Almost $400,000 in public money was rorted by Victorian Labor MPs to fund their last election campaign. None of them have lost their jobs or been charged, avoiding all the consequences ordinary people would face for committing fraud or theft.
In all twenty-one MPs used their publicly funded allowance for electorate office staff to instead pay for Labor Party “field organisers” campaigning in marginal seats at the 2014 state election.
An investigation by the state ombudsman found that the scheme broke the “guidelines” on how MPs are allowed to spend their budgets. The rules prohibit MPs using public money for their own political campaigns, but the police decided not to proceed with a criminal investigation and the ombudsman didn’t recommend any consequences.
Labor resisted the investigation at every turn. They claimed the ombudsman didn’t have the authority to investigate, spending at least $100,000 of public money in the courts. They lost the case and the investigation proceeded.
All of the lower house MPs implicated then refused to cooperate. Premier Daniel Andrews would not be interviewed, claiming “I know nothing” like the TV character Sergeant Schultz.
Because of Labor’s obstruction, it could be the case that more money was spent than was revealed.
Daniel Andrews now claims it was all just a big mistake. They thought they were following the rules and they are very sorry. But their attempts at a cover up raise strong suspicions that Daniel Andrews and other senior Labor figures were involved and knew full well that they were breaking the rules.
This scandal isn’t the first for Daniel Andrews’ government. They have a whole back catalogue. For example, MP Steve Herbert used his ministerial car and driver to chauffeur his unaccompanied dogs 120km to his “country residence”.
The former speaker and deputy speaker claimed an accommodation allowance so they could live at beach houses outside their electorates. While Labor’s deputy president of the upper house quit over allegations he used his printing allowance to fund a factional war. Labor are clearly experts when it comes to rorts and scams.
The core reason Labor used public money to fund their election campaign is because they don’t inspire the majority of working people with their policies. Instead they stand for big business interests. It’s no surprise they don’t have a mass membership to volunteer or fund their campaigns anymore.
A real workers party would stand for policies that solve people’s’ everyday problems. Kicking the profiteering companies out of public transport, massively expanding it without using private construction companies and making it free at the point of use would seriously bust congestion and boost jobs.
A state funded housing program to end homelessness and make quality housing affordable for all would end the housing crisis. Investment in the public education and health systems is also desperately needed.
A party with policies like these would have no problems organising volunteers and raising donations to help it campaign.
Hyperventilating hypocrisy from the Liberal Party opposition is of no comfort to workers. Under their rule Liberal MP Geoff Shaw was caught rorting his allowances as well. Liberal Party leader Matthew Guy was busted dining with alleged mafia bosses in the “lobster with a mobster” scandal last year, while campaigning on law and order.
When Planning minister in the last government Guy approved scores of bad developments ignoring the concerns of local residents to instead please his millionaire developer backers.
As for the Greens, their proposal for a parliamentary inquiry – MPs investigating MPs – and some extra financial penalties for Labor, will not solve the problems.
Socialists demand that corrupt MPs are subject to a full criminal investigation. While we also support harsh penalties for anyone found to have committed fraud or theft, we understand that rorts and corruption are part and parcel when it comes to capitalist politics. They are to be expected when institutions are designed to facilitate the profit-driven system.
Socialists stand for a radically different political system that prioritises people’s needs. Public officials should receive no special privileges. Elected representatives should get only the average wage of the people they represent.
Only genuine expenses should be paid. And these should be open to public scrutiny in real time. Voters shouldn’t need to wait four years between elections to punish corrupt MPs. Instead we should be able to immediately recall and replace representatives through fresh elections.
We need to stand opposed to the rorting of public money but also fight for a democratic socialist alternative to capitalist corruption.
By Kirk Leonard