Western Victorian MP Emma Kealy has dismissed as “a disgraceful smear campaign” Labor’s claims she tried to get around electoral advertising rules by pre-paying for ads before the coming November election.
Deputy Premier James Merlino has called for the state ombudsman to investigate whether Ms Kealy, the Horsham-based Nationals Member for Lowan, tried to circumvent the rules by having the invoices pre-dated to October.
It is the latest episode in Labor’s response to opposition attacks on it over its ‘Red Shirts rorts for votes’ breaches.
Earlier this year the ombudsman found that Labor had wrongly used electorate officers to conduct political campaigning and the ALP repaid $388,000. Police are investigating the misuse of the funds.
In his counter-attack, Mr Merlino released an internal email mistakenly sent by the Hamilton Spectator newspaper that stated Ms Kealy had asked for invoices for advertising booked for November to be pre-dated to October.
Ms Kealy said that “despite a clear unambiguous statement and unreserved apology from the Hamilton Spectator dismissing James Merlino’s concocted claims, Labor MPs still continue to drag the good reputation of a country newspaper and my staff through the mud”.
“It’s a desperate act from a desperate Labor Government that will do anything to distract from the fact six Ministers, including the Attorney General, are under investigation by Victoria Police’s Fraud and Extortion Squad,” Ms Kealy said.
In parliament, Mr Merlino called for Ms Kealy and 28 other opposition MPs to be investigated for any falsification of invoices.
He also wanted the ombudsman to investigate whether the MPs received any kickbacks and levies, on behalf of the Liberals, linked to “the deal struck by former Liberal Victoria State Director Damien Mantach” and Melbourne Mailing, the party’s official printer.
Mr Mantach has been convicted and jailed for embezzling from the Liberal Victoria.
Mr Merlino said former premier Denis Napthine, of Port Fairy, former Member for Polwarth, Terry Mulder, and eight other former MPs should also be included in the investigation.