22/07/2009 - 09:18

Catania hits back at Labor spend claims

22/07/2009 - 09:18


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Labor Party defector Vince Catania has denied misappropriating tens of thousands of dollars from the state Labor Party at last year's state election.

Catania hits back at Labor spend claims

Labor Party defector Vince Catania has denied misappropriating tens of thousands of dollars from the state Labor Party at last year's state election.

Mr Catania, the MP for North West, resigned earlier this week amid Labor claims he had received warnings about his poor profile and performance in the electorate, which covers the Mid West, Gascoyne and Pilbara regions of the state.

Mr Catania says he left the party because the National Party better reflected the aspirations and needs of people in country regions through its Royalties for Regions program.

WA ALP secretary Simon Mead told a press conference in Perth today that the party had launched an investigation into Mr Catania's finances and was seeking legal advice.

Mr Mead said Mr Catania had overspent campaign funds at the last state election and still owed the party "thousands of dollars".

"You might calculate it as one fortieth of the total spent," Mr Mead said.

"As revealed in the electoral commission papers, we spent over $3 million on the election campaign."

On those figures, the ALP is claiming Mr Catania owes it as much as $75,000.

Mr Mead also claimed that only two weeks before leaving the party, Mr Catania had sought to transfer $10,000 in campaign funds into a personal Bendigo Bank account.

Mr Catania denied any misappropriation of campaign funds and challenged Mr Mead to put his complaints in writing.

"This is part of a smear campaign because they are very angry for me leaving," he told Fairfax Radio on Wednesday.

"There has never been any misappropriation of funds because we have to be fully accountable and disclose those funds after the campaign to the electoral commission, which has been done."

Mr Catania said it was the first he had heard of any financial issues with the ALP.

However, Mr Mead said he has had "dozens of conversations" with Mr Catania about his financial woes.

Mr Mead presented journalists with emails he sent to Mr Catania in March and November last year about his debt with the party.

He did not include the emailed responses of Mr Catania, saying it was not up to him to comment on his former colleagues work ethic.

He said the ALP had tightened party policy on campaign funds following the WA Inc scandal of the 1980s and early 1990s.

"The kind of financial mismanagement that occurred under Brian Burke in the 1980s will not occur again," he said.

"(Mr Catania) signed a contract with the Labor Party which says if he left the Labor Party he is liable for the election funds which we spent getting him elected.

"I call on the National Party and Vince Catania to repay that money in good faith because he got elected in the Labor Party."

Mr Catania has been linked to Mr Burke, the former Labor premier and lobbyist, in a 2007 report of the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) report.

The CCC found he had made representations on behalf of Mr Burke to government ministers without declaring he was acting for the lobbyist.

Mr Mead said the ALP shouldn't have preselected a city dweller like Mr Catania for a country seat and that "we definitely won't make that mistake again".

Mr Catania is the son of former Labor MP and Perth City of Vincent mayor Nick Catania, who supports his decision to switch parties as a "courageous" move.

Outside Parliament House, Kimberley MLA Carol Martin told reporters she felt "personally disappointed" with Mr Catania's decision after mentoring and defending the 32-year-old MP against internal party criticism of his performance.



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