BUNINYONG’S Labor candidate Michaela Settle claimed 70 days work as a field organiser during the 2014 State Election campaign.
Ms Settle has been named in a damning report released by the Victorian Ombudman as receiving 70 days work by “authorisation of time-sheets”, which certified casual electorate officer work by “persons employed as Field Organisers”.
Ms Settle’s time sheet was signed for by former Ripon MP Joe Helper.
Neither Buninyong MP Geoff Howard nor Wendouree’s Sharon Knight were named one of 21 state MPs who rorted $387,842 of taxpayer funds in the 2014 election campaign.
But Ms Settle was assigned as a field organiser for the Wendouree district, which is Ms Knight’s electorate. Ms Settle did not respond to The Courier’s requests for comment.
Ms Knight said she had “no involvement in the recruitment or payment of field officers”.
It was my understanding that they were a resource provided wholly by the party.Wendouree MP Sharon Knight
“At no time did I sign a time sheet,” she said.
The report found that Mr Helper was one of seven retiring MPs who authorised payments to nine FOs from their electorate office and communication budgets, in circumstances where the FOs do not appear to have been performing duties for their nominating MP.
The estimated dollar value of hours certified as electorate officer work for field organisers in Mr Helper’s office was $21,148. Mr Helper did not respond to The Courier’s requests for comment.
Ombudsman Deborah Glass said in her report that Ms Settle spoke at the ALP’s Community Action Network launch in October 2014 and thanked recruited volunteers who had spent 241 days building a grassroots movement.
Ballarat MP Joshua Morris said that Ms Settle was a “key player” named in the Ombudsman’s report.
As someone who was employed under this dishonest scheme, Ms Settle benefited from Labor’s rorting of taxpayers’ money, and voters in Buninyong should bear this in mind.Ballarat MP Josh Morris
The Ombudsman released her report on Wednesday after her years-long investigation into whistleblowers' claims that taxpayer funds were misused.
She found that electorate officers for Labor MPs, who were employed by the Parliament, were diverted to the party's grassroots "red shirts" brigade for the 2014 election campaign, as reported by Fairfax Media, but made no criticism of the campaign or the field organisers.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the Victorian branch of the Labor Party had repaid all the money and he was sorry for what happened.
Asked if anyone should lose their job over the scandal, the Premier indicated the answer was "no".
"There were no recommendations of any action to be taken against anyone, that's the Ombudsman's report," he said.
The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance (ATA) has condemned the Victorian Labor party’s misuse of taxpayer money.
ATA director of policy Satyajeet Marar said in a statement that it was “shocking that hundreds of thousands in public funds earmarked for services in 21 Labor MPs’ electorates were instead funnelled into the ALP campaign machine, giving the current governing party an unfair advantage that cannot be undone by simply repaying the money now that the Victorian Ombudsman has caught them out.”
- With The Age