MP Adem Somyurek continued to insist that the employment of faction agents in taxpayer funded jobs is not “embezzlement”.
The former minister said there were “gray areas”.
“Commissioner, this is the concern I have now, because you are prevented from looking at others, and you don’t know if this is widespread, and whether it is common practice or not,” Mr. Somyurek.
The debate over the legality for staff members to perform duty duty has been a constant theme of the IBAC hearings. After the Red Shirts affair, the Andrews government changed state laws to prohibit election officials from participating in campaign elections during working hours, but the rules do not explicitly prohibit faction work outside elections.
Mr Somyurek said the language should change around defining the “rights” of members of parliament, in order to avoid “gray areas”. He said he doubted politicians would have the appetite to undertake this legislative reform given that they were the beneficiaries of these rights.
Commissioner Robert Redlich asked whether Mr Somyurek believed that using taxpayer-funded staff for factional purposes was part of his duties as an MP.
“This is what the political class will tell you, and it is a common opinion [among] most politicians, ”replied Mr. Somyurek.
Mr Redlich asked if the public would be shocked by this revelation, and suggested that legislative reforms would be needed to tighten the rules about what activities staff members can undertake.
Mr Somyurek said: “I think the public is pretty cynical of politicians, so even when the red shirts came out they kind of didn’t pay attention. But I understand your point, I think this is a debate that really needs to take place and be settled once and for all.
Former Labor staff were “visibly upset” as they testified in private hearings about what they did when employed as election and cabinet advisers, according to assistant lawyer Chris Carr, SC.
Mr Carr said a junior staff member working in Marlene Kairouz’s office told investigators: “I always knew I was on taxpayer money. I knew it was wrong. I knew that is not what we are used to doing.
You had to do it because of your job or she wouldn’t hire you or put you in there. And that wasn’t why I wanted to be there, and I didn’t like it, and dealing with Adem wasn’t pleasant. ”
Adem Somyurek disagreed with this assessment.
Meanwhile, former Labor staff member Jacob Cripps told investigators he was doing faction work because he “was going to do whatever senior government officials tell me what to do”.