Kennett claims luggage rage MP has ‘bully’ bad rep
FORMER Victorian premier Jeff Kennett says he's known the Labor MP who smashed a Canberra hotel door since he was at school and he "has a reputation of being a bully".
It comes after Member for Burwood Will Fowles flew into a rage and smashed in the bottom half of a door at the Abode Hotel in an argument with staff about his luggage yesterday.
The Labor MP later apologised for his actions, but Mr Kennett, who founded mental health advocacy group Beyond Blue, urged Mr Fowles to be honest with himself.
"I have known Will Fowles since he was at school with my son. He has a reputation of being a bully," he told Seven's Sunrise program on Friday.
"The first step to recovery for alcoholism or drugs or mental health issues, is to admit you have a problem and then seek professional help."
Mr Kennett also said on radio this morning: "I think this is an unacceptable use of mental health as an issue.
"Mental health does not lead to acts of violence, criminality or anti-social behaviour. Alcohol and drugs do, but not mental health."
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has weighed in on the incident and said it was still unclear if Mr Fowles had mental health issues.
"I think that's in a different category than somebody who's had a tantrum and can't get access to the door and decides to kick it in," he told Nine's Today show.
"If that's the case, he should be thrown out. Not on full pay."
MP ADMITS TO ADDICTION BATTLE
Labor MP Will Fowles has released a statement following his alleged hotel rampage, saying he has been dealing with addiction issues and recently undertook drug and alcohol counselling.
Mr Fowles on Thursday apologised to the staff at the hotel, and promised to pay for damages he caused, saying he would take leave to "get the treatment I need to become a better person".
"I unreservedly apologise to the staff at the Abode Hotel, my constituents, my Parliamentary colleagues, and my family for my appalling behaviour in Canberra earlier today.
"What happened is unacceptable. I am deeply ashamed of my actions. While there are reasons for it, there are no excuses.
"I have, for a long time, been dealing with addiction and other mental health issues. Medication I take was in my luggage, which was locked in a room that I was not able to access, as no staff were on-site.
"I will, of course, pay for all damages.
"I have recently undertaken a course of drug and alcohol counselling and will now get the treatment I need to become a better person.
"I have let myself down and badly let down those who have supported me.
"I know how hard I have to work to rebuild the trust people have placed in me. I will take a leave of absence to properly deal with my health issues.
"I was in Canberra to attend the first speeches in support of my Victorian colleagues and the trip was privately funded."
Premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement that Mr Fowles had "behaved inappropriately".
"He's apologised for that and I believe he's sincere," he said.
"He's also indicated he has addiction issues. He has my full support as he gets the treatment and care that he needs."
But Victorian Liberal MP Tim Smith said the Premier's response did not go far enough and questioned whether Mr Fowles' actions meant he was "unfit to remain a member of the Labor caucus".
"This is an appallingly weak response from the Premier," he said.
"The public will not accept and tolerate addiction issues as an excuse for kicking a door in at a Canberra hotel.
"This is a very serious matter that requires the Premier to discipline his MP."
HOW HOTEL DRAMA UNFOLDED
A witness captured a picture of a badly damaged door as the drama unfolded.
Kellie Sloane witnessed the incident and claimed the man had "gone into a rage after discovering he couldn't access his luggage".
She tweeted a picture of a door with significant damage.
Ms Sloane was returning from getting a coffee when a security guard told her she couldn't go back inside the hotel because "some big dude has gone nuts because he can't access his luggage".
Ms Sloane said the reception desk didn't open until 8am and he couldn't retrieve his luggage.
She said she believed Mr Fowles dialled the hotel's emergency line and gave them a time frame to come before he would kick down the door behind the reception desk which led to his belongings.
He then went up into his room before police arrived.
"The security guard said police were on the way and police said for no one to be in reception. The security guard and I helped usher people outside," Ms Sloane told the Herald Sun.
"Police went up there (into his hotel room). I heard them say, 'He's not doing himself any favours.'
"He was escorted out of the building and into a police car.
"I think he told police that he felt his luggage was being unlawfully held and he had no choice but to break the door."
Speaking from the Melbourne Airport Mr Fowles - who had blood on his shirt and seemed visibly shaken - told the Herald Sun he had "made a very bad mistake".
"I want to apologise unreservedly to my colleagues, my constituents and to my family. This has been a very distressing morning and I will make a further statement later today," he said.
He refused to answer questions on whether it was a taxpayer-funded trip and whether he was likely to resign.
He was met at the airport by members of the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews' media team.
WHY MP WAS IN CANBERRA
It is understood Mr Fowles, the son of Fowles Auction Group boss David, was in Canberra to attend the maiden speech of Labor's new Member for Jagajaga Kate Thwaites.
He was also seen at celebratory drinks for new Labor Senator Raff Ciccone, waving his hand at the camera for a photo.
Mr Fowles did not join Senator Ciccone's party for dinner.
Police are talking to the hotel's owners about the incident and have not laid any charges against Mr Fowles.
ACT police said they received a report of a disturbance at the hotel in Kingston at about 7.50am.
"Officers on patrol nearby attended and the matter was resolved," police said in a statement.
"At this time, no charges have been laid. Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident in consultation with the business owners.
"For privacy reasons, ACT Policing cannot comment on whether a particular individual is under investigation or not."
Opposition spokesman Tim Smith yesterday said criminal damage was a "very, very serious offence" and that Mr Fowles's behaviour was "totally unacceptable".
He dubbed him a "buffoon" and said: "I don't think he can remain a member of the Labor caucus."
"Daniel Andrews must take steps to discipline him, must take steps to call his behaviour out, and must sanction this Labor member of parliament," Mr Smith said.
"Were drugs and alcohol a factor in this? Was he on a publicly-funded trip to Canberra? Mr Fowles has many, many questions he hasn't answered yet."
The Herald Sun revealed last month that Mr Fowles had been accused of failing to pay workers' entitlements when his heritage pub went into receivership in central Queensland several years ago.
Liberal MP James Newbury aired the claims in parliament and called for an investigation, but the government refused to answer questions about the issue.
Prior to entering state parliament last November, Mr Fowles had also acted as a lobbyist including for the "cowboy" developers who knocked down the historic Corkman Pub.
His firm Piper Communications had represented Stefce Kutlesovski and Raman Shaqiri.
"My clients have said everything they wish to say, they made a mistake, they are sorry, and they are going to make it right," Mr Fowles said in 2016.
In 2005, Fowles became the youngest person to make it on the exclusive Melbourne Cricket Club committee.
In his maiden speech to parliament last December, Mr Fowles said: "As parliamentarians we should set the standard."
"Only through principled behaviour and disciplined debate will this generations of public leaders win back the trust of the citizens we represent," he said.