Whether there were any outstanding disclosure obligations on behalf of the Liberal Party of Australia – Queensland Division in relation to $140 000 legal fees incurred by Mr Russell Galt in 2003 for a court appeal against Dr Bruce Flegg's preselection for the Queensland state seat of Moggill.
The matter first came to notice following publication of an article in The Australian on 31 August 2006 alleging that the Liberal Party of Australia – Federal Secretariat paid legal fees totalling $140 000 on behalf of Mr Galt. The article also alleged that the Federal MP for Ryan, Mr Michael Johnson, held functions to raise money to cover Mr Galt's legal fees costs.
Subsequently, the matter was raised by members of the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee during a Senate Estimates Hearing on 31 October 2006. The AEC agreed to treat the matter as a special matter.
Part XX of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
This inquiry has taken 20 months to complete. The inquiry examined expenditure incurred by the Liberal Party of Australia – Queensland Division and the Liberal Party of Australia – the Federal Secretariat.
A compliance review of the Liberal Party – Qld Division and its two party units, the Ryan FEC and Ryan Campaign Account, conducted in November 2006 advised that Mr Galt's legal fees were paid by the Liberal Party of Australia – Federal Secretariat. However, the review did not establish whether Mr Michael Johnson had been involved in raising funds to pay for Mr Galt's legal fees as suggested in the article published by The Australian on 31 August 2006.
A subsequent compliance review conducted in February 2007 of the Liberal Party of Australia – Federal Secretariat confirmed that the Party had made two payments totalling $110 000 for Mr Galt's legal fees to the legal firm, Minter Ellison.
The identity of a person who made the final payment of $30 000 was not established until June 2008.
The AEC has concluded that further investigation into the matter would not be warranted under subsection 315(11) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. Under subsection 315(11), any offence would need to be referred for prosecution within 3 years of an offence having being committed. As the legal fees were paid in December 2003, the three year period has expired.
The AEC considers the matter completed.
Date: 7 July 2008