Vic Labor rejects calls to repay taxpayers

·2-min read

The Victorian Labor party has rejected calls to repay taxpayer money after a damning IBAC report found it misused public funds.

Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio on Friday brushed off claims by the opposition that at least $1.3 million is owed to Victorian taxpayers after a branch-stacking investigation.

A joint probe by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and the Victorian Ombudsman found evidence of "extensive misconduct" by Labor MPs including nepotism, misuse of public funds and a culture of branch stacking dating back 70 years.

Among the report findings were that taxpayer funds were improperly used in relation to factionally-aligned community groups and the employing of political staffers.

"The opposition has their own political positioning on this, we're here to follow the recommendations of the Ombudsman and IBAC - not the opposition's," Ms D'Ambrosio said.

"We're not in the business of following recommendations that are made up on the run by the opposition because they want to score political points."

Opposition leader Matthew Guy criticised Ms D'Ambrosio's comments, saying Labor had decided it didn't want to be charged, didn't want to pay the money back, and that the party was in a position to clean up its own mess.

"The Labor Party in Victoria have engaged in forgery, they've engaged in financial advantage by deception," he said.

"They should pay the money back, and they should do that because it's the right thing, the decent thing and the legal thing that they should be doing."

Premier Daniel Andrews accepted responsibility for the party's actions and accepted all 21 of the report's recommendations, including the establishment of a parliamentary integrity commissioner and ethics committee before June 2024.

Mr Andrews has also flagged legislating new rules for all parties to qualify for public funding, including memberships paid through traceable means, mandatory photo ID checks for new members, proof of concession card eligibility, and electoral roll compliance measures.

Branch stacking - the recruitment of new members of a political party to boost factional influence and ensure preselection of preferred candidates - is not illegal but is against Labor Party rules.

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