The revelation that Opposition Leader Matthew Guy’s chief of staff asked a donor to pay more than $100,000 to his private marketing firm, on top of his taxpayer-funded salary, managed to shock many Victorians used to regular breaches of integrity.
Leaked documents reported in age uncovered a draft contract that would have required the donor to pay $8,333 a month to Mitch Catlin’s private marketing firm for services described as “supporting business interests.”
Just two weeks after the publication of a report by Operation Watts – a joint investigation by the IBAC and the Ombudsman, which found ‘rampant nepotism’ and ‘attempts to interfere with government grants’ in the Andrews government to foster factional-aligned grassroots organizations” – this latest disclosure highlights the reality that breaches of integrity are a significant issue across all parties in Victoria.
Catlin resigned shortly after the story was published. Guy clarifies that the contract was never signed and that he never passed it on to the Liberal donor. In his words: “We didn’t do that. We didn’t agree with that. Nothing has been signed. There was nothing signed. He seemed to think that cleared up the problem entirely. He told his village hall that the resignation would allow the party to move forward and continue to sue the Andrews government over its own integrity issues. He laughs at himself.
At no time did Guy attempt to explain the context or purpose of the contract. At no point did he explain why, if Catlin had to resign, it only became necessary after age reported the story. If integrity matters now, why didn’t it matter when Guy found out about the scheme? At no time did he take responsibility for what was potentially a means of supplementing his chief of staff’s salary. If Guy meant what he said this week when he said, “I value integrity,” then he has to explain himself.
Instead, using the cover of possible outside investigations into these matters, he refuses to answer any questions – a trick borrowed from Daniel Andrews’ playbook. There’s nothing stopping Guy from answering questions now, and he has to.
How does Guy expect to be taken seriously when it comes to integrity if he and his chief of staff were willing to consider an arrangement of this nature, circumventing the rules of integrity and transparency, even if he didn’t ultimately unsuccessful? On the face of it, this appears to either be an attempt to circumvent the individual donor donation cap and donation transparency, or supplement Catlin’s state-funded salary by allowing him to moonlight as a vendor. unspecified services through his private company.
The last federal election showed that voters care about integrity. It cannot be treated by political leaders as mere window dressing and then weaponized to be used against opponents.