One of the Labor Party’s most powerful machine-men, ALP assistant national secretary Nick Martin, has a large portion of his salary paid from a $1 million per year federal government AusAID grant, which he administers and which is designed for the promotion of democracy in developing countries.
Michael Smith editorial - Labor, Liberal and The Greens ganging up on taxpayers to fund their own lifestyles
Here's Labor's George Wright, one of the people who gets to decide who gets the political exchange program money to fund their travel wish list. George knows a thing or two about a good milking opportunity!
Concerns about this practice have led some senior Labor MPs to question whether it is appropriate for a full-time party official to have his salary defrayed in this way.
One critic of the partial repayment of Mr Martin’s salary from the democracy program said he had been told not to tell anyone about the payments.
He told The Australian Financial Review, however, that he believed it was inappropriate and impossible to know what part of his time Mr Martin spent promoting democracy (and billing that time to AusAID), and what part of his time he spent working for the ALP: “This is a person who is supposed to campaign full-time for the Labor Party. There is no way this grant was envisaged as a way to subsidise political activity for the administration of the party," he said.
“So this could be a $60,000 or $70,000 subsidy per annum – and it’s meant to be for promoting international democracy and sending people here or overseas."
It is understood that the ALP secretariat bills about 40 per cent of Mr Martin’s salary to the democracy program which is administered by AusAID and was established in 2005 by the Howard government.
The grant delivers triennial funds of $1 million per year to the ALP and the Liberal Party and $200,000 to the Greens.
ALL ABOVE BOARD
Nick Martin’s total salary is not disclosed by the ALP.
The ALP’s national secretary George Wright said on Thursday that there was no impropriety and the system by which Mr Martin salary’s comes partially from AusAID’s Australian Political Parties for Democracy Program (APPDP) was above board and fully disclosed.
He said Mr Martin had a senior position in the ALP running the party’s international division and that the ALP itself paid for all his ALP work.
“Nick Martin is the director of Labor International, the ALP’s international division," Mr Wright said.
“As part of this role he oversees and performs roles in relation to the administration and program delivery of APPDP-funded activities.
“All other activities performed by Nick Martin as part of his work as ALP assistant national secretary are fully funded by the ALP." Mr Wright did not disclose how many months of 2013 Mr Martin had been fully employed on Labor’s re-election campaign after former prime minister Julia Gillard in January this year scheduled an election for September – and what portion of his time was expended separately on international work billable to AusAID.
“Specifically, when Nick is working on ALP matters like the federal election, his salary is paid by the ALP and not from APPDP funds," Mr Wright said.
“Any suggestion of impropriety or misuse of funds on the part of the ALP or Nick Martin is completely false," Mr Wright said.
CLEAR ACCOUNTABILITY MECHANISMS
Mr Wright said the ALP fully disclosed and accounted for all expenditure under the APPDP to the relevant government department – AusAID, which comes under the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“The program is governed by clear accountability mechanisms including reporting to the department and independent auditing of all expenditure by KPMG chartered accountants. All funds are properly accounted for and have only been used for proper APPDP purposes, as the independent audits by KPMG demonstrate," Mr Wright said.
Mr Martin, a left-winger, has been assistant national secretary of the ALP since 2005 and was deputy ALP campaign director this year.
He was tipped to be among candidates seeking a parachute into the Labor-held seat of Charlton, vacated this year by former Rudd and Gillard government minister Greg Combet.
Mr Martin has been closely allied to both Mr Combet and Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese.
Under the funding agreement, at least 50 per cent of the APPDP money is required to be used by the political parties to promote democracy in developing countries. The rest can be used for international activities in developed countries, a loose stipulation that critics claim gives all recipients a chance to use it for whatever they wish.
Political parties managing the funds are free to make their own decisions on program management and the responsibilities and salaries of project officers.