By Cam Lucadou-Wells
More than $10,000 of stamps were allegedly misappropriated from South East Metropolitan MP Adem Somyurek’s electorate office to help another MP’s re-election, an IBAC inquiry heard on 13 October.
Adam Sullivan, a former electorate officer for Mr Somyurek, said a Labor staff member suggested in early 2018 to start buying stamps to “re-route” to Mordiallac MP Tim Richardson’s election campaign.
Mr Sullivan said he was advised by staffer Nick McLennan to incrementally buy between 1000 and 2000 stamps a fortnight to avoid scrutiny from the Department of Parliamentary Services.
“I think at the end of that process personally myself I would have purchased around $11,000 to $14,000 worth of $1 stamps,” Mr Sullivan said.
“I imagine a fair number of them were then rerouted to political purposes for the re-election of Tim Richardson in Mordialloc in 2018.”
Mr Sullivan said he was told by Mr McLennan that Mr Somyurek had given “tacit approval”.
“It didn’t seem like something that would be out of the ordinary to occur in Mr Somyurek’s office.
“It didn’t seem like it was the sort of thing that would be frowned upon or would be otherwise not permitted by the member.”
The electorate office funds used to buy the stamps were supposed to be “strictly apolitical” and used for purposes like “constituent outreach”, Mr Sullivan said.
They were not to be used for “partisan purposes”.
Mr Sullivan had earlier worked as an electorate officer for Mr Richardson as well as for an inquiry person-of-interest Holt federal MP Anthony Byrne.
He said 100 per cent of his role at Mr Richardson’s office was focused on legitimate “constituent work”.
Such as liaising with community groups, drafting letters of support and walk-ins.
However at Mr Somyurek’s “dysfunctional” electorate office, there was “very little to do”. There was “negligible foot traffic”.
Later that day, Mr Richardson issued a statement denying that he breached his electorate office communications budget requirements.
He also denied being part of branch stacking or paying for memberships after being named as part of an informal ALP factional group South East Alliance.
Mr Byrne told the inquiry on 11 October that he and state MPs Luke Donnellan and Mr Somyurek formed the alliance, with Mr Richardson latterly joining.
At the inquiry, Mr Byrne said he, Mr Donnellan and Mr Somyurek paid about $2000 each for other people’s memberships as part of a branch-stacking enterprise.
He said he was “not exactly sure” if Mr Richardson paid for memberships.
In a statement, Mr Richardson said: “I have not been involved in branch stacking nor have I paid for any memberships.
“I have always complied with the requirements of my electorate office communications budget.
“My focus has always been working as hard as I can for the wonderful Mordialloc constituents, which I have the privilege and honour to represent each and every day.
“I will not be making any further comment on active inquiries.”