Victoria’s premier has backed an embattled minister in charge of emergency management who skipped a key meeting and watched tennis over a bushfire.
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine says his embattled emergency services minister has been doing a great job “in totality” despite facing calls to resign.
Kim Wells was criticised for attending the Australian Open while bushfires threatened homes during Victoria’s recent heatwave.
But it’s since emerged that he also skipped a key ministerial meeting last year to take a holiday at Uluru.
Mr Wells flew to Alice Springs on the eve of a two-day meeting in November that brought together police and emergency services ministers from the states, territories and New Zealand.
The focus of the meeting was on disaster management and the creation of a national gang intelligence network.
Mr Wells, however, left early and had his parliamentary secretary attend a final meeting on his behalf.
The premier says his minister’s work in crafting anti-bikie laws, boosting police numbers and in emergency management shows he deserves to stay in the role.
“If you look at the totality, Kim Wells is doing a great job,” Dr Napthine said on Saturday while opening the revamped Mitcham railway station and level crossing removal project.
“Kim Wells certainly has my full confidence.”
The premier stressed that the missed meeting was best handled by officials anyway – a decision other states made, too.
“It was not attended by all ministers. Most of the work was done in pre-meetings, which Mr Wells attended,” he said.
“After the main work was done, he went off on a private holiday.”
Earlier this month, Mr Wells had been in the state control centre as fire crews prepared for a wind change threatening the town of Halls Gap.
He left to watch the tennis in the evening and kept up-to-date with officials via text messages.
While he has since defended his decision, he also said he would seriously consider if he’d do it again since the “optics” weren’t a good look.
Senior police noted that Mr Wells has always been very focused on emergency management and the bushfire emergency was handled well.
Former police chief Christine Nixon, who faced intense criticism for leaving her post during the Black Saturday bushfires, also defended the minister.
The state opposition has capitalised on the two incidents, arguing that Mr Wells has developed a habit of not being where he should be.
Opposition leader Daniel Andrews said he would sack his minister for making the same decisions.