Labor MP Michael Danby spent $4574 on two controversial newspaper ads attacking an ABC journalist last year – despite being warned by parliamentary authorities he may need to “justify and defend” using public money for such a purpose.
Documents obtained by this blog reveal Australian Jewish News (AJN) was paid $1650 to place each of the adverts, published in September and October last year, accusing two-time Walkley Award winner Sophie McNeill of “double standards” in her coverage of the Middle East region.
An additional $1274.50 was spent on graphic design for the items, bringing the total cost of the two adverts to $4574.50 – all paid from Danby’s parliamentary communications allowance.
“Mr Danby may need to publicly justify and defend the item”
Danby’s claim to recoup the cost of the first advert (29 September 2017) seems to have first been submitted on 3 October – four days AFTER the item was published, and when a political bunfight about its content was already underway.
The Department of Finance’s Ministerial and Parliamentary Services (MPS) team, which oversees MPs’ office expenses, agreed to the payments on 5 October, apparently on the basis that the MP signed a form declaring the spending was for “parliamentary or electorate purposes” only.
However Danby was also warned by MPS about the potential fallout, being told he may “need to publicly justify and defend the item if required”.
A second advert was published in AJN on 6 October 2017, despite apparent attempts by Labor’s leadership to have it cancelled.
In requesting payment for the second ad, Danby’s office told MPS the item “is to be published in a local publication”. AJN is based in the Melbourne suburb of Elsternwick within Danby’s electorate – however invoices show that both ads were also placed in AJN’s Sydney edition at additional cost.
Danby claimed at the time that he used “a small amount” of his parliamentary allowance on the “discounted” adverts, and had advertised “far more extensively” on other issues.
The documents were obtained through a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Finance.
See the full documents:
Be nice. Give due credit.
UPDATE: Fairfax have now published an article on this story (with credit, thanks!)