MP stands down amid union claims

Cesar Melhem

Western Metropolitan MP Cesar Melhem has stepped down from his role as state government whip citing “press speculation” over his senior role as the reason.

Melhem told Premier Daniel Andrews of his decision to quit on Monday night, following his controversial appearance at the Trade Union Royal Commission, where he failed to recall details relating to his tenure as Australian Workers Union state secretary.

Fairfax Media reported allegations he had brokered a deal with a cleaning company that left workers on lower pay in return for cash payments to the AWU.

The commission also heard evidence of other deals where employers paid for AWU memberships, boosting the union’s numbers.

However, in a statement on Tuesday, Mr Melhem denied “any allegations of wrongdoing made against me at the Trade Union Royal Commission”.

He said he no longer wanted to be a distraction for the government.

“I have made this decision as I believe that the continuing press speculation about my role … has the potential to distract the Andrews government,” he said in a statement on Tuesday morning.

“I again deny any allegation of wrongdoing made against me at the Trade Union Royal Commission. I have always acted in the best interests of working people and will continue to do so.”

In December, 2012 Fairfax Media first revealed details of an employer-bankrolled slush fund, Industry 2020, that was operating in 2008 when Melhem was AWU state secretary.

MP for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes will take over as whip in the upper house.

The Victorian branch of the AWU declined to comment.

Mr Melhem has held his Western Metropolitan Region seat since May, 2013.