Assistant Minister accused of operating fundraiser out of Melbourne electorate office

Assistant Minister for Customs Jason Wood during Question Time on Wednesday. Source: AAP

Documents suggest a fundraising vehicle that made nearly $128,000 for the Liberal Party is being run from an MP's office.

Labor has accused Assistant Minister Jason Wood of running a Liberal Party fundraising vehicle out of his electorate office.

Deputy opposition leader Richard Marles questioned why the Pinnacle Club, an associated entity of the Victorian Liberal Party, has the exact same contact details as Mr Wood's Melbourne office.

Labor says Jason Wood has breached ministerial standards.
Labor says Jason Wood has breached ministerial standards.

"How is the Assistant Minister for Customs allowing the Pinnacle Club ... to use his taxpayer-funded office, his taxpayer-funded phone number and his ministerial PO box, possibly consistent with the prime minister's ministerial standards?" Mr Marles asked during Question Time in Parliament on Wednesday.

He also asked about an upcoming $750-a-head event the Pinnacle Club is holding at an exclusive Melbourne cigar and whiskey club that features Mr Wood, Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar and embattled Liberal MP Gladys Liu as drawcards.

An invitation to the $750 event.
An invitation to the $750 event.

Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) documents provided by the opposition show that both the Pinnacle Club and Mr Wood share the same post office box address in Melbourne's Berwick and the same phone number.

The organisation also has a Parliament House email address of the type used by political staffers.

According to the AEC documents, the Pinnacle Club raised $127,994 in political donations in 2017-2018.

The ministerial standards require "appropriate use of the resources available to their office for public purposes".

It also says "ministers and their staff are provided with resources and facilities at public expense for the effective conduct of public business".

Labor material claims "running an associated entity of a political party from an electorate/ministerial office is a clear breach of ministerial standards".

'A desperate stunt'

Mr Wood has denied any wrongdoing. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for Mr Wood said he "manages his offices and expenses within the guidelines".

"Resources provided for contacting a member or their staff, such as email addresses, PO boxes etc. can be listed as contact details where parliamentarians or their staff are reporting to regulators such as the Australian Electoral Commission," it said.

"It is not unusual for employees to provide their work contact details so that they can be reached during business hours for activities outside of their usual hours of work."

"This is a desperate stunt from Labor today who have done exactly the same thing in the way they list addresses for reporting as in the case of Alicia Payne, Terri Butler and even Graham Perrett when he was holding a fundraiser for Anthony Albanese."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was satisfied there was no potential breach of the ministerial standards.

"Prior to coming to Question Time today and indeed to now, I have no information in front of me that would suggest that any of the matters that they have alleged is falling foul of the standards".

"But I can tell you one thing wasn't happening … No one walked into his office with a big plastic bag full of $100,000 and counted it out on the table like happens on Sussex Street on a regular basis, it would seem."

Additional reporting: AAP

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