Husband of Victorian MP Paid Taxpayer Funded Salary for Faction Work, Ibac Says | Australia News
The husband of a Victorian MP received taxpayer-funded salaries from three other MPs to perform faction work, according to evidence provided to the state’s anti-corruption commission.
The Broad-based Independent Anti-Corruption Commission (Ibac) resumed its public hearings on Monday as part of its investigation into the alleged embezzlement of public funds for factional activities, including the stacking of branches, within the Labour Party.
Stacking branches is not illegal, but it is a violation of party rules.
Chris Carr SC, a lawyer assisting the commission, told the hearing that MP Kaushaliya Vaghela agreed in an interview with investigators that her husband, Dinesh Chauhan, had “mainly” performed faction work when he was employed in taxpayer funded electoral officer roles.
Chauhan worked in the offices of Marlene Kairouz, Robin Scott and Adem Somyurek. All three were involved in a widespread stacking of branches last year, with Kairouz and Scott resigning as ministers, and Somyurek was dumped from the ministry and resigned from the party. The trio denied the stacking of branches.
Vaghela, a member of the upper house for the western metropolitan region, said she believed her husband had been replaced by Somyurek from his office by the offices of Scott and Kairouz as a reward for his ability to recruit members of the the Indian community.
A transcript of part of Vaghela’s interview with Ibac was presented as evidence to the commission on Monday.
“Your husband too, as we have already interviewed, has been quite active in the community, a fairly active recruiter… do you think that was the predominant activity he was engaged in during these times? An investigator asked Vaghela.
“Yes,” Vaghela replied.
She also agreed with the suggestion that Somyurek, Scott and Kairouz share full-time employee roles between their offices for their own purposes, including “to ensure that people who are good recruiters could be retained. in the fold ”.
Vaghela learned in the same interview that records of her husband’s professional activity in 2020 showed that he sent an email using the address, which she said was “very suggestive” that ‘he was mainly doing faction work.
Last month, Labor MP Anthony Byrne told the committee that Vaghela, the first Indian-born MP elected to the Victorian parliament, was nominated by Somyurek in exchange for a large number of Indian members recruited by Aloke and Manoj Kumar joining the moderate faction of Somyurek. . It has not been suggested that Vaghela was aware of the scheme.
Vaghela’s testimony was revealed during Carr’s questioning of Christine Kelly, an electoral officer who has worked for Kairouz since her election in 2008.
Carr said Ibac discovered evidence of forged documents produced by the electorate’s office authorizing Kelly to retrieve the ballots at ALP headquarters on behalf of the members.
But Kelly said she had no knowledge of the letters and could not recall any specific occasion when she collected ballots on behalf of the members.
Kelly denied ever doing faction work for Kairouz and said she was aware that election officials were not supposed to do such work on their taxpayer-funded salaries. She also disputed that Chauhan was involved in faction work and said he would always work on official business while she was there.
She mainly dealt with voters, she said, although Carr showed her 2019 phone records which showed six months, the office received on average less than one incoming call per day.
Voters emailed and stopped in the office, Kelly said, but said that while the old Mill Park election office was in a busy mall, the current Caroline Springs office rarely had visitors.
Carr asked Kelly why she attended a Derrimuth branch meeting in 2019 that had to be canceled after 70 to 80 members showed up unexpectedly and were “hostile.”
Kelly, along with three other staff employed by Kairouz in his ministerial or election office, were in attendance and Carr asked if this was an attempt to take over the branch.
Kelly denied this, and a suggestion that she had been one of the “officers” responsible for asking the crowd to sign an attendance book. She said Kairouz simply asked her to attend the meeting to take stock of local issues such as “a new path … or a roundabout being developed”.
Kelly also denied seeing Kairouz in the parking lot outside the meeting.
Hearings continue on Wednesday, when Kirsten Psaila, who has also worked for Kairouz in her electoral office since 2008, testifies.
Carr began the hearing on Monday by revealing that commission lawyers had asked the Victorian branch of ALP to provide further information as part of its investigation. But the branch has so far refused to do so, Carr said, meaning the commission may have to force them to comply.