A proposed deal for a Victorian Liberal donor to pay a senior staffer more than $100,000 to his private company will be referred to police, integrity and election agencies.
The Victorian Labor government is asking the State Election Commission, Police and Ombudsman and the Australian Federal Police to launch an investigation after opposition leader Matthew Guy’s chief of staff asked a donor to make the payments.
The contract was not signed, but the staffer, Mitch Catlin, resigned on Tuesday.
Public Services Secretary Danny Pearson said Mr Guy was compromised by his alleged involvement in the “plan to circumvent donation laws”.
“Victorians are entitled to answers about this secret deal and the Liberal Party should demand that their leader get them,” he said.
While a code of conduct was needed for opposition staff, Mr Guy described the referral as a “desperate” attempt by the government to distract from its own integrity flaws.
“Let’s be perfectly clear. This reference refers to a settlement that was never agreed, signed or implemented,” he said.
The proposed agreement, published by The Age newspaper, would have required the unnamed donor to pay Mr. Catlin’s marketing firm Catchy Media Marketing and Management $8333 a month for “supporting business interests.”
It also included a clause that would have declared the deal null and void if Mr Catlin left office.
Under Victorian law, political donations over $1050 must be made public and capped at $4210 over a four-year period for individuals and organizations.
When asked whether the proposal was an attempt to channel donations to the party without disclosing the money to the Victorian Electoral Commission, Mr Guy replied: “No.”
“Any donation we disclose, according to the rules … and any mechanism otherwise would never be accepted,” he said.
The contract was drawn up around the time Mr Guy recaptured Victorian Liberal leadership in September last year.
Mr Guy said he and Mr Catlin have moved to hire all opposition staff under the parliamentary staff budget to ensure transparency after he took on the role of leader.
“We believe it’s best to have all the staff pay from the opposition budget, every cent, and nothing more, and that’s where we are now,” he said.
Mr. Catlin is said to have sent the contract, drafted by lawyers, to Mr. Guy’s private email address “as per the original email agreement” between the couple and has asked the Liberal leader to forward it to the donor. .
Mr Guy said he couldn’t explain why the contract was sent to his private email address, but he thought he might not have drafted another contract after his successful leadership challenge.
“You’re trying to compose an email at the DPC (Department of Premier and Cabinet) … it doesn’t happen in three hours,” he said.
Mr Guy said he had developed a close relationship with Mr Catlin since returning to the top job.
“I like him a lot. He’s worked so hard,” he said.
The revelation comes as the opposition tries to put forward its integrity credentials after two investigations into Labor culture, promising to increase funding for state corruption agencies if it wins November’s election.