A staffer of federal MP Stuart Robert has contradicted her boss by testifying she didn’t know her Gold Coast council election campaign would be funded by the Liberal National Party.
Felicity Stevenson, who worked for the former Turnbull government minister for a decade, took leave in early 2016 to unsuccessfully run as an independent in the March 19 local government election.
Ms Stevenson on Wednesday told a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation she received $30,000 from the Fadden Forum, a fundraising arm of the LNP, during the campaign.
Her testimony was similar to that of another staffer in Mr Robert’s office, Kristyn Boulton, who successfully ran in the council election after also receiving $30,000 from the Fadden Forum.
Mr Robert last week testified he told both women at a meeting in his office in late January that he would help get some “dollars and cents” for their campaigns.
“I said I would seek permission for it to come from the Fadden Forum,” Mr Robert said.
Ms Stevenson said Mr Robert told her in a one-on-one meeting in her office that he would support her campaign but did not mention how.
She received an initial donation of $10,000 a few days later, followed by $15,000 and a further $5000.
The commission heard Ms Stevenson assumed Mr Robert was behind the deposits, as her banking app only showed the amount, not who it was from.
It was not until after the election when she checked her statement that she saw the deposits were from the LNP.
Ms Stevenson said Mr Robert told her to list the Fadden Forum on her disclosure, a compulsory and publicly available form that reveals campaign contributions.
“I asked him what I needed to put on the return for the donations,” she said.
The only other donation made to Ms Stevenson’s campaign was $1000 from her grandmother.
Ms Stevenson said she knew about the forum’s connection to the LNP but thought it was a “different beast” at the time of the council election.
Ms Boulton last week also claimed she was ignorant about how the forum worked.
“Something I have to wear is perhaps I’ve been a little naive,” she said.
“He said to me they’re from the Fadden Forum, which I accepted.”
But Mr Robert stated fundraising got a lot of “air time” in his office of just four staff.
“It would be hard to be in my office for a long time and not know how we raise money for the Liberal National Party,” the Gold Coast-based MP said.
The Fadden Forum made up two-thirds of the donations to Ms Boulton, who was successfully elected as an independent.