Federal MP Stuart Robert arrives for a hearing at the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) in Brisbane, Tuesday, April 18, 2017. Mr Roberts will today be questioned as part of investigation into conduct of candidates involved in the 2016 local government elections for the Gold Coast City Council, Moreton Bay Regional Council and Ipswich City Council. (AAP Image/Dan Peled) NO ARCHIVING AAP Photo?? Photo: AAPAn electorate officer for federal Liberal National Party MP Stuart Robert has contradicted her boss in a Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission hearing in Brisbane, saying she was never told an LNP fundraising body would back her campaign.
Felicity Stevenson unsuccessfully ran as an independent candidate in Division 5 at the 2016 Gold Coast City Council election.
The CCC is investigating whether anyone broke the law during last year’s Queensland local government elections by failing to disclose donations or party affiliations.
Last week, Mr Robert told the commission he had arranged an LNP fundraising body called the Fadden Forum to fund both Ms Stevenson and Kristyn Boulton, both former LNP members employed at his electorate office, to the tune of $30,000 each.
Ms Boulton was subsequently elected to the council, while Ms Stevenson returned to Mr Robert’s employ.
“Once Felicity said, ‘yes, I’m going to run’ … I grabbed both girls in my office and said, ‘well, if you’re both going to run and you’re running against some pretty seasoned Labor outfits, or people aligned that way … you might need some assistance, and I’m going to seek advice on whether the Fadden Forum can do that’,” Mr Robert said last Tuesday.
On Wednesday, at CCC headquarters in Fortitude Valley, Ms Stevenson said Mr Robert never mentioned the Fadden Forum in his discussions about the campaign with her.
“The extent of the conversation was that he would just help raise some dollars and cents for my campaign,” she said.
Counsel assisting the commission Glen Rice, QC, asked Ms Stevenson if there was any mention of the source of that funding, she said there was not.
“I didn’t know at the time,” she said.
Ms Stevenson’s campaign bank account, tendered as evidence on Wednesday, showed three donations of $10,000, $15,000 and $5000, which all had the source displayed as coming from the LNP.
But, in her original electoral disclosure, signed on May 20 last year, Ms Stevenson had listed the donor as the Fadden Forum, which she said she did on the post-election advice of Mr Robert.
A subsequent declaration on February 13 this year changed the donation source to “Liberal National Party”.
“I sought legal advice and the advice was the return needed to be amended,” Ms Stevenson told the commission.
Mr Robert told the commission last week he had organised the LNP, through the Fadden Forum, to donate the money to his two electorate office workers to prevent Labor getting a foothold in his seat.
While he conceded $60,000 would look like a lot of money to most voters, Mr Robert said: “If the Labor Party gets a foothold I’ll have to spend a lot more money (to be re-elected).”
All up, Ms Stevenson declared $32,595 in donations, $30,000 of which came from the LNP through the Fadden Forum.
Ms Stevenson also employed the services of Shac Communications, run by lobbyist and former Tony Abbott staffer Simone Holzapfel.
The commission, which is investigating undeclared party links as part of its probe, has heard Shac also provided campaign help to mayor Tom Tate, who has been granted a lifetime membership of the LNP, Ms Boulton, one-time LNP state candidate Cameron Caldwell, Gary Baildon and Pauline Young.
“Did you perceive them to be conservative aligned candidates, at least in terms of their politics?” Mr Rice asked Ms Holzapfel during her appearance last week.
“They would be conservative candidates, yes,” she replied.
The hearing continues.