|07 Aug 2018 • Border Mail, Albury-Wodonga (General News)
THE head of Victoria’s parliamentary services department has denied meeting with a senior Labor MP to “workshop” a party scheme that saw $388,000 of taxpayer funds misused for election campaigning. Parliament’s privileges committee and Victoria Police are both investigating the rorts-for-votes scandal, prompted by the state’s ombudsman probe, which labelled the scheme an “artifice”. Department of Parliamentary Services secretary Peter Lochert on Monday contradicted the evidence of former treasurer and scheme architect, John Lenders, that the two met and workshopped how Labor’s staff pooling arrangement could be expanded. “I wouldn’t agree with that,” Mr Lochert said. While he could not recall a meeting with Mr Lenders, Mr Lochert admitted “it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen”. The Liberal-Nationals opposition has seized on Mr Lochert’s evidence, ramping up demands not just for six ministers linked to the scheme to stand down, but for the government to go into caretaker mode. “The web of lies around the red-shirt rorts continues to unravel every day,” shadow attorney-general John Pesutto told reporters. Police announced last month the fraud squad was investigating the scandal. An inquiry by Ombudsman Deborah Glass in March found the systematic misuse of taxpayer money by 21 past and present MPs in breach of parliamentary guidelines.