Former top Vic Lib Damien Mantach charged over $1.5m taken from party


 Updated 18/11/15 2.30pm

Not the first time either…. he had a go at making some extra bucks in the apple isle of Tassie too a while back and was moved on…mmm just like those priests who have rumours made about them tongue in cheek)

Former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach.

Former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach.

Former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach has been charged with 44 counts of obtaining financial advantage totalling about $1.5 million.

In August, Mantach was accused of embezzling election campaign funds, with the money alleged to have vanished over four years to fund his lifestyle.

An audit of the party’s finances after last year’s state election loss uncovered unauthorised financial transactions, with money missing from both state and federal campaign funds.

Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad were called in to investigate.

Police said a 42-year-old man from Ocean Grove is to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court this afternoon.


Victoria Police investigate Liberal Party state director over embezzlement claims worth $1.5m

Updated 20 Aug 2015, 7:27pm

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

The money is alleged to have vanished over four years to fund Mr Mantach’s lifestyle.

An audit of the party’s finances after last year’s state election loss uncovered unauthorised financial transactions linked to Mr Mantach, with money missing from both state and federal campaign funds.

The Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad has been called in to investigate.

Liberal Party president Michael Kroger said Mr Mantach had admitted to wrongdoing.

“We feel profoundly betrayed and terribly disappointed with what’s happened,” Mr Kroger said.

Key points:

  • Liberal Party accuses former state director of embezzling $1.5m
  • Alleged theft happened over four years
  • Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad called in to investigate
  • Party believes Mantach took the money to fund his lifestyle

He said the party believed Mr Mantach had acted alone.

“We’re not aware that anyone at the party head office or any officials had any involvement at all,” he said.

It also emerged that Mr Mantach repaid tens of thousands of dollars during his time as state director of the Tasmanian branch.

In a letter to members posted on Facebook, Tasmanian Liberal president Geoff Page said in March 2008 that when he left the role, Mr Mantach fully repaid a liability of nearly $48,000 for personal expenses.

Mr Page said the division considered the matter closed and had robust internal financial processes.

Mr Kroger said he did not believe the missing money influenced the 2014 election result, or that it would affect the next federal election.

Liberal leader Matthew Guy said the party was furious at what he called a “pretty basic effort at embezzlement”.

“We want our money back,” he said.

“We want this matter sent to the police and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that justice is done.

“I saw someone making a comment that we’re white hot with anger, that’s just the start of it.”

Mr Kroger said the missing money was confined to the party’s Victorian division and he was confident some of it could be recovered through assets bought with the funds.

Mr Kroger conceded the Liberal Party had failed to properly monitor spending.

“Obviously it should have been picked up years ago — it wasn’t,” he said.

Former premier Denis Napthine, who led the party during last year’s campaign, said he was surprised and bitterly disappointed by the allegations.

The party’s administrative committee met this morning to discuss how to deal with the missing money.

Mr Mantach has been contacted for comment.


 

What happened to $34 million from Aboriginal fund on Groote Eylandt?


A matter of trust…

05/11/2015

It was millions of dollars in mining royalties that was meant to be spent for the benefit of the Groote Eylandt community.

Instead, tens of millions were spent on 156 cars and boats, fridges, a barge, gambling at the casino and charter flights.

The latest chapter in the extraordinary saga played out in the Darwin Supreme Court on Monday.

The former public officer of Groote Eylandt Aboriginal Trust (GEAT), Rosalie Lalara, had earlier pleaded guilty to misappropriating almost $500,000.

Her bail was revoked and she is now behind bars awaiting sentencing.

A total of $34 million disappeared from the GEAT coffers between 2010 and 2012, leaving just $400,000 remaining in the account.

While Lalara has pleaded guilty to a fraction of the missing millions, exactly what happened to the rest remains a mystery.

But those involved in the case said little of it appeared to have been spent on housing, education or the needs of the community.

Jacqueline Lahne was brought in as the interim operations manager at GEAT when the trust was put into administration in 2012.

“My initial impression was that there was a group of people [on Groote Eylandt] who were literally living like rock stars,” she said in an interview with the ABC.

Chartered planes, vehicles waiting for them at airports, they owned multiple vehicles and boats themselves. They had access endlessly to cash for their lifestyles and then for their families.

Groote Eylandt, a remote island off Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, regularly appears at the top of the Northern Territory’s richest postcodes.

It earns millions each year in royalties from the nearby South32 manganese mine.

Since its inception in the early 1960s, the trust has earned more than $200 million in royalties.

Lalara told the ABC she is not responsible for all the money that went missing.

“They accuse me of being a thief and I don’t steal,” Lalara said in an interview with the ABC.

Lalara was the community’s go-to person on the trust and said not everyone was happy with the trust’s rules on how royalty money should be spent.

“They say, ‘Oh, it’s our money, you should spend this money on us. Why you keeping the money, what for? It shouldn’t be up there in the bank, it should be down here spent’,” she said.

Court documents in a separate case allege Lalara was involved in the purchase of 156 cars and boats at a total cost of $5 million.

A barge and real estate in Cairns were also bought with trust money.

The documents alleged cash cheques to a total value of $3.5 million were written from the trust account and fraudulently recorded against funeral costs.

Millions remain unaccounted for due to poor record keeping

In court documents in civil proceedings against Darwin’s Skycity casino, it is alleged Lalara gambled more than $1 million of trust money.

“If I had a million dollars would I be gambling it? No, thank you. That is all bad,” she said.

“We went and bought a whole heap of stuff … maybe fridges, washing machines, even air conditioners, yeah, beddings, beds, mattresses, yep.”

But what exactly has happened to the remaining $33 million is unclear.

Ms Lahne said that many millions remain unaccounted for because GEAT kept poor records.

She believes non-Indigenous businesses who preyed on the trust received a large percentage of the missing millions.

“I guess we’d call them carpetbaggers wouldn’t we?” she said.

“They’re people, or sharks, that prey on vulnerable populations.

“They find that organisations are limited in their governance structures and capacity, they work their way in there.”

Court documents alleged one operator who did business with the trust regularly charged 30 per cent commission to the trust.

“Vehicles that had been purchased by the trust weeks before for perhaps $35,000, were sold on for $5,000 or $10,000 in cash,” Ms Lahne said.

“So the trust automatically lost a portion of cash and the vehicle disappeared, plates were destroyed, it’s gone.”

Purchase of cars for teens triggered ‘distrust’

Not all of the community were benefiting from the largesse.

It was the purchase of cars for kids barely in their teens that caused the community outrage and made them act.

“Thirteen-year-old girls getting bought a car and 15-year-old boys getting a boat,” said Keith Hansen, who has lived on the island for 25 years and is married to a local beneficiary.

“That’s when the distrust really came into place, when they were buying for a birthday for a 13-year-old girl a flash Ford Falcon sedan.”

Groote Eylandters told the ABC that 300 locals confronted Lalara about the trust’s finances on the oval in the town of Anuragu in early 2012.

Punches were thrown, the police were called and there were multiple arrests.

On March 12, 2012 more than 500 locals signed a petition which was sent to the Northern Territory Attorney-General, saying “many millions of dollars have been wasted and corruption is rife … no-one is game to do anything for fear of retribution”.

The Government stepped in and a statutory manager was appointed.

Ms Lahne worked alongside the statutory manager and said she was “shocked” when she arrived on Groote Eylandt.

“I would have expected with all the years of royalties going into that island to see more supporting infrastructure, better local health services, better support agencies that the trust might be investing in but there was no evidence of that,” she said.

But Lalara said she was put under great cultural pressure by beneficiaries to keep buying things for them with money from the trust.

“I reckon I was stuck with the two worlds. White-man world, white-man way and blackfella way. And what I was trying to do was to do it our way, and it’s not written in the book,” she said.

“We try to balance the both sides so it doesn’t how you say … ruin things. But it obviously ruined [things].”

Lalara is angry that the community has not defended her since charges were laid against her in 2013.

“The community is the fault and I say they are gutless and they are coward and it’s their fault all this happened,” she said.

“Now everybody’s … happy sitting behind their cars and steering wheels and that they don’t even want to help [me].”

Auditors under the microscope

In a separate case, three international companies employed to give financial and legal advice to GEAT’s trustees are now being sued.

In a civil case in the Darwin Supreme Court, GEAT is alleging KPMG, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and Minter Ellison failed to detect numerous “irregularities” in the trust’s operation in the 18 months that $34 million was spent.

Trust lawyers claim if the firms had performed their duties diligently they could have prevented tens of millions of dollars being misspent.

“The flag could have been raised years ago,” Ms Lahne said.

The ABC approached KPMG, Deloitte and Minter Ellison, which have combined to fight the civil claims against them. They all declined to comment.

Despite $200 million being paid in royalties to the trust over the past 50 years, Ms Lahne said there was little evidence on the island of the wealth received by the 1,800 Aboriginal beneficiaries of GEAT.

“I think they are a very strong community, they’re on their land, they’re on country and they’re really quite traditional in my experience,” Ms Lahne said.

“I think the lost opportunity is incalculable. I think generations to come will look back … and say ‘look what we could have had’ you know from that money, had it been invested properly.”

It was high drama in the Darwin Supreme Court earlier this week when Lalara sacked her lawyer and handed in an unsigned document that claimed judges appointed in Australia after 1901 did not have valid legal powers, and therefore no judge had the standing to decide her case.

Lalara’s bail was revoked and she is now in custody. Her next court appearance is set down for December 21.

 

7-Eleven management vow to fully refund all exploited workers (Really? let’s see)


Senior 7-Eleven management have apologised “unreservedly” to exploited workers and vowed to fully refund underpaid staff, even if they are now overseas.

A Senate Committee held a special public hearing in Melbourne to examine the exploitation of workers at the chain store, as part of an inquiry into Australia’s temporary work visa program.

The convenience stores have come under scrutiny following an ABC Four Corners investigation which revealed the company was systematically paying its workers about half the minimum wage.

Many of the staff were foreigners who were being forced to work in contravention of their visa conditions.

The inquiry today heard the underpaying of staff in the convenience store chain was systemic and had been happening for decades.

7-Eleven Australian chairman Russell Withers admitted the behaviour was abhorrent.

“I want to stress that this has been highly embarrassing and I apologise unreservedly to any worker that has worked in a 7-Eleven store who has not been paid correctly,” he said.

New methods of staff exploitation were revealed during the inquiry, including some franchise owners who charged workers tens of thousands of dollars to secure a working visa.

Mohammed Rashid Ullat Thodi lost his job as a result of speaking out about the pay scam.

He told the inquiry some store owners had charged workers $30,000 to $70,000 to sponsor them on a visa.

“While it could be either an arrangement of taking the money off their pay, like if you work this many hours you could get this many pay,” he said.

He said the money went straight to the franchise owners.

Mr Withers maintained rogue franchisees were the cause of the problem.

“It is simply not in our knowledge whether the franchisee employee has been underpaid or not,” he told the inquiry. This prick has built his empire on this very lie!!!

But during the inquiry consumer advocate Michael Fraser, who said he alerted 7-Eleven to the problem in 2012, questioned how senior management did not know of the problem.

“How does an Indian in Melbourne, an Indian franchisee and a Pakistani franchisee in Sydney, and a Chinese franchisee in Brisbane, how do they all know the same scam?” Mr Fraser asked during the inquiry.

“How is it possible that me with no budget can stumble on such a big wage scandal buying a loaf of bread yet head office with all their oversight find no systemic problem?”

7-Eleven said it should know next month how many of its 620 franchisees underpaid their staff.

Calls for workers to be given visa amnesty

Tens of thousands of workers have potentially been affected. Most are on visas restricting their working time to 20 hours per week.

Many have been forced to work 40 hours, but paid for only 20.

Complaints were met with threats that they would be reported for breaching their visas.

It has led to calls from lawyers that anyone who has breached their visa conditions while working for 7-Eleven be given an amnesty.

The Greens member for the seat of Melbourne, Adam Bandt, said it was crucial the workers were able to give evidence free of any threat of deportation.

“Something is wrong in Australia where the head of 7-Eleven is a millionaire if not a billionaire and the people who are working in 7-Eleven stores are getting paid for only half of the hours they work and threatened with deportation back to their home country if they complain,” he said.

“We’ve heard from many, many people now that they want to complain, to be paid the fair Australian minimum wage, but they’re told that if they do it, they’ll be reported to the Immigration Department and deported.

“Now that’s not fair.

“These people are working long hours for low pay.

“They shouldn’t also have to face [a] threat of deportation if they speak up and do the right thing.”

7-Eleven has set up an independent panel to investigate the underpayments.

Former state director of the Victorian Liberal Party, Damien Mantach, busted embezzling $1.5 million in the election campaign funds.



money hungry 2

abc.net.au

Embezzlement allegation: The Liberal Party will have to rebuild trust

The Drum

Opinion

Fri 21 Aug 2015, 9:58am

It’s the thousands of ordinary Liberal Party members who should feel most outraged at the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of campaign funds. And the party hierarchy will have to work hard to earn their trust back, writes Terry Barnes.

The Victorian Liberal Party is in a state of deep shock after revelations its former state director, Damien Mantach, is accused of embezzling $1.5 million of party funds over a number of years.

While investigations are continuing, Victorian Liberal president, Michael Kroger, has emailed party members saying that Mantach is the only person in the frame, and all will be done to recover as much of the missing funds as possible.

It appears a breathtaking $1.5 million of party funds was diverted for personal benefit. Victorian Liberal parliamentary leader, Matthew Guy, said that what was taken was “a very significant portion of the money raised by the party in fundraising … People did a lot of work to get that. We all feel completely gutted and furious”.

There certainly will be former Victorian Liberal MPs closely defeated in last November’s state election whose anger will be, like Guy’s, white-hot, sharing his view that the missing funds could have saved their campaigns. Current marginal seat federal MPs will feel likewise. But having escaped with their parliamentary pensions or severance packages, they personally got off lightly.

What really angers and disappoints about Mantach’s alleged actions is that they were not really stealing from a mere corporate entity, the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party of Australia. Nor did they ruin the large corporate donors and high net worth individuals who donate to political parties, because that is part of what they do to build political networks, relationships and influence.

No, the grand embezzlement and the governance failures that allowed it to happen are above all an utter betrayal of, and insult to, thousands of ordinary Liberal Party members and supporters across Victoria who are not wealthy or personally powerful but are the soul of the party.

They’re the ones who turn out in all weather at election times to support MPs and candidates, door-knock, stuff letterboxes and talk up the Liberal cause to anyone who will listen.

They’re the ones who greet you at the polling booth on election days with a smile and a how-to-vote card, and look forward to bantering with voters and their counterparts from other parties.

They’re the ones who faithfully attend branch meetings, local party events, run the trivia and soup nights, and buy the tickets in the raffle that inevitably is a part of any political gathering – and donate back the prizes.

They’re the ones who drive up to hundreds of kilometres to attend party councils and pre-selection conventions.

They’re the ones who organise local electorate fundraising functions, work tirelessly to make them well-attended and successful, and cheerfully endure the proverbial rubber chicken and drinks at bar prices, because they buy their own tickets as well as sell them.

They’re the ones who pay membership subscriptions or respond to bigwigs’ circular appeals for donations. Many may not be able to afford to give much, but their trickles join to become a funding river for the party: a river, it seems, that can easily be dipped into by the unscrupulous.

And they’re the ones who are most entitled to feel gutted and angry at what has happened.

As a group, most ordinary members of the Liberal Party are older and more conservative than their MPs. They are often retired, and volunteer for party work because it gives them the satisfaction of furthering a cause, or an MP or candidate, they believe in passionately.

Others are young activists with stars in their eyes and idealism in their hearts.

Unlike the likes of Malcolm Turnbull, most Liberal rank-and-file members don’t have palatial mansions to go home to, nor much spare cash. Contrary to the Liberal silvertail image, many members and local Liberal supporters are students, pensioners or self-funded retirees on very modest incomes, and donate what they often can ill afford.

Yet they do so willingly and turn out for the party because they believe, as the Victorian Division’s website is bannered, that “The Liberal Party exists to provide high quality governments that empower people to solve the major challenges they face in their lives”.

This grassroots faith is what’s been shaken to its core by what has happened.

The Liberal organisation will recover and be reformed. As incoming Victorian president earlier this year, taking office just as Mantach left, Kroger was refreshingly open and honest with his members and the public as soon as the appalling situation was confirmed. That welcome candour is a good start to rebuilding trust in a crisis.

But just as with former Health Services Union leaders Craig Thomson, Michael Williamson and Kathy Jackson, this is yet another case of an elected or appointed official feeling somehow entitled to take advantage of the so-called “little people” who are their rank-and-file members, even though ultimately they owed everything to those they betrayed.

This week’s revelations, be they Mantach’s alleged activities or Jackson’s humiliation in court, should remind elected and appointed office holders in political parties and politically-active organisations alike that respecting the trust of their members and the public is fundamental to public life and a healthy democracy. Their position and status is a conferred privilege, not a personal fiefdom.

Fortunately, most of these office holders, across the political spectrum, work very hard to earn and retain that trust.

The Victorian Liberal Party will likely find, as the HSU has found, and indeed as federal MPs are finding with ongoing public anger over abused parliamentary “entitlements”, when the bond of trust with their ordinary members and supporters is broken, it is very, very hard to restore. But if it looks to its grass roots members, and respects and honours their values, aspirations and commitment in reforming its governance and accountability, the party will recover better and stronger for this scarifying experience.

Terry Barnes is a policy consultant, former senior Howard government adviser and member of the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party. Twitter: @TerryBarnes5.


abc.net.au

Tasmanian Liberals assure members former state director repaid all money

Thu 20 Aug 2015, 7:23pm

The Tasmanian Liberals have assured members the party is not affected by allegations former state director Damien Mantach stole $1.5 million from the election fund of the Victorian Liberal Party.

The police fraud squad is investigating the allegations against Mr Mantach, who served as state director in both Tasmania and Victoria.

The money is alleged to have vanished over four years to fund Mr Mantach’s lifestyle in Victoria.

Tasmanian Liberal Party president Geoff Page used Facebook to confirmed that Mr Mantach did owe the Tasmanian branch money in 2008.

“I have today been advised that Mr Mantach had in 2008 a liability for personal expenses to the Tasmanian division totalling $47,981.78, which was fully repaid by Mr Mantach to the division upon his departure in March of that year,” he said.

Mr Page went on to assure members he was confident no other funds had gone missing.

“As the debt was settled in full the Division considered the matter closed,” he said.

“The Tasmanian division has robust internal financial processes which, in keeping with our obligations to our membership have been periodically reviewed and continually improved since 2008 and are annually audited.”


abc.net.au

Police to investigate Liberal Party $1.5m embezzlement claims

By Jean Edwards

Thu 20 Aug 2015, 7:27pm

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

The money is alleged to have vanished over four years to fund Mr Mantach’s lifestyle.

An audit of the party’s finances after last year’s state election loss uncovered unauthorised financial transactions linked to Mr Mantach, with money missing from both state and federal campaign funds.

The Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad has been called in to investigate.

Liberal Party president Michael Kroger said Mr Mantach had admitted to wrongdoing.

“We feel profoundly betrayed and terribly disappointed with what’s happened,” Mr Kroger said.

Key points:

  • Liberal Party accuses former state director of embezzling $1.5m
  • Alleged theft happened over four years
  • Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad called in to investigate
  • Party believes Mantach took the money to fund his lifestyle

He said the party believed Mr Mantach had acted alone.

“We’re not aware that anyone at the party head office or any officials had any involvement at all,” he said.

It also emerged that Mr Mantach repaid tens of thousands of dollars during his time as state director of the Tasmanian branch.

In a letter to members posted on Facebook, Tasmanian Liberal president Geoff Page said in March 2008 that when he left the role, Mr Mantach fully repaid a liability of nearly $48,000 for personal expenses.

Mr Page said the division considered the matter closed and had robust internal financial processes.

Mr Kroger said he did not believe the missing money influenced the 2014 election result, or that it would affect the next federal election.

Liberal leader Matthew Guy said the party was furious at what he called a “pretty basic effort at embezzlement”.

“We want our money back,” he said.

“We want this matter sent to the police and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that justice is done.

“I saw someone making a comment that we’re white hot with anger, that’s just the start of it.”

Mr Kroger said the missing money was confined to the party’s Victorian division and he was confident some of it could be recovered through assets bought with the funds.

Mr Kroger conceded the Liberal Party had failed to properly monitor spending.

“Obviously it should have been picked up years ago — it wasn’t,” he said.

Former premier Denis Napthine, who led the party during last year’s campaign, said he was surprised and bitterly disappointed by the allegations.

The party’s administrative committee met this morning to discuss how to deal with the missing money.

Mr Mantach has been contacted for comment.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 20/08/2015

Reporter: Madeleine Morris

Victoria’s Liberal Party has been blind-sided by claims a former Director stole $1.5 million of funds with the fraud squad investigating allegations and branch members asking if other financial dealings are suspect.

Transcript

SABRA LANE, PRESENTER: Victoria’s Liberal Party has been blindsided by allegations its former director stole $1.5 million of party funds.

The party believes Damian Mantach siphoned off the money using fake invoices and Victoria police is now investigating.

Liberal politicians are furious and say the loss is a slap in the face to party members.

Late today, the Tasmanian Liberal Party confirmed Mr Mantach had to repay tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses he racked up while director of that state’s party.

Madeleine Morris reports.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER: We’re white hot with anger. That’s just the start of it.

DENIS NAPTHINE, FORMER VICTORIAN PREMIER: I’m surprised, I’m shocked, I’m bitterly disappointed.

MADELEINE MORRIS, REPORTER: Sombre-faced and genuinely shocked, Victorian Liberal MPs arrived this morning to be briefed on the alleged theft of $1.5 million by one of their own.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER II: We just want to get to the truth and the bottom of the matter.

MICHAEL KROGER, LIBERAL PARTY VIC. BRANCH: Good morning, everybody. Well as you know, the Liberal Party is today referring some matters to the Victoria Police relating to the unauthorised removal of some party funds from the party head office, solely the work of one person. It should’ve been detected a long time ago. It wasn’t, which is regrettable. And the party’s obviously gonna make sure that this never happens again.

MADELEINE MORRIS: That person is Damien Mantach, the Victorian Liberal Party’s state director until March this year. The party believes that over a period of four years, Damien Mantach siphoned off money from Victorian Liberal headquarters via fake invoices for fake work.

The irregularities were uncovered when new state Liberal president Michael Kroger ordered a forensic audit of the accounts when he took over after last year’s disastrous state election.

NICK ECONOMOU, POLITICAL ANALYST: The state Liberal Party is in a bit of trouble and it’s been subject to a great deal of internal tension. There’d been problems within the parliamentary wing of the party. That contributed of course to the Liberals’ defeat at the last state election. And we also know that there were all sorts of tensions in the party organisation, the party membership.

DENIS NAPTHINE: I’m absolutely devastated, but particularly for the candidates across the state of Victoria who worked extremely hard, for the Liberal Party members and volunteers who worked extremely hard. This is a real shock to all of us.

MADELEINE MORRIS: That includes Angelo Kakouros, chair of the party’s South Barwon branch. He’s been fielding calls from party members all day.

ANGELO KAKOUROS, CHAIR, LIBERAL PARTY SOUTH BARWON BRANCH: It is a lack of trust and great, great disappointment.

MADELEINE MORRIS: But Mr Kakouros says his branch has been worried about the former state director for some time.

ANGELO KAKOUROS: I’ve had concerns with Damien Mantach for the last three to four years as a state director and personal experience and just the way things have operated and the communication between Damien, the administrative committee and some of the people within the organisation with their communication here locally in our area.

NICK ECONOMOU: It’s a very, very big task to try and keep track of what’s going on and to keep paid full-time officials answerable and accountable in what is essentially a voluntary organisation. The state treasurer of the Liberal Party would be a volunteer after all. Now, on top of this we’re getting increasing regulation to try and regulate the flow of donations. … But I suspect that that may be encouraging clever people to be a bit tricky here and try and find ways to squirrel resources away.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Today, Michael Kroger admitted there was a systemic problem with the Liberal Party accounting and changes were being made.

MICHAEL KROGER: More people in the accounting section and different oversights in relation to levels of authorised expenditure and a greater role for the party finance committee and more attention on these matters by the party executive.

MADELEINE MORRIS: It’s not the first time Damien Mantach has been in the headlines. Two years ago, he was investigated and ultimately cleared over payments he authorised to a former Liberal staffer who quit after being implicated in a scandal that snared the Police Minister.

And late today, the Tasmanian branch of the Liberal Party confirmed Mr Mantach had to repay nearly $48,000 in personal expenses when he was Tasmanian branch state director.

The fallout today extended all the way from Spring Street to Canberra.

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, FEDERAL LABOR MP: In 2013 the Prime Minister said, and I quote, “I know Damien Mantach well. He’s a person of integrity. So let’s see where this investigation goes. He has my confidence.” Does the Prime Minister agree that this ringing endorsement is yet another failure of judgment on his part?

TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: But I can inform the House that matters concerning the individual in question have this morning been referred to the Victorian Police.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Today, no answer at the Mantach family home and Damien Mantach couldn’t be reached on the phone.

There is palpable shock here in Victoria that this could’ve happened to the party which prides itself on good financial management, particularly amongst Liberal rank and file. One branch chair told me it was like finding out the priest had been stealing from the collection plate. But there’s also relief it’s been uncovered by the party’s new state leadership.

ANGELO KAKOUROS: Michael Kroger, the state president, he’s doing a fantastic job in order to bring honesty and transparency back into the party.

MADELEINE MORRIS: The impact for the party may yet be felt in the place it will hurt most: the coffers.

NICK ECONOMOU: The Liberal Party really does rely heavily on membership fees and donations, so I think something that might damage the reputation of the party’s fundraising ability could be really seriously damaging to the Liberal Party.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER III: I think this is simply a matter of we’ve been robbed. We want our money back and we want justice done. Police will investigate and i think that’s all I should say at this point in time.

SABRA LANE: Madeleine Morris reporting.


Rachael Brown reported this story on Thursday, August 20, 2015 12:20:47

 abc.net.au

 Fmr Vic Liberal state director accused of stealing $1.5m from party over four years
 TRANSCIPT

ELEANOR HALL: Let’s go now to Victoria where that state’s branch of the Liberal Party is having some trouble of its own.

The Liberal leader Matthew Guy has accused the former state director of the Victorian Liberal Party, Damien Mantach, of embezzling $1.5 million in the election campaign funds.

Mr Guy says his party is “white hot” with anger, and that the funds could’ve made a difference in last year’s election.

In Melbourne, Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Liberal Party says discrepancies were uncovered during a forensic audit of the party’s funds after last year’s state election loss.

The party’s former state director Damien Mantach is being accused of stealing $1.5 million over four years, but the audit continues.

Mr Mantach has not responded to the ABC’s calls.

Liberal party members were called into a crisis meeting this morning, and heading in, the party leader Matthew Guy made no attempt to mask his feelings.

MATTHEW GUY: We are furious; we want our money back.

RACHAEL BROWN: The matter has been referred to the Victoria Police Fraud and Extortion Squad, which says it’s investigating the disappearance of funds, but can’t comment further.

Mr Guy says, if the allegations prove true, it’s a massive betrayal of trust.

MATTHEW GUY: An enormous part of our election war chest, enormous. People did a lot of work to get that. I mean, we have a fundraising team who’ve done a huge amount of work; they’re always under a lot of scrutiny as you can imagine, and a lot of pressure.

But they’ve done a huge amount of work. We’ve got a lot of supporters, a lot of branch people who have worked their guts out for this party. And for what it appears to be one individual to do this to us leaves us bitterly cold.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Liberal party leader says the funds could’ve changed last year’s election result, which saw Labor’s Daniel Andrews dismissing the Napthine Coalition government.

Denis Napthine, who led the Victoria’s first one-term government in 60 years, says the fraud allegation is shocking and bitterly disappointing.

The party’s new president, Michael Kroger, has released a statement saying, when the audit turned up suspicious transactions amounting to $1.5 million between 2010 and 2014, Damien Mantach was asked to explain himself.

It was after this discussion that the party’s administrative committee voted to refer the matter to police.

Mr Kroger admits there’s a weakness with the Liberal Party’s checks and balances.

MICHAEL KROGER: Yeah, well on this occasion they clearly failed. So yep, quite up front about that. I’ve only been in the job four months, as you know. This has been going on for four years, so you know, it should have been picked up before and wasn’t, unfortunately.

RACHAEL BROWN: But he says there won’t be a clean out of branch holders, that the alleged fraud didn’t extend to other employees, officials or office bearers, and was limited to the party’s Melbourne headquarters.

He says civil action hasn’t been decided on.

MICHAEL KROGER: We’re sensitive to a number of issues, including the fact the person involved has a wife and family, and there are other matters which we want to take into account. But yes, we’ll be recovering a good deal of the funds in a cooperative relationship with the person involved.

RACHAEL BROWN: Mr Kroger says he doesn’t know where the money’s gone.

And he’s hit back at a suggestion that this is in a similar vein to the trade union boss Kathy Jackson being forced to repay $1.4 million of misappropriated members’ funds.

MICHAEL KROGER: When the Liberal party becomes aware of a serious matter like this, what do we do?

We investigate it quickly, we report it to the appropriate authorities, who in this case will be the Victoria Police. We don’t hide it; we don’t ignore it; we deal with it.

On the other hand, it’s taken a royal commission at massive public expense bringing these union and Labor leaders kicking and screaming before the public to get any type of information from them at all, at massive public expense. And even now they want to sack the umpire.

RACHAEL BROWN: One commentator has told The World Today that there might be more to this than meets the eye.

Damian Mantach stepped down from the director’s job in March. A couple of years ago he was one of the senior Liberals secretly recorded during the police command crisis that led to Ted Baillieu resigning as premier.

The commentator says this audit and slur on a former power player in the executive committee might have more to do with the ongoing power struggle and factional rifts at the upper levels of the Victorian Liberal party.

ELEANOR HALL: Rachael Brown with that report.


Damien Mantach embezzlement -Finger pointing begins over Liberals’ stolen cash


The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

Embezzlement allegation: The Liberal Party will have to rebuild trust

The Drum

Opinion

Fri 21 Aug 2015, 9:58am

It’s the thousands of ordinary Liberal Party members who should feel most outraged at the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of campaign funds. And the party hierarchy will have to work hard to earn their trust back, writes Terry Barnes.

The Victorian Liberal Party is in a state of deep shock after revelations its former state director, Damien Mantach, is accused of embezzling $1.5 million of party funds over a number of years.

While investigations are continuing, Victorian Liberal president, Michael Kroger, has emailed party members saying that Mantach is the only person in the frame, and all will be done to recover as much of the missing funds as possible.

It appears a breathtaking $1.5 million of party funds was diverted for personal benefit. Victorian Liberal parliamentary leader, Matthew Guy, said that what was taken was “a very significant portion of the money raised by the party in fundraising … People did a lot of work to get that. We all feel completely gutted and furious”.

There certainly will be former Victorian Liberal MPs closely defeated in last November’s state election whose anger will be, like Guy’s, white-hot, sharing his view that the missing funds could have saved their campaigns. Current marginal seat federal MPs will feel likewise. But having escaped with their parliamentary pensions or severance packages, they personally got off lightly.

What really angers and disappoints about Mantach’s alleged actions is that they were not really stealing from a mere corporate entity, the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party of Australia. Nor did they ruin the large corporate donors and high net worth individuals who donate to political parties, because that is part of what they do to build political networks, relationships and influence.

No, the grand embezzlement and the governance failures that allowed it to happen are above all an utter betrayal of, and insult to, thousands of ordinary Liberal Party members and supporters across Victoria who are not wealthy or personally powerful but are the soul of the party.

They’re the ones who turn out in all weather at election times to support MPs and candidates, door-knock, stuff letterboxes and talk up the Liberal cause to anyone who will listen.

They’re the ones who greet you at the polling booth on election days with a smile and a how-to-vote card, and look forward to bantering with voters and their counterparts from other parties.

They’re the ones who faithfully attend branch meetings, local party events, run the trivia and soup nights, and buy the tickets in the raffle that inevitably is a part of any political gathering – and donate back the prizes.

They’re the ones who drive up to hundreds of kilometres to attend party councils and pre-selection conventions.

They’re the ones who organise local electorate fundraising functions, work tirelessly to make them well-attended and successful, and cheerfully endure the proverbial rubber chicken and drinks at bar prices, because they buy their own tickets as well as sell them.

They’re the ones who pay membership subscriptions or respond to bigwigs’ circular appeals for donations. Many may not be able to afford to give much, but their trickles join to become a funding river for the party: a river, it seems, that can easily be dipped into by the unscrupulous.

And they’re the ones who are most entitled to feel gutted and angry at what has happened.

As a group, most ordinary members of the Liberal Party are older and more conservative than their MPs. They are often retired, and volunteer for party work because it gives them the satisfaction of furthering a cause, or an MP or candidate, they believe in passionately.

Others are young activists with stars in their eyes and idealism in their hearts.

Unlike the likes of Malcolm Turnbull, most Liberal rank-and-file members don’t have palatial mansions to go home to, nor much spare cash. Contrary to the Liberal silvertail image, many members and local Liberal supporters are students, pensioners or self-funded retirees on very modest incomes, and donate what they often can ill afford.

Yet they do so willingly and turn out for the party because they believe, as the Victorian Division’s website is bannered, that “The Liberal Party exists to provide high quality governments that empower people to solve the major challenges they face in their lives”.

This grassroots faith is what’s been shaken to its core by what has happened.

The Liberal organisation will recover and be reformed. As incoming Victorian president earlier this year, taking office just as Mantach left, Kroger was refreshingly open and honest with his members and the public as soon as the appalling situation was confirmed. That welcome candour is a good start to rebuilding trust in a crisis.

But just as with former Health Services Union leaders Craig Thomson, Michael Williamson and Kathy Jackson, this is yet another case of an elected or appointed official feeling somehow entitled to take advantage of the so-called “little people” who are their rank-and-file members, even though ultimately they owed everything to those they betrayed.

This week’s revelations, be they Mantach’s alleged activities or Jackson’s humiliation in court, should remind elected and appointed office holders in political parties and politically-active organisations alike that respecting the trust of their members and the public is fundamental to public life and a healthy democracy. Their position and status is a conferred privilege, not a personal fiefdom.

Fortunately, most of these office holders, across the political spectrum, work very hard to earn and retain that trust.

The Victorian Liberal Party will likely find, as the HSU has found, and indeed as federal MPs are finding with ongoing public anger over abused parliamentary “entitlements”, when the bond of trust with their ordinary members and supporters is broken, it is very, very hard to restore. But if it looks to its grass roots members, and respects and honours their values, aspirations and commitment in reforming its governance and accountability, the party will recover better and stronger for this scarifying experience.

Terry Barnes is a policy consultant, former senior Howard government adviser and member of the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party. Twitter: @TerryBarnes5.

Click image below to enlarge

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.


abc.net.au

Tasmanian Liberals assure members former state director repaid all money

Thu 20 Aug 2015, 7:23pm

The Tasmanian Liberals have assured members the party is not affected by allegations former state director Damien Mantach stole $1.5 million from the election fund of the Victorian Liberal Party.

The police fraud squad is investigating the allegations against Mr Mantach, who served as state director in both Tasmania and Victoria.

The money is alleged to have vanished over four years to fund Mr Mantach’s lifestyle in Victoria.

Tasmanian Liberal Party president Geoff Page used Facebook to confirmed that Mr Mantach did owe the Tasmanian branch money in 2008.

“I have today been advised that Mr Mantach had in 2008 a liability for personal expenses to the Tasmanian division totalling $47,981.78, which was fully repaid by Mr Mantach to the division upon his departure in March of that year,” he said.

Mr Page went on to assure members he was confident no other funds had gone missing.

“As the debt was settled in full the Division considered the matter closed,” he said.

“The Tasmanian division has robust internal financial processes which, in keeping with our obligations to our membership have been periodically reviewed and continually improved since 2008 and are annually audited.”


abc.net.au

Police to investigate Liberal Party $1.5m embezzlement claims

By Jean Edwards

Thu 20 Aug 2015, 7:27pm

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

The money is alleged to have vanished over four years to fund Mr Mantach’s lifestyle.

An audit of the party’s finances after last year’s state election loss uncovered unauthorised financial transactions linked to Mr Mantach, with money missing from both state and federal campaign funds.

The Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad has been called in to investigate.

Liberal Party president Michael Kroger said Mr Mantach had admitted to wrongdoing.

“We feel profoundly betrayed and terribly disappointed with what’s happened,” Mr Kroger said.

Key points:

  • Liberal Party accuses former state director of embezzling $1.5m
  • Alleged theft happened over four years
  • Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad called in to investigate
  • Party believes Mantach took the money to fund his lifestyle

He said the party believed Mr Mantach had acted alone.

“We’re not aware that anyone at the party head office or any officials had any involvement at all,” he said.

It also emerged that Mr Mantach repaid tens of thousands of dollars during his time as state director of the Tasmanian branch.

In a letter to members posted on Facebook, Tasmanian Liberal president Geoff Page said in March 2008 that when he left the role, Mr Mantach fully repaid a liability of nearly $48,000 for personal expenses.

Mr Page said the division considered the matter closed and had robust internal financial processes.

Mr Kroger said he did not believe the missing money influenced the 2014 election result, or that it would affect the next federal election.

Liberal leader Matthew Guy said the party was furious at what he called a “pretty basic effort at embezzlement”.

“We want our money back,” he said.

“We want this matter sent to the police and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that justice is done.

“I saw someone making a comment that we’re white hot with anger, that’s just the start of it.”

Mr Kroger said the missing money was confined to the party’s Victorian division and he was confident some of it could be recovered through assets bought with the funds.

Mr Kroger conceded the Liberal Party had failed to properly monitor spending.

“Obviously it should have been picked up years ago — it wasn’t,” he said.

Former premier Denis Napthine, who led the party during last year’s campaign, said he was surprised and bitterly disappointed by the allegations.

The party’s administrative committee met this morning to discuss how to deal with the missing money.

Mr Mantach has been contacted for comment.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 20/08/2015

Reporter: Madeleine Morris

Victoria’s Liberal Party has been blind-sided by claims a former Director stole $1.5 million of funds with the fraud squad investigating allegations and branch members asking if other financial dealings are suspect.

Transcript

SABRA LANE, PRESENTER: Victoria’s Liberal Party has been blindsided by allegations its former director stole $1.5 million of party funds.

The party believes Damian Mantach siphoned off the money using fake invoices and Victoria police is now investigating.

Liberal politicians are furious and say the loss is a slap in the face to party members.

Late today, the Tasmanian Liberal Party confirmed Mr Mantach had to repay tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses he racked up while director of that state’s party.

Madeleine Morris reports.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER: We’re white hot with anger. That’s just the start of it.

DENIS NAPTHINE, FORMER VICTORIAN PREMIER: I’m surprised, I’m shocked, I’m bitterly disappointed.

MADELEINE MORRIS, REPORTER: Sombre-faced and genuinely shocked, Victorian Liberal MPs arrived this morning to be briefed on the alleged theft of $1.5 million by one of their own.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER II: We just want to get to the truth and the bottom of the matter.

MICHAEL KROGER, LIBERAL PARTY VIC. BRANCH: Good morning, everybody. Well as you know, the Liberal Party is today referring some matters to the Victoria Police relating to the unauthorised removal of some party funds from the party head office, solely the work of one person. It should’ve been detected a long time ago. It wasn’t, which is regrettable. And the party’s obviously gonna make sure that this never happens again.

MADELEINE MORRIS: That person is Damien Mantach, the Victorian Liberal Party’s state director until March this year. The party believes that over a period of four years, Damien Mantach siphoned off money from Victorian Liberal headquarters via fake invoices for fake work.

The irregularities were uncovered when new state Liberal president Michael Kroger ordered a forensic audit of the accounts when he took over after last year’s disastrous state election.

NICK ECONOMOU, POLITICAL ANALYST: The state Liberal Party is in a bit of trouble and it’s been subject to a great deal of internal tension. There’d been problems within the parliamentary wing of the party. That contributed of course to the Liberals’ defeat at the last state election. And we also know that there were all sorts of tensions in the party organisation, the party membership.

DENIS NAPTHINE: I’m absolutely devastated, but particularly for the candidates across the state of Victoria who worked extremely hard, for the Liberal Party members and volunteers who worked extremely hard. This is a real shock to all of us.

MADELEINE MORRIS: That includes Angelo Kakouros, chair of the party’s South Barwon branch. He’s been fielding calls from party members all day.

ANGELO KAKOUROS, CHAIR, LIBERAL PARTY SOUTH BARWON BRANCH: It is a lack of trust and great, great disappointment.

MADELEINE MORRIS: But Mr Kakouros says his branch has been worried about the former state director for some time.

ANGELO KAKOUROS: I’ve had concerns with Damien Mantach for the last three to four years as a state director and personal experience and just the way things have operated and the communication between Damien, the administrative committee and some of the people within the organisation with their communication here locally in our area.

NICK ECONOMOU: It’s a very, very big task to try and keep track of what’s going on and to keep paid full-time officials answerable and accountable in what is essentially a voluntary organisation. The state treasurer of the Liberal Party would be a volunteer after all. Now, on top of this we’re getting increasing regulation to try and regulate the flow of donations. … But I suspect that that may be encouraging clever people to be a bit tricky here and try and find ways to squirrel resources away.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Today, Michael Kroger admitted there was a systemic problem with the Liberal Party accounting and changes were being made.

MICHAEL KROGER: More people in the accounting section and different oversights in relation to levels of authorised expenditure and a greater role for the party finance committee and more attention on these matters by the party executive.

MADELEINE MORRIS: It’s not the first time Damien Mantach has been in the headlines. Two years ago, he was investigated and ultimately cleared over payments he authorised to a former Liberal staffer who quit after being implicated in a scandal that snared the Police Minister.

And late today, the Tasmanian branch of the Liberal Party confirmed Mr Mantach had to repay nearly $48,000 in personal expenses when he was Tasmanian branch state director.

The fallout today extended all the way from Spring Street to Canberra.

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, FEDERAL LABOR MP: In 2013 the Prime Minister said, and I quote, “I know Damien Mantach well. He’s a person of integrity. So let’s see where this investigation goes. He has my confidence.” Does the Prime Minister agree that this ringing endorsement is yet another failure of judgment on his part?

TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: But I can inform the House that matters concerning the individual in question have this morning been referred to the Victorian Police.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Today, no answer at the Mantach family home and Damien Mantach couldn’t be reached on the phone.

There is palpable shock here in Victoria that this could’ve happened to the party which prides itself on good financial management, particularly amongst Liberal rank and file. One branch chair told me it was like finding out the priest had been stealing from the collection plate. But there’s also relief it’s been uncovered by the party’s new state leadership.

ANGELO KAKOUROS: Michael Kroger, the state president, he’s doing a fantastic job in order to bring honesty and transparency back into the party.

MADELEINE MORRIS: The impact for the party may yet be felt in the place it will hurt most: the coffers.

NICK ECONOMOU: The Liberal Party really does rely heavily on membership fees and donations, so I think something that might damage the reputation of the party’s fundraising ability could be really seriously damaging to the Liberal Party.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER III: I think this is simply a matter of we’ve been robbed. We want our money back and we want justice done. Police will investigate and i think that’s all I should say at this point in time.

SABRA LANE: Madeleine Morris reporting.


Rachael Brown reported this story on Thursday, August 20, 2015 12:20:47

 abc.net.au

 Fmr Vic Liberal state director accused of stealing $1.5m from party over four years
 TRANSCIPT

ELEANOR HALL: Let’s go now to Victoria where that state’s branch of the Liberal Party is having some trouble of its own.

The Liberal leader Matthew Guy has accused the former state director of the Victorian Liberal Party, Damien Mantach, of embezzling $1.5 million in the election campaign funds.

Mr Guy says his party is “white hot” with anger, and that the funds could’ve made a difference in last year’s election.

In Melbourne, Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Liberal Party says discrepancies were uncovered during a forensic audit of the party’s funds after last year’s state election loss.

The party’s former state director Damien Mantach is being accused of stealing $1.5 million over four years, but the audit continues.

Mr Mantach has not responded to the ABC’s calls.

Liberal party members were called into a crisis meeting this morning, and heading in, the party leader Matthew Guy made no attempt to mask his feelings.

MATTHEW GUY: We are furious; we want our money back.

RACHAEL BROWN: The matter has been referred to the Victoria Police Fraud and Extortion Squad, which says it’s investigating the disappearance of funds, but can’t comment further.

Mr Guy says, if the allegations prove true, it’s a massive betrayal of trust.

MATTHEW GUY: An enormous part of our election war chest, enormous. People did a lot of work to get that. I mean, we have a fundraising team who’ve done a huge amount of work; they’re always under a lot of scrutiny as you can imagine, and a lot of pressure.

But they’ve done a huge amount of work. We’ve got a lot of supporters, a lot of branch people who have worked their guts out for this party. And for what it appears to be one individual to do this to us leaves us bitterly cold.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Liberal party leader says the funds could’ve changed last year’s election result, which saw Labor’s Daniel Andrews dismissing the Napthine Coalition government.

Denis Napthine, who led the Victoria’s first one-term government in 60 years, says the fraud allegation is shocking and bitterly disappointing.

The party’s new president, Michael Kroger, has released a statement saying, when the audit turned up suspicious transactions amounting to $1.5 million between 2010 and 2014, Damien Mantach was asked to explain himself.

It was after this discussion that the party’s administrative committee voted to refer the matter to police.

Mr Kroger admits there’s a weakness with the Liberal Party’s checks and balances.

MICHAEL KROGER: Yeah, well on this occasion they clearly failed. So yep, quite up front about that. I’ve only been in the job four months, as you know. This has been going on for four years, so you know, it should have been picked up before and wasn’t, unfortunately.

RACHAEL BROWN: But he says there won’t be a clean out of branch holders, that the alleged fraud didn’t extend to other employees, officials or office bearers, and was limited to the party’s Melbourne headquarters.

He says civil action hasn’t been decided on.

MICHAEL KROGER: We’re sensitive to a number of issues, including the fact the person involved has a wife and family, and there are other matters which we want to take into account. But yes, we’ll be recovering a good deal of the funds in a cooperative relationship with the person involved.

RACHAEL BROWN: Mr Kroger says he doesn’t know where the money’s gone.

And he’s hit back at a suggestion that this is in a similar vein to the trade union boss Kathy Jackson being forced to repay $1.4 million of misappropriated members’ funds.

MICHAEL KROGER: When the Liberal party becomes aware of a serious matter like this, what do we do?

We investigate it quickly, we report it to the appropriate authorities, who in this case will be the Victoria Police. We don’t hide it; we don’t ignore it; we deal with it.

On the other hand, it’s taken a royal commission at massive public expense bringing these union and Labor leaders kicking and screaming before the public to get any type of information from them at all, at massive public expense. And even now they want to sack the umpire.

RACHAEL BROWN: One commentator has told The World Today that there might be more to this than meets the eye.

Damian Mantach stepped down from the director’s job in March. A couple of years ago he was one of the senior Liberals secretly recorded during the police command crisis that led to Ted Baillieu resigning as premier.

The commentator says this audit and slur on a former power player in the executive committee might have more to do with the ongoing power struggle and factional rifts at the upper levels of the Victorian Liberal party.

ELEANOR HALL: Rachael Brown with that report.



news.com.au

Finger pointing begins over Liberals’ stolen cash

http://www.news.com.au/video/id-NwMjY0dzqkwzxK6FCG9JiP2ATp0m5WyG/Police-to-investigate-alleged-Vic-Lib-fraud

Vic detectives will investigate the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of Liberal party funds.

Victorian detectives will investigate the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of Liberal

Victorian detectives will investigate the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of Liberal party funds by former state director Damien Mantach. Source: AAP

VICTORIA’S Liberal Party didn’t lose the 2014 election because its then state director stole $1.5 million from campaign funds, current state president Michael Kroger says.

Former Victorian Liberal director Damien Mantach has admitted to stealing money from the party over a four-year period going into the state election.

On a bad day for Mr Mantach, his Liberal Party email address was also found in the leaked Ashley Madison database, although there is no evidence he specifically signed up to the site.

Mr Mantach, who was on a $200,000-a-year salary, allegedly used the money to pay his mortgage, fund his lifestyle and build a half-a-million dollar share portfolio, the Herald Sun reports.

When asked about the alleged theft, his wife Jodie Mantach told the paper she no longer wants “anything to do with him”.

Mr Kroger said the party did not lose the election because of a lack of funds.

“The ability of the party to continue to operate and fund its campaigns has not been compromised,” a party statement said.

Mr Kroger said the party was strengthening its financial controls after the details of the theft became clear.

The $1.5 million theft has been referred to Victoria Police and Mr Kroger is hopeful some of it can be recovered.

The Ocean Grove home owned by former Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach.

The Ocean Grove home owned by former Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach. Source: News Corp Australia

The Liberals’ Tasmanian division president Geoff Page later confirmed Mr Mantach’s history of questionable spending dating back to 2008.

Mr Mantach repaid almost $50,000 in “personal expenses” before leaving his position with the Tasmanian branch to move to Victoria. “Mr Mantach had in 2008 a liability for personal expenses to the Tasmanian division totalling $47,981.78, which was fully repaid by Mr Mantach to the division upon his departure in March of that year,” Mr Page said in a post on the Tasmanian Liberals’ Facebook page.

Finger pointing has begun within the party, with the Liberals’ federal director — and husband of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief-of-staff, Peta Credlin — Brian Loughnane reportedly being blamed for his appointment.

A RORTER’S DREAM JOB

As state director of the Victorian Liberal Party, Mr Mantach’s role was a rorter’s dream.

He had the final say on budget line items, such as polling research, that the party treasurer was not allowed to see. It allowed him to bill the party with invoices — some created on his work computer — for jobs that did not exist.

Mr Mantach resigned after the 2014 state election loss but had to face the music on Monday when the party’s lawyers called him to a meeting.

His lawyer arrived on Tuesday in an attempt to cut a deal when the party thought he had stolen around $800,000.

The Liberals wanted complete disclosure and Mr Mantach allegedly spent hours with officials on Wednesday explaining the full extent of his theft.

“We feel profoundly betrayed and terribly disappointed with what’s happened,” Mr Kroger told reporters on Thursday.

“It appears it was only Damien involved. If the police find others, fine, but we’re not aware that anyone at the party head office or any officials had any involvement at all.” Victorian Liberal leader Matthew Guy said members were “gutted” after raising funds for the state and federal election campaigns. “The party is furious, we want our money back, we want this matter sent to the police, and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that justice is done,” he said.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission was called on to examine secret phone recordings of senior Liberal figures in 2013, including Mr Mantach, though it was found an investigation was not warranted.

“I know Damien Mantach well. He is a person of integrity. So let’s see where this investigation goes. He has my confidence,” Tony Abbott said at the time when he was opposition leader.

Asked about the $1.5 million theft on Thursday, Prime Minister Abbott said it was a matter for the Victorian division of the party.

Mr Mantach did not respond to attempts to contact him on yesterday.

Victoria Police have launched an investigation.

The Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff Peta Credlin and husband Brian Loughnane. The Liberal

The Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff Peta Credlin and husband Brian Loughnane. The Liberal Party’s federal director is being blamed for appointing Mr Mentach. Source: News Corp Australia


Belle Gibson’s publisher has pulled her book from Australian shelves following accusations she faked her terminal brain cancer.


I SO WANTED TO LEAVE THIS BUT This saga keeps changing, there is no doubt now she faked much of her claims. The once award-winning young ladies life has come crashing down.

WE all fall from grace at one time or another in our life but this was of an epic scale, and the worst of the worst for cancer sufferers and survivors as well as supporters and family of those who are gone from our lives. her silence is deafening, but I hope other media come out as have Fairfax Media to state they have not paid anyone for any info on this story

(Which has been a big part of Belle’s rants since it broke. Saying others are making money off her now! )

Health blogger and app developer Belle Gibson hits back at ‘bullying’ critics
March 16, 2015 – 5:34AM

Allison Worral

Belle Gibson, creator of the app The Whole PantryBelle Gibson, creator of the app The Whole Pantry Photo: Jeffrey Glorfeld

Belle Gibson, the popular health blogger accused of falsely claiming to have cancer, has blasted her critics for speaking out against her.

Breaking her recent social media silence, Ms Gibson lashed out at former friends and acquaintances who had publicly doubted her claims of being ill, telling them to “make yourself invisible to me”.

The 23-year-old Melbourne woman founded health and wellbeing app The Whole Pantry, which has been under close scrutiny after it was revealed many of the charities the organisation had promised to donate to had not received any money.

Belle Gibson's book based around her The Whole Pantry app.

Belle Gibson’s book based around her The Whole Pantry app.

The Whole Pantry app, along with a Penguin book of the same name, promoted healthy living and Ms Gibson boasted natural foods and alternative therapies had fought off the multiple cancers she claimed to suffer.

But serious questions have been raised over the entrepreneur’s claims of surviving terminal brain cancer without treatment, as well as being diagnosed with four other types of cancer.

Former friends and work colleagues have accused Ms Gibson of lying about the extent of her illness, with some suggesting she may not have cancer at all.

On Friday night Ms Gibson hit back in a rambling Facebook post, sarcastically encouraging her followers to speak to the media if they needed to because “it says more about you, and your priorities than me or the story you’ll get paid to tell”.

Ms Gibson, who wrote of being “bullied to my death”, went on to defend the work of The Whole Pantry.

“…I know the work my company and it’s [sic] contents did changed hundreds of thousands for the better,” she wrote.

In another post she said those who had spoken publicly about her were “knowingly contributing to the blatant attacking and bullying of myself and my family”.

The Melbourne mother did not disprove claims she had lied about or exaggerated having cancer but promised an “open letter” was on its way.

Ms Gibson’s latest comments, posted under a Facebook alias, follow the recent removal of thousands of posts on her social media accounts.

Fairfax Media has not paid anyone for information about Belle Gibson


Whole Pantry cookbook PULLED from the shelves by Penguin after publisher casts doubt on health guru Belle Gibson’s brain cancer survival story

  • Penguin Books have decided to pull her book from Australian shelves
  • Blogger Belle Gibson, 23, is accused of faking her terminal brain cancer
  • She claimed eating well and using a natural approach to life saved her
  • Ms Gibson launched successfully popular The Whole Pantry app and book
  • More than 300,000 angry fans and customers have demanded a refund
  • They have taken to the company’s Facebook page to make a stand 
  • Her friends raised doubts about her survival story and charity donations
  • Former school mates have labelled the 23-year-old as a ‘drama queen’ 

Belle Gibson’s publisher has pulled her book from Australian shelves following accusations she faked her terminal brain cancer.

Penguin Books – who publishes Ms Gibson’s The Whole Pantry recipe book – shared the news with Daily Mail Australia via an email statement on Monday.

The book was written in conjunction with her hugely successful app of the same name, which focuses on health, wellness and lifestyle.

Australian blogger Belle Gibson (seen, left, with a bottle of champagne) has hit out at those who have accused her survival story of being fake

Clean-living Belle Gibson, seen here with a pint in her hand, told the friends who have spoken out about her to ‘make yourself invisible to me, and my life’

‘Despite our best endeavours, Penguin Books has not received sufficient explanation from Ms Gibson, author of The Whole Pantry recipe book, in response to recent allegations,’ the publisher said.

‘As such, we have been left with no other option but to stop supplying the book in Australia.

‘We remain hopeful that we will receive the formal assurances we have requested in the coming days.’

This follows Ms Gibson hitting back at the friends who have spoken publicly about her as old photos emerged of her enjoying alcohol.

In a long Facebook post, the Australian blogger told those who have spoken out about her to ‘make yourself invisible to me, and my life.’

The health fanatic shot to social media fame after claiming she had managed to ward off a terminal brain cancer diagnosis simply through eating well and using a natural and holistic approach to life.

Young mum: Close friends told Daily Mail Australia on Wednesday that Ms Gibson may have departed Australia for the United States this week

Back in July 2013, Ms Gibson posted on The Whole Pantry Facebook page about her ‘severe and malignant brain cancer’

Ms Gibson gave hope to cancer sufferers worldwide after she revealed that she had prolonged her life despite shunning conventional medical treatment and relying on her own ‘whole life’ concept.

But after doubt was cast over her claims, the Sydney Morning Herald reported she wrote to her friends on Facebook this weekend: ‘You are knowingly contributing to the blatant attacking and bullying of myself and my family.’

‘You’re not making the world an any (sic) better place by choosing to become part of the latest media snowball, remember that.’

Meanwhile, photos have emerged on Facebook of Ms Gibson holding a bottle of champagne to her mouth and sipping on a pint of beer before she became a clean-living star.

Social media users attempting to ‘expose’ Ms Gibson have begun posting images and old claims about her cancer on Facebook.

On Friday, she stood by her projects, writing: ‘…I know the work my company and it’s [sic] contents did changed hundreds of thousands for the better.’

On the same day, thousands of angry customers who bought healthy living app and book The Whole Pantry are demanding their money back after finding out founder Ms Gibson’s cancer story could be false.

Taking to The Whole Pantry’s Facebook page, some of the 300,000 people who downloaded the app have called for their money to be refunded and have slammed the mother-of-one for misleading her followers.

‘Lies, Lies and more Lies. I demand a refund,’ one unhappy customer said.

‘What kind of person fakes illnesses for attention. She has mental health issues and needs help. It scares me to think how many people have died following her natural therapy cancer treatment diet/lifestyle. Disgusting,’ another Facebook commenter said.

Ms Gibson has deleted thousands of photos and social media posts which directly reference her multiple cancer diagnoses, but an example of them – seen by Daily Mail Australia – can be found below:

Back in July 2013, Ms Gibson posted on The Whole Pantry Facebook page: ‘It’s unfortunate that there is someone on my Instagram trying to discredit the natural healing path I am on.’

She went on to say: ‘As always, with everything, this is my journey and I encourage you to do what is best for your body and situation with love and an open mind.

‘I have been healing a severe and malignant brain cancer for the past few years with natural medicine, gerson therapy and foods.

‘It’s working for me and I am grateful to be here sharing this journey with over 70,000 people worldwide. Thank you for being here – xx Belle.’

In a reference to her liver cancer, she posted on Instagram under her account @healing_belle, a photo of a pink smoothie enriched with ‘extra support’.

‘This one is for my rash (thanks, liver cancer), inflammation (thanks flying) and for general immunity.’

In another Instagram post she wrote: ‘Going from 6 weeks to live, to celebrating my fourth year with brain cancer, I know now that respecting your own journey and intuitively healing, listening and living as YOUR body, mind and path intended is staple.’

In July 2014, she broke the news of further illness to her followers through an impassioned post to her personal Instagram page.

It read in part: ‘With frustration and ache in my heart // my beautiful, gamechanging community, it hurts me to find space tonight to let you all know with love and strength that I’ve been diagnosed with a third and fourth cancer.

‘One is secondary and the other is primary. I have cancer in my blood, spleen, brain, uterus, and liver. I am hurting,’ Ms Gibson wrote.

About 12 weeks after the initial post she followed up, revealing she was undergoing ‘German integrative oncology protocol’.

The Whole Pantry (pictured above, in cookbook form) is also a popular app, which costs $3.79 to download. The app is slated to appear on the new Apple Watch

The Whole Pantry (pictured above, in cookbook form) is also a popular app, which costs $3.79 to download. The app is slated to appear on the new Apple Watch

The Whole Pantry founder's stories are being questioned as people demand answers from the health guru

The Whole Pantry founder’s stories are being questioned as people demand answers from the health guru

Many others called for the entrepreneur to face up to her lies and do the right thing. Questions have also been raised about her donations to charity.

She told her social media followers last year her brain cancer had spread to her blood, liver, spleen, uterus and that she did not expect to survive.

It has been reported that Ms Gibson has met with lawyers to fight the claims her story is fake.

School friends of the under-fire Whole Pantry founder now query whether the health guru invented stories ‘to get sympathy’ and have told how she warned people against vaccination while she was in high school.

Ms Gibson attended Wynnum State High School in Brisbane and former classmates describe the health guru as a ‘drama queen’ who constantly reinvented herself and backed medical cannabis. 

Former school friend Chris Green said Ms Gibson was ‘a drama queen. There was always something going on with her.’

‘At one stage she was an emo, then a skater girl then she was a surfer chick; she was always something different,’ Mr Green told The Courier Mail.

Mr Green also said that Ms Gibson never mentioned an autistic brother or a mother with multiple sclerosis, who she had previously claimed to be a carer for.

One anonymous school friend said that Ms Gibson would often post information advocating against vaccinations and pushed the viewpoint quite hard.

Former classmate Meg Weier said that Ms Gibson was quite strange.

Doting mother: Ms Gibson, pictured with another friend, founded the popular app and cookbook Whole Pantry

In another Instagram post she wrote: 'Going from 6 weeks to live, to celebrating my fourth year with brain cancer'

In another Instagram post she wrote: ‘Going from 6 weeks to live, to celebrating my fourth year with brain cancer’

Young mother: Ms Gibson, the mother of Olivier (pictured) has established a successful business in Whole Pantry

Young mother: Ms Gibson, the mother of Olivier (pictured) has established a successful business in Whole Pantry

Jayme Smith (pictured left, with her two children) met Belle Gibson online and maintained a friendship over social media until they had a falling out

Friends close to the mum-of-one have said that she may have gone overseas to avoid confronting claims that her remarkable cancer survival story is not all it seems.

Another former friend of Ms Gibson has called on her to ‘come clean’ on her ‘misdiagnosis’.

Mother-of-two Jayne Smith, 28, from Sydney, became a confidant of Ms Gibson’s after they met on a parenting discussion page on Facebook around 2010.

They forged an online friendship and confided over their experiences with cancer – Ms Smith having lost her mother to lung cancer in 2003 and Ms Gibson saying she had brain cancer.

BY THE NUMBERS: THE WHOLE PANTRY

  • Over 300,000 people have downloaded the app since its release 
  • The company failed to donate $300,000 that was promised to charities
  • The app costs $3.79AUD in Australia
  • Last year it was announced the app will be presented on the Apple Watch, which will come out on April 24, 2015 in Australia

Ms Smith told Daily Mail Australia she was ‘baffled’ when reports emerged this week where friends raised doubts about Ms Gibson’s medical diagnoses and charity donations.

‘I am just so shocked and I feel betrayed, that we all fell so hard for the illusion that she created,’ Ms Smith said.

‘It has hit all of us, who I know, (who) also know Belle, like a tonne of bricks.’

‘We only knew her online, but we all believed to a point that she was a genuine pioneer, who was surviving aggressive cancer.

‘Belle and I talked quite a bit about my feelings about (cancer), how she could empathise with me, the feelings I felt about my mother dying and how I’d wished I was more responsible when it happened, that I’d wished I had tried to explore more ideas, like Belle did.’

Ms Smith said Ms Gibson ‘pushed’ – and nearly convinced her – not to vaccinate her children, but that she did not blame her for nearly making that choice, which she ‘backed out of at the last minute’.

‘That was my own choice, based on information provided by Belle. I regret that choice (to nearly not vaccinate), but it was my own. I’m not here to place blame.’

In November 2014, Ms Gibson told Sunday Style magazine she blamed the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil for her cancer.

After friends and medical experts cast doubt on her medical claims in various media stories this week, Ms Gibson told The Australian she may have been ‘misdiagnosed’.

‘It’s hard to admit that maybe you were wrong,’ she told the newspaper, adding that she was ‘confused, bordering on humiliated’.

In a reference to her liver cancer, she posted on Instagram under her account @healing_belle, a photo of a pink smoothie enriched with 'extra support'

In a reference to her liver cancer, she posted on Instagram under her account @healing_belle, a photo of a pink smoothie enriched with ‘extra support’

The Whole Pantry, a popular app, gained media attention because of Ms Gibson's remarkable story about cancer survival 

The Whole Pantry, a popular app, gained media attention because of Ms Gibson’s remarkable story about cancer survival 

The company she founded, The Whole Pantry, said donations to charities that allegedly failed to arrive had been ‘accounted for and not processed’ and that promised donations ‘would be honoured’.

Ms Smith told Daily Mail Australia she was ‘baffled’ by this week’s allegations and was most upset about the hope Ms Gibson’s followers had invested in her program if she was being dishonest.

She said Ms Gibson had the ‘gift of the gab’ and ‘needs to answer to these people (her followers), because they are good hearted people who deserve answers’.

‘I don’t care about exposing Belle. I haven’t spoken to her for months, years.

‘I just want her to confirm or deny (her diagnoses) so people who put their faith in her, invested in her – they need to know.

‘They need to know, if they’ve rejected conventional medicine on what she’s saying.

‘It’s their lives, it’s not a game.’

Belle Gibson: the entrepreneur behind The Whole Pantry app

Ms Smith said of Belle Gibson (above): 'If I saw Belle now, I would just ask her to tell the truth. That's all I want'

Ms Smith said of Belle Gibson (above): ‘If I saw Belle now, I would just ask her to tell the truth. That’s all I want’

Ms Gibson wrote about how she chose a cancer patient called Joshua to 'donate 100% of app sales to' 

Ms Gibson wrote about how she chose a cancer patient called Joshua to ‘donate 100% of app sales to’ 

After three years of sometimes personal exchanges online, Ms Gibson and Ms Smith stopped talking after the development of the Whole Pantry app.

‘If I saw Belle now, I would just ask her to tell the truth. That’s all I want.

‘I don’t want to see her beg people for mercy. I don’t want her to beg for forgiveness – I just want the truth.

‘Come clean, be transparent, let the world know where you’re at. If you were misdiagnosed, own up to it.

‘Belle DID create an exceptional application, that is loved by many, but I think she should sell it for what it is, complimentary medicines and a diet – not life saving treatment.

‘All people want is the truth from her.’

Close friends told Daily Mail Australia on Wednesday that Ms Gibson may have left for the United States. Police visited her home on Tuesday night to check on her welfare, but she was not there.

Multiple calls to Ms Gibson’s mobile rang out.

IN TWEETS, BELLE GIBSON DESCRIBED HERSELF AS A ‘DISTINGUISHED PHYSCOPATH’ (SIC)

Amid claims that the entrepreneur behind The Whole Pantry app has fled to country, more details about Belle Gibson’s past are coming to light.

The young social media personality – who came under fire after claims her ‘terminal cancer’ and incredible survival story from the life-threatening illness were false – once described herself as a psychopath.

Ms Gibson has previously gone under the name of Annabelle Natalie Gibson, and tweeted in 2009: @bellmneb: ‘Is a distinguished physcopath (sic),’ the Herald Sun reported.

The next month she sent another tweet, from the account which appears to have been removed.

‘Obama won the nobel peace prize. This is more f***ed then (sic) the government giving me cancer. #obamawinsnobelprize,’ it read.

The Job Seeker Training Con- New legislation on track to stop the RIP OFFS


Plenty to come with this huge scam, no wonder private training “Colleges” and the like are popping up like flies to a pile of shit.

Money for nothing, scrounge as much money as you can from the hopeless job seekers and the desperate with pathetic unneeded useless courses unsuitable for their needs, and signing them to huge debt,  all for the gov kickbacks.

Falsifying applications, interviews, outcomes for more gov bonuses. What is yet to come, is the people behind some of these companies are retired or ex Federal and State MP’s who were smart (silly) enough to jump on the band wagon! These payments amount to billions over the time, and most in need get nothing out of it, nor have their circumstances improved.

The bloody rich get richer and the poor stay poor. Some involved with ICAC are yet to be exposed on gov contracts to house these gov job seeker services. Wrapping up long over valued leases.


UPDATE 11/03/15

New legislation to ban training providers from offering ‘miraculously’ short diploma courses

Training providers will be banned from offering “miraculously” short diploma courses, and from offering students incentives to sign up, under new legislation to be introduced by the Federal Government.

Assistant Training Minister Simon Birmingham said he was “very concerned” the Government’s vocational education loans scheme (VET FEE-HELP) was being abused and announced a range of measures to crack down on rogue providers.

“I’m very concerned about the range of distortions and abuse of the VET FEE-HELP scheme that’s occurring around Australia,” he told the ABC.

“I’ve had all too many examples of students who are being ripped off, vulnerable people taken advantage of, all of it being put on a tab for the taxpayer.

“So these reforms are designed to clamp down on dishonest behaviour, unethical behaviour amongst vocational education and training providers and make sure we restore integrity to a very important system.”

VET FEE-HELP is a HECS-style loans scheme that requires students to repay the Commonwealth once they earn a certain amount.

Senator Birmingham said he had heard “horrible stories” about dodgy training providers offering students laptops, meals, prizes and cash to sign up for courses that they did not need or would not lead to a job.

In some cases, he said students had been told the course in which they enrolled was free, when it was not.

“There’s no doubt that especially in relation to incentives and inducements for sign up, that has been a widespread activity over the last few months, if not couple of years since Labor opened up this system in 2012,” he said.

“Our reforms will shut the door on that.”

Under the changes, training providers would be required to have a minimum number of units of study in their diplomas and advanced diplomas, they would be banned from offering inducements or incentives to encourage students to sign up for courses, and they would be required to “properly assess” a student’s educational abilities before enrolment.

If the cost of these reforms is we see some dubious providers go out of business, then I’ll be quite happy to see that occur as long as we see a system that’s sustainable for the long haul.

Assistant Training Minister Simon Birmingham

Training providers would also be banned from accepting course fees in a single up-front transaction, to give students more time to consider their options.

“We are addressing the gaping holes that existed in the guidelines when Labor opened the scheme up in 2012 and making sure that through doing that, we restore some quality to the system,” Senator Birmingham said.

The Government estimated the changes would prevent students from taking out $16.3 billion in bad loans over the next 10 years, but Senator Birmingham admitted it would come at a cost to the sector.

“That will come at some cost to the industry, but ultimately I’m determined that these measures will shut down bad business models,” he said.

“If the cost of these reforms is we see some dubious providers go out of business, then I’ll be quite happy to see that occur as long as we see a system that’s sustainable for the long haul.”

According to Government figures, more than 180,000 students accessed the VET FEE-HELP scheme last year, taking out more than $1.6 billion in loans.


Update 4 Mar 2015

Evocca College under investigation by the Australian Skills Quality Authority after reports of low graduation rates

Update 4 Mar 2015

Figures obtained by the ABC show Evocca College has a graduation rate of about 10 per cent despite claiming more than $290 million in government funding via the VET FEE-HELP student loan scheme.

The figures show out of 38,213 students who signed up to its diploma courses in the past four years, only 2,058 were handed diplomas by October 2014.

There were 16,567 students who officially cancelled and 3,897 who timed out of the course.

The college said about 15,000 were still on track to graduate.

More than 20 former Evocca employees spoke to the ABC about questionable practices at the college after concerns about the training provider were first aired in January.

Since then the graduation rates of the college have been the subject of debate.

Now more allegations have come to light including that it enrolled students ill-equipped for diploma level courses without enough support, that it enrolled students who did not pass the required literacy test, and that it backdated tutor qualification forms to pass federal government audits.

Former staff claimed the college actively sought to hamper students who wanted to leave the college and cease adding to their government training debt.

An email obtained by the ABC shows the college sent an email to staff stating that “cancellation is a banned word”.

There’s a large amount of tax-payers’ money going into these colleges, it’s crucial tax-payers are getting value for money.

Australian Skills Quality Authority chief commissioner Chris Robinson

The college rejected suggestions it was taking advantage of the the VET FEE-HELP student training loan scheme, which was opened up to diploma courses in recent years.

In a statement, a company spokesman said they had a team of people dedicated to reaching out to students who were not attending.

“In cases where we have been through all possible processes endeavouring to re-engage a student, but have not been able to do so, we will cancel their enrolment, and have many thousands of documented cases to back this up,” he said.

The spokesman said the enrolment figures were not accurate and did not take into account “the flexible model that we deliver in allowing students more time than many other providers to complete their courses at no additional cost, which provides for differing levels of ability and also a variety of personal circumstances”.

It comes after a senate inquiry into the training loan scheme handed down its interim report on Monday.

Under VET FEE-HELP students can borrow up to $96,000 from the government for training, plus a 20 per cent loan fee, but not make repayments until they earn more than $53,000.

The loans attract interest in line with inflation (indexation) and the level of debt accrued can affect people’s ability to take out some types of loans in the future.

Free iPads ending up at pawn shops

One of the key criticisms of many new players in the diploma-level training market is the use of incentives such as free laptops and iPads to sign students up to courses, and ultimately training debts.

In Sydney’s west the Mega Cash pawn shop around the corner from Evocca’s Mt Druitt campus sees up to five students a day trying to pawn their computers.

“I was getting about five a day, last week,” manager Dean Rasmussen said.

“We can’t take the iPads because as the college tells us, they still own them until the student finishes the course so they cannot legally sell it or loan [it].”

There are similar reports in other states.

Evocca has 40 campuses around Australia and enrols about 15,000 students.

Evocca said the computers were loaned to students in line with a scheme with Federal Government approval.

“They are provided as a necessary tool with which students may become familiar with technology and also complete their studies, especially as many do not have the immediate wherewithal to purchase their own,” a spokesman said.

Former employee Steven Fogerty said the computers were useless as learning tools because they did not come equipped with relevant learning software such as Microsoft Office.

“The concept of giving students an iPad is purely an incentive because they’re a toy,” he said.

Regulator to investigate

The federal regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority, said it has been investigating a number of complaints about Evocca.

Chief commissioner Chris Robinson said some related to recruitment practices and others related to its operations.

He said the ABC raised new allegations the regulator was not aware of.

“We certainly are concerned about some of [the allegations],” he said.

“It would be very good if people have information and concerns in the way Evocca has operated to come through ASQA.”

He said the regulator audited 4,000 colleges in the past three years and suspended or chose not to renew many providers.

“Certainly not enough providers are fully compliant at all times,” he said.

“There’s a large amount of tax-payers’ money going into these colleges, it’s crucial tax-payers are getting value for money.”

Staff come forward

More than 20 former Evocca employees have come forward to the ABC with concerns about the college’s operation.

Mr Fogerty was a business management tutor at Mt Druitt campus for six months.

He said they regularly discussed at morning meetings the low educational ability of students recruited by the company’s sales agents.

“We’d all say we know this is wrong,” he said.

In vocational training, students typically progress through Certificates I to III or IV before undertaking a diploma level course, unless they have extensive workplace experience.

Mr Fogerty said he had one student who had vision and hearing impairments who was enrolled despite not writing 100 words as required by the Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) entrance test.

This student was then given little or no extra support despite his impairments.

“They would let anyone into this college. Your intellectual abilities were not even considered,” he said.

“If you were an Australian citizen and you could sign your name, you’re in.”

Other students included migrants with poor English skills, single mothers and elderly people, many of whom he said did not get appropriate learning support.

Evocca said it had a thorough pre-enrolment process that ensured students understood the requirements and were capable of completing the course.

“It is due to these self-imposed standards of closely vetting any potential student that, although we receive many thousands of inquiries annually, only 14 per cent of these result in enrolments,” a company spokesman said.

Claims of backdating forms

Former Queensland branch manager Michelle Naylor said when the college was audited by the Australian Skills Quality Authority it deliberately backdated staff qualification paperwork to pass the audit.

“We were asked to go through everyone’s qualifications,” she said.

“If they didn’t have qualifications we were asked to sign a form called Working Under Supervision and unfortunately I had to backdate a couple of those to the term the tutors commenced work.

“I didn’t know I was supervising them, I thought they had qualifications and experience.

“I knew I was doing the wrong thing.”

The college denied any wrongdoing and said it would “update” paperwork of those who were required to be supervised while they were in the process of obtaining their Certificate IV in Workplace Training.

“This was an internal administrative process, which was in part designed to ensure some transparency and accountability for those who were undertaking this training, to ensure that it was completed in a timely manner, and that those being supervised were of an acceptable standard,” a spokesman said.

Students say they lose out

Dylan Palmer would travel three hours each day to study digital gaming at Evocca’s Brisbane campus.

He was referred to the course by a friend who received $100 cash from Evocca and Dylan received a free laptop.

“It was a lot of fun at first but as I went on it kind of jumped from point A to point C without ever really explaining point B and it just got really confusing for me,” he said.

I did struggle. It was very, very hard. There’s nothing for disabilities. They’ve got nothing in place, no protocols, nothing.

Leanne Fraser

The 21-year-old has Asperger’s syndrome and said he did not receive sufficient support.

“Sometimes they’d just say ‘watch the video again’.”

He now has a $27,000 VET FEE-HELP debt.

Also in Queensland, single mother Leanne Fraser would travel two hours each day for a diploma in tourism.

She has multiple sclerosis and said there was no help for students with a disability.

“I did struggle. It was very, very hard,” she said.

“There’s nothing for disabilities. They’ve got nothing in place, no protocols, nothing.”

A college spokesman said the Evocca teaching model was based on doing everything it could to support students.

“[There is] a robust system in place for the ongoing management of students, including regular one-to-one catch ups with tutors, to ensure that these objectives are achieved.”


23rd February 2015

Unemployment in Australia is at its highest in 12 years. The Government’s solution is an innovative billion-dollar scheme called Jobs Services Australia. But the initiative is failing.

Now, a Four Corners investigation shows how the scheme is being manipulated and, at times, systematically exploited. Reporter Linton Besser reveals the corruption at the heart of the program aimed at helping some of this country’s most vulnerable people.

He travels to suburbs where unemployment is a way of life. He meets Kym, struggling to find work and pull her daughter out of a cycle of poverty.

There to help are private and not-for-profit job agencies, paid by the Government to help find work for Kym and others like her. These agencies have blossomed thanks to the privatisation of the Commonwealth Employment Service in 1998, and are thriving on contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Unemployment is now big business in Australia. Each year the Government spends about $1.3 billion on its welfare to work scheme.

But what happens when there are simply not enough jobs to go around?

What Four Corners discovers is a system open to abuse where the unemployed have become a commodity. Some agencies bend the rules, others break them.

“I would say about 80 percent of claims that come through have some sort of manipulation on them.” – Agency whistleblower

Four Corners goes inside the industry, finding shocking evidence of fraud, manipulation, falsified paperwork, and the recycling of the unemployed through temporary jobs.

Hours are bumped up, wages are inflated, and in many cases, vital evidence to support claims from the taxpayer appears to have been falsified. One former jobseeker tells Four Corners her paperwork appears to have been completely forged.

In recent years Government checks have forced some companies to pay back millions of dollars, but few are sanctioned. Former job agency employees say crucial internal records are adjusted in preparation for government audits.

“That, I guess, caused alarm bells for me… Claims that have been claimed, signatures that weren’t on them, and we were sort of told, you know, if the signature’s not on it, get it any way that you can.” – Former job agency employee

As the nation grapples with rising unemployment, Four Corners raises uncomfortable questions about the charities and profit-takers making a buck from Australia’s jobless.

“THE JOBS GAME”, reported by Linton Besser and presented by Kerry O’Brien, goes to air on Monday 23rd February at 8.30pm on ABC. The program is replayed on Tuesday 24th February at 10.00am and Wednesday at midnight. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8.00pm, ABC iview


Government recovers over $41 million worth of false claims after ‘rorting’ of Job Services Australia scheme

23/02/15

The Federal Government has clawed back more than $41 million worth of false claims by private employment agencies in just the past three years.

The agencies are contracted by the Government under a privatised welfare-to-work program called Job Services Australia, a sprawling $1.3 billion-a-year scheme designed to get the unemployed into work.

A Four Corners investigation has found rorting of the scheme is rampant. Forgery, manipulation of records and the lodgement of inflated claims for fees are widespread.

One former agency employee said he had seen “thousands” of jobseeker records doctored by his agency to support suspect claims against the taxpayer.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, have been recouped at times by the department.

Rupert Taylor-Price

The managing director of a private employment agency told Four Corners: “There are incentives to be involved in sharp practices from a financial and performance perspective.”

“We had to do the same thing [because] everyone was doing it,” the source said.

“The Government does not want to expose the whole industry.”

Three years ago a top-level inquiry into just one type of fee found spectacular rates of failure, forcing cancellation of that particular fee and prompting industry-wide ructions.

Ominously, the inquiry noted that just 40 per cent of the claims it examined could be confirmed by documentary evidence, or by the testimony of jobseekers and their employers.

The Abbott administration has made some changes to the scheme that take effect mid-way through this year.

But critics say these changes will do little, if anything, to stop widespread gaming of the contract.

Only one in 10 enjoy ‘a better chance of gaining employment’

The ABC has learned that fraud investigators attached to the Department of Employment have launched probes into many of the major agencies contracted to the program since its inception in 1998.

For-profit companies, including the market leader, Max Employment, have been investigated for particular allegations, as well as well-loved Australian charities including the Salvation Army.

There are a variety of means by which the contract is exploited.

The ABC is not suggesting that any particular agency is engaged in the full range of rorts, or other means by which the contract can be optimised.

But despite a long parade of whistleblowers detailing allegations of the misappropriation of taxpayer funds by some agencies, and highly questionable practices by others, the government has declined to detail instances where it has ever sanctioned any single agency operating under the scheme.

But what the department does is only reclaim those from the failures it finds. So even if you are going to put in claims that have a failure rate, you’re still going to have a lot of them not found and keep the money … there’s still an incentive to make the claim.

Rupert Taylor-Price

In one case to be examined on Four Corners, investigators were forced to shelve their inquiries when they discovered a departmental official had explicitly told the agency that it could still collect fees for services the Government knew had never been delivered.

Rupert Taylor-Price, whose software company analyses government data generated by the program, says the scheme is being routinely “optimised” to the detriment of jobseekers.

“Hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, have been recouped at times by the department,” Mr Taylor-Price said.

“But what the department does is only reclaim those from the failures it finds.

“So even if you are going to put in claims that have a failure rate, you’re still going to have a lot of them not found and keep the money … there’s still an incentive to make the claim.”

He says he believes only one in 10 participants in the program enjoy “a better chance of gaining employment”.

The program was created 17 years ago, when the Howard government effectively privatised the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES).

The new policy created a pseudo-marketplace of jobseekers who were forced under Centrelink’s rules to attend private agencies, which would be paid to find them work.

Since then, more than $18 billion has been spent on the welfare to work program – first labelled Job Network, and now known as Job Services Australia.

It has been a cheaper scheme than the CES, but critics say it has also been far less helpful at assisting long-term unemployed people back into work.

‘You can’t make people search for jobs that aren’t there’

Academics and experts have repeatedly pointed out the glaring paradox at the heart of the program: how can these agencies have any impact on the unemployed when the number of jobless far outstrip the number of job vacancies?

“[The welfare to work program] patently hasn’t worked,” said Professor Bill Mitchell, director of Newcastle University’s Centre of Full Employment and Equity.

“It’s an impossible task … there’s not enough jobs to go around. You can’t make people search for jobs that aren’t there, and that’s the dilemma of the whole system.

“We’ve had a demand-side constraint – not enough jobs – and all this vigorous energy and money being poured into a supply-side initiative as if that’s the problem.”

Periodically, the jobs program has been mired in scandal. A major Productivity Commission inquiry in 2002 made adverse findings about the program, including that the long-term unemployed were being “parked”.

It’s absolutely vulnerable to exploitation.

Former senior departmental investigator

Just three years after Job Network was launched, one prominent job agency was accused of shovelling thousands of people into phoney jobs.

In what has become a pattern, a subsequent inquiry cleared the agency of fraud but demanded the repayment of thousands of dollars.

Insiders have told Four Corners that department managers have been reluctant to tighten up the program’s governing contract to prevent blatant rip-offs.

“It’s absolutely vulnerable to exploitation,” said a former senior departmental investigator.

He said he had significant doubts about the will of successive governments to root out the fraud perpetrated against the contract.

“The department was more interested in getting its money back [than sanctioning agencies] … it’s very politically-driven,” the former investigator said.

The Department of Employment provided figures to Four Corners which showed that millions of dollars are routinely recouped from agencies, as a result of audits, self-identification by agencies and other “program assurance activities”.

In 2011–2012, $8.34 million was recovered.

The figure spiked to $23.81 million the following year after the inquiry into one particular type of fee.

And last year, another $9.12 million was reclaimed.

A department spokesman said typical repayments by agencies amounted to “less than 1 per cent of the amount paid each year”, and said it had “robust systems” to detect inappropriate claims for fees.

He would not answer a series of specific questions about past or current investigations conducted by the department.

“In cases of suspected fraud, matters are referred to agencies such as the Australian Federal Police and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions,” the spokesman said.

“Since 2006 the Department has made 38 referrals to the appropriate authorities.”

Background Information

RESPONSES TO FOUR CORNERS

Statement by Catholic Care in response to Four Corners

Statement in response – Four Corners Interview Request | 30 January, 2015

Statement by Salvation Army in response to Four Corners | 5 February, 2015

Statement by the Department of Employment in response to Four Corners

Statement from the Assistant Minister for Employment, the Hon Luke Hartsuyker MP in response to Four Corners

RESEARCH

Letter of concern regarding the Job Network | November 1999

Job Services Australia review and evaluation | Department of Employment | 2014

Labour Force Figures, January 2015 | Australian Bureau of Statistics

Management of Services Delivered by Job Services Australia | Australian National Audit Office | 2013/14

ACOSS submission to APESAA | 2012

Rethinking Australia’s Employment Services | Whitlam Institute | UWS | 2011

A review of developments in the Job Network | Research Paper | Paliamentary Library | 24 December, 2007

Centerlink Quarterly Breach Data | Participation and activity test requirements and penalties for workforce age payments | 20 September 2003

Wage Subsidies | Job Access

Parliamentry Debate | Job Network question to Tony Abbott then Minister for Employment Services | 7 December, 1998

MEDIA

Unemployment | Topic Page | ABC News | Regularly Updated

Young Australians are not giving up on work, despite high unemployment | The Guardian | 17 February 2015

REMINDER: Why employment and unemployment are both rising in Australia | Business Insider | 16 February 2015

Social Service Agency Reacts to Welfare Contractor’s Controversy | Voice of OC | 17 June, 2014

Australia Unemployment Rate 1978-2015 | Trading Economics | 12 February, 2015

Job seeker funding still open to fraud, despite fee reforms | Sydney Morning Herald | 22 April, 2013

Federal Agency Finds Workfare Contractor Violated Wage Law | New York Times | 1 September, 2000

RELEVANT LINKS

Job Services Australia | The Australian Government employment services system that supports job seekers and employers.

Jobs Australia | The national peak body for nonprofit organisations that assist unemployed people to get and keep jobs

Max Solutions Training

Criminals including Tony Mokbel consider appealing convictions after IBAC mauls police over informer scandal


Here we go again , let the crooks ride the system for all it is worth, mostly on legal aid (taxpayers money). Drug dealers and murderers seem to be the only folks who can get access the bottomless resources of legal aid these days .Day to day folks have no chance because they are not facing jail time, does that make their legal woes any less important while scum like Mokbel milk the system dry? These crims see going to court appeal after appeal as a social outing, a time to see family and friends most of the time. They laugh at the system.

Vic police negligent in managing informers

Vic police negligent in managing informers

GANGLAND figures including Tony Mokbel are considering legal bids for freedom after the corruption watchdog found “negligence of a high order’’ in Victoria Police’s handling of informers.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission’s damning report was prompted by a Herald Sun investigation of the force’s controversial use of informers to get information on gangland crimes, drug lords and corrupt police.

IBAC’s inquiry, led by former Supreme Court judge Murray Kellam, found the force failed in its handling of endangered informers and may have subverted Victoria’s justice system.

WITNESS: ‘POLICE THREATENED TO TAKE MY CHILD’

EDITORIAL: WE’VE BEEN KEPT IN DARK ON DIRTY SKELETON

The Herald Sun can today reveal one witness central to the IBAC inquiry has said senior police once threatened to take away a child unless the child’s parent joined the secretive witness protection program.

Tony Mokbel.

Tony Mokbel.

IBAC found police had failed to follow their own guidelines and policies and made 16 secret recommendations for how to handle “human sources’’.

Police passed the report to prosecutors, as Premier Daniel Andrews vowed to oversee reforms “to learn where things have gone wrong”.

Acting Chief Commissioner Tim Cartwright said he would take responsibility, despite not being in command at the time of the controversial decisions.

The report is secret, but there were calls for it to be made public as IBAC revealed the force’s handling of cases may have adversely affected the administration of justice.

The ramifications of the informer scandal could intensify the demand for a judicial inquiry into the police handling of a series of notorious cases.

How the scandal unfolded.

How the scandal unfolded.

The Herald Sun understands several major criminals, including jailed kingpin Tony Mokbel, convicted killer Faruk Orman and a jailed drug figure, are considering their legal options because of the possible contamination of their cases.

Mokbel, who is serving at least 22 years for drug trafficking, has legal advice that the informer crisis could found a successful appeal against his conviction and sentence.

A Mokbel friend said: “We’ve been approached by some lawyers who say … he might knock off a few years, because they have conspired against him.”

Police had previously told the Office of Public Prosecutions more than a dozen cases may have been tainted by their handling of informers.

Mr Cartwright said: “Victoria Police acknowledges there were shortfalls in our management of human sources during that time (2005-09). We didn’t follow best practice and it’s important that lessons were learnt and they have been.”

Acting Chief Commissioner Tim Cartwright. Picture: MIKE KEATING

Acting Chief Commissioner Tim Cartwright. Picture: MIKE KEATING

But he said that the force and prosecutors had found no evidence of a contaminated trial at state level.

“In terms of the state in the last couple of years, there is no evidence at this stage of any threat to any conviction or any evidence of mistrial,” he said.

Any miscarriage of justice would be acted upon, he said.

Opposition police spokesman Ed O’Donohue said: “Daniel Andrews should urgently release a safe, redacted version of this report otherwise his lack of transparency could unfairly erode public confidence in our police force.”

Mr Andrews would not rule out releasing a redacted report.

“It’s my expectation that Victoria Police get on and implement each and every one of the recommendations that IBAC have made … given the history of this matter, I do hope to have more to say soon.

“But at the same time we do need to be very careful.”

He would not be drawn on why a key source was not interviewed by IBAC.


 

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