A federal MP, who was cleared by a parliamentary review last year, says claims aired by 60 Minutes were ‘unproven’ and ‘malicious’.
Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar says he “completely rejects” allegations he was aware of branch stacking aired by Nine Newspapers on Sunday night.
According to The Age and 60 Minutes, the Federal Minister for Deakin had “intimate knowledge” of a long-running scheme in which his close friend, his brother, and factional supporters were paid by taxpayers for political work that sought to boost Mr Sukkar’s faction.
Nine Newspapers, who obtained a number of documents as part of their investigation, allege Mr Sukkar was knowingly partaking in branch stacking.
The news organisation first aired allegations about the scheme last year, which is alleged to have involved veteran Victorian MP Kevin Andrews.
It is alleged the scheme began in mid-2017.
Mr Sukkar released a public statement on Sunday night, saying he completely rejected the “extremely disappointing” allegations which were aired on 60 Minutes.
He said the claims were “unproven” and came from a “discredited and disgruntled” former staff member.
“(These) accusations have already been shown to be false and malicious,” he said.
“When these allegations were first made on 23 August 2020, I immediately and voluntarily requested that the Department of Finance undertake an independent review of my electorate office. This review thoroughly examined the staffing arrangements in the Deakin electorate office.
“Every allegation mentioned in the report was covered by the independent review undertaken by the Department of Finance last year when these allegations were first made.”
The review, which heard from multiple former and current staff members, had not found any breach or improper conduct.
“I have never authorised my staff to undertake activities contrary to applicable policies and guidelines, when they are being paid to serve the constituents of the Deakin electorate,” Mr Sukkar said.
“I am proud of the dedication and service that my office has always provided my constituents and community.”
Mr Sukkar also sought to clear up his relationship with Senator Jane Hume, after The Age newspaper published messages from a private chat room, which privately savaged her in the wake of an emotional Facebook post three years ago discussing how difficult juggling politics and parenthood was.
According to the messages, in May 2018 Mr Sukkar told his factional allies he had “read through the very long, indulgent and quite frankly bizarre post”.
“Was waiting for her retirement from politics, but sadly it wasn’t there,” the texts read.
In his statement on Sunday, Mr Sukkar said he apologised to Senator Hume.
“(These messages) were unfair and incorrect comments that I should not have made, and I regret doing so,” he said.
“I have worked closely with Senator Hume in the last three years since both becoming Ministers in the Treasury portfolio, where she has done an outstanding job.”