan said privacy concerns were understandable but they felt they needed to be open.

“In terms of transparency I wanted to make sure people can see everything I’ve done is above board,” Mr McCurdy said.

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