O’Brien and Crozier in slush fund scandal
Victorian Liberal MPs are enraged that Michael O’Brien has been using a secretive slush fund called the Communications Fund sourced from parliamentary budgets to supplement the payment of wages for a shadow minister and other off the books activities.
Mr O’Brien used the fund to prop up his collapsed leadership by assembling the largest ever shadow cabinet in order to maintain party room support.
The slush fund is managed by Georgie Crozier who routinely bills MP’s electorate office budgets amounts around $8,000 each. Victorian parliamentarians have strict rules around how their office budgets are used. Having funds gathered and centrally managed outside of parliamentary scrutiny and for unaccountable usage is highly questionable.
One party figure stated, “Essentially O’Brien and Crozier are cheating the system and if IBAC were to investigate, Crozier could be found both defrauding taxpayers and breaking Parliament’s strict rules.”
In 2020 it was revealed in the media that Michael O’Brien was using the “Comms Fund” to top up the salary of an additional shadow minister. An MP at the time was reported as saying there was “no transparency” about how the Communications Fund money was spent.
Another MP said the issue had been raised at a party room meeting, with several Liberals refusing to pay the levy until Mr O’Brien provided a profit-and-loss statement detailing revenue and spending.
“It’s incumbent on an organisation that’s had governance challenges in the past to be transparent,” an MP was quoted as saying in 2020. “We’re not even being told by our own leaders how our money’s being spent.”
At that time, the media reported that all coalition MPs are forced to pay a levy of “almost $2000 which is generally used by the Liberal and National parties to pay for staff and advertising associated with communicating the opposition’s message.”
Party insiders indicate that the amounts levied per Liberal electorate office is significantly higher than $2000.
“Georgie Crozier is the bag lady for a far more sophisticated operation,” one insider explained. “Thousands of dollars are going down this dark and murky hole. Liberal MPs contributions are being funnelled into a slush fund that has the flexibility to do all kinds of things no MP ordinary can do.”
The fact that Michael O’Brien could use the fund to pay a portion of an MPs wages certainly raises questions about how the fund operates, let alone issues around reporting for tax purposes. The fund is controlled by Michael O’Brien and Georgie Crozier.
While MPs should seek to fund communications in light of elections, it is a severe breach of the rules if parliamentary funds were being used for party-specific advertising and campaigning.
Serious questions are now being raised about the higher amounts than publicly reported that MPs have been contributing in the past few years to the hidden fund.
Investigations should be undertaken to probe this and its links to mysterious large amounts of money called the Diamond Fund, which is said to be managed by several MPs. David Southwick is said to be one of the signatories to the Diamond Fund.
“Having a fund with significant sums run and controlled by MPs is beyond belief,” said one party insider. “Questions need to be asked within Parliament as well as by authorities around why Michael O’Brien and other MPs would be managing, distributing and using these funds, when fund collection and related activities should never be done by MPs.”
One leading party power broker complained that these funds were being used for factionally aligned activities which is not parliamentary business. “This is against all rules and completely unethical. Michael O’Brien and Georgie Crozier are at the centre of this scandal. They’ve made a huge series of mistakes and may even be forced out of Parliament.”