‘Serious, deliberate and unprecedented’: Liberal Party accuses Victorian Electoral Commission of election interference

The Victorian Liberal Party has accused the state’s electoral commission of interfering in the upcoming election by commentating on accusations of donations misconduct by Matthew Guy’s former chief of staff.

The investigation had been escalated by the VEC to the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission on Wednesday “for further investigation”.

A statement released on Friday from State Director Sam McQuestin said lawyers for the Victorian Liberal Party have issued a “cease and desist” notice to the VEC.

“It is the party’s view that these actions constitute a serious, deliberate and unprecedented interference in the Victorian state election,” the statement said.

“I am deeply concerned that through its actions the VEC has compromised its own independence and damaged public trust in the electoral process.”

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Mitch Catlin was forced to resign as Mr Guy’s chief-of-staff 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.

The VEC’s Communications and Engagement Director Sue Lang on Friday morning said involved parties have not been fully cooperative and have not handed over all the material needed to continue the investigation.

“All the key players involved in that issue were invited to respond to questions,” she told Melbourne talk back radio station 3AW.

“We received no satisfactory response from anybody.”

The Opposition Leader however said he has provided everything requested when questioned by journalists.

“I have provided everything that has been asked for and have complied with the full extent of the law,” Mr Guy said on Friday.

In the statement released by the Liberal Party, a series of demands were also issued, including that Ms Lang immediately stand aside from her role.

It also called for a public statement confirming that the Liberals have responded to the VEC’s enquiries and provided relevant documents.

The referral to IBAC came amid Electoral Commissioner Warwick Gately saying 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)”, according to the statement.

“We became aware of suggestions that Mr Catlin was alleged to have tried to circumvent donation disclosure laws,” Mr Gately said.

“It’s my responsibility to ensure compliance with all electoral laws and ensure all participants are held to the same standard.”

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, on Tuesday November 22 at 6:30pm.

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