State Ombudsman Deborah Glass released a report into her years-long investigation today, in a damning result for the Labor administration.
She cited “a well-organised campaign by the ALP to recruit and deploy full-time field organisers in the run-up to the 2014 Victorian state election, of which 21 were employed part-time as electorate officers and paid some $388,000 out of parliamentary funds”.
“The evidence is that MPs who participated in the arrangement and signed time-sheets believed it was legitimate and that they were contributing to an approved pooling arrangement,” Glass said in a statement.
“But while they received little or no personal benefit from the use of parliamentary funds for campaigning purposes, which almost invariably benefited the election prospects of others, 21 members of the 57th parliament breached the Members’ Guide.”
Glass said the party has since repaid the money.
The Victorian government went all the way to the High Court and spent $1 million to try and stop the investigation.
Those caught up in the investigation include some serving cabinet ministers, with Labor figures expecting each of the “20-plus MPs” to be named, according to a report in The Herald Sun on Wednesday.
Taxpayer funds designed for the operation of electorate offices were instead paid to staff to join the party’s “red shirts” brigade, taking the Labor message to the community.
The upper house asked Glass to investigate whether Labor breached the rules after reports emerged that the party used electorate office funds to pay 26 staff for two days of campaigning a week at the 2014 state election.
The move would not “pass the pub test” among voters, an internal report found.
Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings wrote to Glass to say her office didn’t have the power to investigate, so the matter went to the Supreme Court, which gave the Ombudsman the go-ahead.
The government tried, and failed, to fight the ruling in the Court of Appeal and High Court.
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