Matthew Guy accuses electoral commission of ‘unprecedented’ election intervention following Liberal cease-and-desist letter
Victoria’s Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has again rejected the electoral commission’s claims that he did not comply with its requests as the Liberal Party accuses the body of election interference.
The Victorian Electoral Commission referred its investigation into Mr Guy and his former chief of staff to the state’s anti-corruption commission on Thursday arguing it had “not received full cooperation” from the Liberal leader.
Mr Guy has vehemently rejected the claims and again on Saturday said he had been “up front” and provided the VEC with everything it requested in relation to the matter.
But the electoral body and the Liberal Party have descended into a public war of words after the Commission’s communications director Sue Lang took to 3AW to claim Mr Guy’s response had been insufficient.
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“I am saying that the people we invited to speak with us did not satisfy our inquiries, we received no satisfactory response from anybody,” Ms Lang said.
The unprecedented public remarks came after the VEC said it would “provide no further comment” and triggered the state Liberal Party director Sam McQuestin to issue a cease-and-desist letter.
Mr Guy was grilled about the statement on Saturday when he initially refused to add anything further to the matter.
But after being pressed, Mr Guy said the party had concerns with whether the electoral commission was managing the process “impartially and fairly”.
“If we’re going to talk about politicians and talk about politics, if you’re a regulatory body doing that one week before voting, in fact when voting has commenced, then yeah we’ve got some issues to raise and we’ve raised them fairly and reasonably,” Mr Guy said in the marginal seat of Nepean.
“And for anyone to cast doubt on our compliance with what we’ve been asked… leaves us a little frustrated.
“We’re deeply concerned about an election regulator, the manager of Victoria’s elections making comments as you can see from our statement we think are highly charged just before an election while voting is taking place.”
The Opposition Leader said the commission’s public comments were unprecedented and again defended the party’s response.
“When a regulatory agency says we’re passing the file on, and then says we’re not going to make any comment and then makes three of them, from our point of view fair is fair that’s not right,” he said.
“I’ve never seen that before in Australian electoral history and political parties would rightfully be concerned of an electoral body doing that.
“I’ve been up front and open, I haven’t obfuscated we’ve been upfront and to suggest otherwise isn’t true.”
The original investigation related to Mr Guy’s former chief of staff, Mitch Catlin, who resigned in August following revelations he had asked for more than $100,000 in payments to his private business from a party donor, possibly breaching Victoria’s donation laws.
Electoral Commissioner Warwick Gately referred the matter to IBAC on Thursday in a statement which said the VEC had “exhausted its attempts to fully investigate what may constitute a breach of Victoria’s funding and disclosure laws under section 218B of the Electoral Act 2002 (Vic) (the Act)”.
The Victorian Liberal Party’s scathing response to further media commentary by the commission and its officials accused the body of a “serious, deliberate and unprecedented interference in the Victorian State Election”.
The party’s state director requested the VEC “immediately cease and desist” in any further public commentary unless it issued a statement confirming Mr Guy and the Liberals had “indeed responded” to the requests for documents on September 21 within the stipulated timeframe.
The statement also demanded Ms Land be “stood-aside” from her role as director of communications pending an investigation into her comments.
Despite the conflict over VEC’s referral to IBAC, Mr Guy said he had “no doubt about the validity” of the November 26 election.
“There’s nothing illegitimate about the election,” he said.
“What might happen outside of that with matters of contention between me and the commission on other matters has nothing to do with the conduct and transparency of an election in this country.
“There is absolutely no suggestion of any of that matter … that our election system is not being done in a forward transparent way.”
Premier Daniel Andrews and Opposition Leader Matthew Guy will go head-to-head in a Sky News People’s Forum, taking questions from undecided voters live on TV and on SkyNews.com.au, on Tuesday November 22 at 6:30pm.