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Bracks denies Opposition 'dirt file' claims -

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Broadcast: 16/06/2006

Bracks denies Opposition 'dirt file' claims

Reporter: Rachel Carbonell

MAXINE McKEW: The image of Victoria's popular Premier, Steve Bracks, has taken a dive this week.
He's been accused of running a 'dirt unit' on the Liberal Opposition Leader and his family. In a
public relations upset for the Premier, the notepad of one of his senior advisors fell into the
hands of the Opposition, who say it shows Mr Bracks to be the State's 'Doyen of Dirt'. Rachel
Carbonell reports.

RACHEL CARBONELL: Since Jeff Kennett's reign ended in 1999, Victorian politics has created few
national headlines, but this year has been different. Liberal leader Robert Doyle shocked both
sides of politics by stepping down six months before the November election. Jeff Kennett flirted
briefly with a comeback before stepping aside for his friend Ted Baillieu. The Bracks Government
seized on Mr Baillieu's blue ribbon credentials, labelling him a 'Toorak toff'. But attempts to put
the electorate off the new Opposition Leader may well have backfired.

ANDREW MACINTOSH, VICTORIAN SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: The Premier is effectively 'the doyen of dirt'
in this State. He runs a dirt unit inside the Department of Premier and Cabinet and there are
persistent rumours of the power of that unit.

RACHEL CARBONELL: The Opposition's accusations are based on the contents of this notepad. It
belongs to a senior advisor in the Bracks Government and was slipped under the Opposition's door.
It refers to conducting a search on the business interests of the wife and children of Mr Baillieu,
to company boards and Jeff Kennett and contains a note to email the details to the chief of staff
of the State Attorney-General.

ROBIN COOPER, VICTORIAN LIBERAL MP: This is not the jottings of some junior clerk. This is a senior
person in the Labor Party, who is also the chief strategist of the Premier. To be getting involved
in this kind of dirty stuff is absolutely disgraceful.

RACHEL CARBONELL: The Opposition has referred the matter to Victoria's Privacy Commissioner. It's
well known that Mr Baillieu has a large share portfolio. He's vowed to set up a blind trust to
avoid any perceptions of a conflict of interest. The Opposition says investigating the Baillieu
children is stooping to new political lows.

ROBIN COOPER: I think if you start investigating the business dealings of a 10-year-old, you're
starting to really get down into the gutter, aren't you?

PETER COSTELLO, FEDERAL TREASURER: It's what we expect from Mr Bracks. We expect Mr Bracks to haul
this man into line and to tell him to stop doing it. And I say to Mr Bracks, "Look, if you're going
to stand by a grub like this, you'll be tainted".

STEVE BRACKS, VICTORIAN PREMIER: That notepad was the private jottings of a person who is on my
private staff as a parliamentary tactics advisor and it was reflecting - obviously, as you can see
from the jottings - the events that were happening about that time. So it was reporting on matters
which were current.

RACHEL CARBONELL: Mr Bracks has declined to apologise and denies his government has a
taxpayer-funded dirt-digging unit.

STEVE BRACKS: Well, I reject the fact that there's such an investigation that's behind your
question. The reality is that those matters were jotted down. The Government's actions are the
important part and as you can see from the Government's actions, we have been a government that has
stuck to the issues.

RACHEL CARBONELL: With an election in November, Mr Bracks has some work to do to redeem his
trademark Mr Nice Guy image. Rachel Carbonell, Lateline.

(c) 2006 ABC