Edition 1 – FIRSTWED 01 FEB 2006, Page 008
Group paid MP for use of office
By Ellen Whinnett
A LABOR MP has accepted thousands of dollars in donations from a community organisation he runs.
Government Whip Craig Langdon took the donations in return for letting the business group work in his taxpayer-funded office free of charge.
Parliamentary rules barring sub-letting of electorate offices did not apply.
Mr Langdon set up an unofficial arrangement whereby payments were made directly into a fund to help his re-election.
The arrangement was made more complicated when he became treasurer, then president, of the organisation — meaning he co-signs some cheques.
The Mall Traders Association has admitted making several donations to Mr Langdon’s election account to thank him for allowing them to use his office in the Bell St Mall, Heidelberg West, and to “relieve their guilt.”
Mr Langdon, the member for Ivanhoe, denied any wrongdoing. He said no rent had been paid and no lease signed by the Mall Traders Association.
Mr Langdon said he allowed many community groups to use his office.
He confirmed he had been treasurer of the Mall Traders and in November became president, but said he had written no cheques to himself.
“Those sorts of cheques I would never write,” Mr Langdon said.
Asked if he believed there was concern about the payments, Mr Langdon said: “If you’re trying to beat up a storm in a teacup, anything can be.
“The Mall Traders books are audited.
“All donations met legal requirements.”
The Herald Sun can reveal the following:
â– AN audit for the Mall Traders Association in 2003-04 shows $2225 rent was paid, but does not say to whom.
â– A TREASURER’S report from May 2005, signed by Mr Langdon, shows a $700 payment from the Mall Traders to the Ivanhoe State Electorate Campaign Committee for “office/storage”.
â– VICTORIAN taxpayers pay for Mr Langdon’s office, and Banyule City Council ratepayers pay half the funding of the Mall Traders Association.
Co-ordinator of the Mall Traders, Cassandra Kemp, said Mr Langdon had provided the office space for her to work two days a week because of security problems at the Traders’ previous office.
“It’s kind of not official,” Ms Kemp said.
“Lots of community groups use his office.”
Ms Kemp said the group did not pay rent but made donations to an account she said was “a campaign thing in Ivanhoe”.
“We make a donation, but not on a regular basis,” she said.
“It’s not anything he (Mr Langdon) asks for. It’s something the Traders decided to do.
“It’s just to relieve our own guilt, I suppose.”
Asked how much, Ms Kemp said: “It depends what the committee decides at the time.”
She said he hadn’t been paid since he became president in November.
Mr Langdon confirmed that the Ivanhoe SECC account was an ALP campaign account.
He said he did not know how much money the Mall Traders had donated to him over the years.
“It’s a long-standing practice that’s never been questioned,” he said. “There is nothing untoward whatsoever.”
Mr Langdon said he contributed $5000-$15,000 towards the cost of running his own office.