A top Abbott government senator says he did not know the details about disgraced Victorian Liberal director Damien Mantach’s Tasmanian debts.
Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz says he was told only that there would be an investigation into potential inappropriate use of Mr Mantach’s credit card in 2008.
Mr Mantach had to repay almost $50,000 to the Tasmanian division, before admitting last week to stealing $1.5 million from the Victorian branch.
Senator Abetz said he had a meeting with the Liberals’ then state president Dale Archer about Mr Mantach on March 5, 2008.
“No advice was sought or offered. No sum of money was mentioned. This is not surprising, given that an investigation was still to occur,” Senator Abetz said on Thursday.
Will Hodgman, Liberal opposition leader at the time and now Tasmanian premier, told Parliament this week he and Mr Abetz had been briefed on Mr Mantach’s debts seven years ago.
But Senator Abetz said he had a separate briefing to Mr Hodgman, and he was away for a state executive meeting two weeks later where Mr Mantach’s resignation was reported.
“My knowledge until recently was that Mr Mantach had resigned and the expense issues had been satisfactorily resolved,” Senator Abetz said.
Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten said the Liberal Party must explain how taxpayers’ money was rorted by Mr Mantach.
The party is investigating the matter.
“People need to explain – within the senior ranks of the Liberal Party – what they knew, were they aware, could they have prevented this and what steps they have put in place (since),” Mr Shorten told reporters.
The Victorian Liberal Party has recouped $450,000 of the missing funds by selling Mr Mantach’s share portfolio, but has chosen not to sell his family home.
It has also handed $200,000 to the federal and state parliaments to cover potential misuse of taxpayer funds.
Mr Mantach is also under investigation by the Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad.