‘Where did the money go?’: Defunct Victorians Party to hold AGM after $250,000 payment

The failed Victorians Party will hold a forum for disgruntled members to question the political party’s leadership about how they burnt through hundreds of thousands of dollars of income and folded before last year’s state election.

Members of the now-defunct party have been advised of an annual general meeting to take place on Wednesday, March 29. The party, born out of frustration with COVID-19 lockdowns and the major political parties, was launched with fanfare but bowed out of the election race two months before the November polling day.

The Victorians Party received $250,000 from a company connected to billionaire Jonathan Munz, pictured in 2008.Credit:Martin King

The Age revealed last month that the Victorians Party had received $250,000 in membership fees from an investment company owned and managed by billionaire Jonathan Munz. That money was exempt from the state’s $4320 donations cap because it was made as an annual subscription fee and declared as such.

Following coverage of the subscription fee, an anonymous email was sent to Victorians Party members calling for an AGM.

“Members are wondering where the money went and what it was used on,” the email read. “Transparency is vital in all political parties. There is no suggestion that Mr Munz did anything improper. He is free to spend his money any way he likes. But where did all that money go?”

The $250,000 subscription fee aside, the Victorians Party received $9500 in total donations, according Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) disclosures. The party’s expenditure was $242,071.23, according to the same documents.

The VEC was asked last year to investigate what happened to the money pledged to the party.

But the commission has remained silent on whether the complaint is even being looked at. A VEC spokeswoman said: “We have no further update to provide, noting that we do not comment publicly on complaints received.”

Victorians Party members have since been advised of an AGM to be held in Kew before the party’s business arm is formally wound up. Members also received an apology from the party’s state support committee for having received the anonymous email.

“We are investigating how member details were accessed,” the follow-up email read.

A party spokesman said on Monday the group had met all of its obligations both as a registered political party and as an incorporated association.

“This includes a publicly disclosed, audited report … to the VEC as specified in the Electoral Act,” the spokesman said. “All current members of the association have been invited to attend [the upcoming AGM].”

Various fundraisers for the now-defunct party were held in the leadup to the 2022 state election, including a golf day in Glenroy that spruiked the attendance of former AFL stars Anthony Koutoufides, Alex Marcou and Paul Dimattina. That event was followed by a $90-a-head dinner, according to flyers distributed at the time.

Parties are forbidden from using subscription fees for political campaigning.

The Victorians Party leadership has always maintained the Munz payment was used for administrative purposes to establish the party. It is not suggested Munz received or expected to receive anything for the payment.

The party voluntarily de-registered in September 2022, causing a rift between those who said the party was unviable and those who still wanted to contest the state election.

Political accountability experts have said the $250,000 subscription highlights an “obvious loophole” in Victoria’s donations laws given a membership to the state Labor Party ranges from $30 to $400 and Liberal Party memberships cost anywhere from $42 to $118.

Victorians Party rules, seen by The Age, did not specify a dollar value for membership fees.

The Andrews government has previously said Victoria has some of the toughest political donations laws in the country. That is despite NSW capping subscription and affiliation fees at $2000.

Liberal MP David Davis, the Coalition’s spokesman for electoral oversight, said he doubted the government’s willingness to tackle subscription and affiliation fees due to the income Labor generated from unions.

“Labor’s electoral laws are riddled with inconsistencies, confusions and unfairness,” he said. “Unions get free rein and Labor has been successful in tilting the playing field to their advantage.”

The chair of the independent Accountability Round Table and former Democrats senator, Lyn Allison, said the Victorian government should follow NSW’s lead and implement a monetary cap for political membership and subscription fees.

“Memberships and donations should all be made transparent and moderated by spending caps so there is no room for loopholes,” Allison said.

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