Matthew Guy says he hasn’t received any calls from colleagues asking him to stand aside as state opposition leader because of this week’s donations scandal.
Addressing, the media as he left a conference at Melbourne Town Hall on Friday, Guy expressed confidence about the upcoming state election while brushing aside concerns his leadership was damaged.
Matthew Guy (inset) with former chief of staff Mitch Catlin.Credit:The Age
It comes after Guy’s chief of staff Mitch Catlin resigned on Tuesday after he asked billionaire Liberal donor Jonathan Munz to pay more than $100,000 to his private marketing business. Munz said that when he received the email “he rejected it out of hand” and no agreement was ever signed.
Guy, who is expected to announce his new chief of staff in coming days, has not answered detailed questions about the proposed scheme, defending himself by arguing the contract was never signed and did not go ahead.
But privately, Liberal MPs are furious about the scandal and at least seven of Guy’s parliamentary colleagues told The Age this week they did not believe their leader would survive if further questions emerged about his judgement and integrity.
On Friday, Guy rejected the assertion his leadership was under a cloud ahead of the November election.
“I don’t accept it at all. No one’s called me about that and I don’t believe they will,” Guy told reporters.
Asked if he would stand aside for the good of the party if the controversy escalated with any new revelations, he said: “I think I’m going to go back to my office and do some work.”
Emboldened by two recent reports from integrity agencies into the conduct of the Labor MPs and staff, the Coalition had planned to hammer the government on governance matters in the four-month lead-up to the election.
But those plans were derailed when a leaked message from Catlin to Guy’s private Hotmail email account surfaced, along with a contract the chief of staff had drafted by his lawyers.
The email detailed Catlin’s proposal for Munz, a wealthy horse racing identity, to pay $8333 a month to his private marketing company, Catchy Media Marketing and Management, for services as a contractor. The services were to be described as “supporting business interests”.
“Hey MG. Attached is the proposed agreement between [the donor] and Catchy Media Marketing and Management,” Catlin wrote to Guy. “It’s as per the original email agreement between you and me. Can I leave you to forward onto him?”
Catlin resigned within hours of the story breaking and has not spoken publicly since, while Guy has taken questions but not provided any answers about the specifics of the plan that was proposed, how it came about or why it never eventuated.
The government seized on the opposition leader’s woes, by referring him and his party to a host of law enforcement and integrity agencies over the matter. Victoria Police, the state’s electoral commission, the ombudsman, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and the Australian Federal Police were among those alerted. Those organisations have confirmed they have each received Labor’s complaint, but as yet, none have opened an investigation.
In the face of that scrutiny, Guy tried to turn attention back on the government when door-stopped by media on Friday.
“[The media] should be more focused on the premier’s leadership. The premier is leading the most corrupt government in Victoria’s history. We’ve got 110 days to make sure the state knows that the most corrupt government in its history gets shown the door,” he said.
Guy has been Liberal leader for the past 10 months after ousting Michael O’Brien last September. He was previously in the role for four years from 2014, but relinquished the job to O’Brien after a resounding loss at the 2018 election.
More to come.
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