It’s less than four months out from the November state election and Victorian Labor is still splintering from the $388,000 scandal from the party’s successful 2014 campaign.
More than 15 people are being questioned by police as part of a fraud investigation into Victorian Labor’s rorts-for-votes scandal. State secretary Samuel Rae said the party will continue to co-operate with police, but this didn’t stop them at hitting out at the fraud squad’s tactics.
‘Conducting dawn raids on people’s homes was completely unnecessary given those involved would have cooperated if asked,’ Mr Rae said in a statement.
‘We have also received a number of concerning reports about the raids, including that some of those questioned were told by Victoria Police that they did not need legal representation during the interview process.’
‘On behalf of our people, we reserve all rights in these matters,’ he continued.
While no MPs were arrested in Melbourne, regional Victoria, NSW and the Northern Territory on Thursday morning, some individuals involved in the campaign were taken into custody.
The arrests come less than a week after a criminal probe was announced into the misuse of $388,000 by 21 past and present Labor MPs in the party’s 2014 election campaign.
Labor’s breach of parliamentary guidelines
The fraud and extortion probe began last Friday after the Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass in March found Labor MPs unknowingly used public money in breach of parliamentary guidelines by diverting electorate officers for campaigning. Although, the money was later repaid and the premier apologised.
The opposition has been requesting that the six cabinet ministers named in the Ombudsman report, including Attorney-General Martin Pakula, resign.
In 2016 police declined to investigate the scandal only to reassess it following a letter of complaint sent by Liberal MP Edward O’Donohue.
Labor’s back lash
Just days after the investigation was announced, Deputy Premier James Merlino wrote to police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton demanding an investigation into 18 current and former Liberal and National MPs. The claim is that the MP’s used electorate staff for political campaigning during normal business hours — yet refused to release details of the government’s claims. The opposition denies any wrongdoing in the matter.
By Leah Wallace
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