Row over leak of Liberal Party construction watchdog plan

UPDATED | A political fight has erupted over an anonymous email account purporting to belong to “Concerned Liberals” which has been leaking details of the Opposition’s plans.

Aug 19, 2022, updated Aug 19, 2022
Opposition leader David Speirs. Photo: David Mariuz/AAP

Opposition leader David Speirs. Photo: David Mariuz/AAP

The “Concerned Liberals” email account has leaked sensitive information about the party to select Adelaide journalists since last year.

Its latest missive to journalists – sent Thursday morning – included a screenshot of an Opposition media release, which the anonymous account holders claim was dropped to The Advertiser for intended publication on Friday.

The Liberal leader says Labor should explain if it is linked to the account – an accusation trenchantly denied by the Government.

The leaked media release, which is dated Friday, August 19, announces Opposition plans to introduce legislation to parliament which would establish a state-based construction oversight body similar to the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

It states the planned legislation was prompted by the John Setka-led Victorian branch of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union’s (CFMEU) recent “takeover” of the South Australian branch.

The merger – described by the union as a “co-operative administration arrangement” – has prompted criticism from some developers that it could lead to the South Australian branch becoming more militant and wage hike demands.

“The South Australian Liberal Party will introduce new legislation to protect workers, stamp out bad behaviour and combat lawlessness in the construction industry,” the screenshot of the release sent by the “Concerned Liberals” states.

“The union-backed Federal Labor Government has vowed to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). The Commission’s powers have already been significantly stripped back.

“Leader of the Opposition David Speirs said the winding back of the ABCC is why South Australia urgently needs its own watchdog.”

The release was distributed widely by Speirs this morning.

In an email to journalists on Tuesday, the “Concerned Liberals” claimed Speirs was due to hold a press conference about the planned legislation on Wednesday.

The anonymous entity stated Speirs “should’ve announced this two weeks ago when the CFMEU issue was hot”.

“I am not even sure it can be done given most industrial relations powers have been handed over to the Commonwealth, it will be light on detail because it has been rushed,” the email stated.

But the press conference was not called, prompting the “Concerned Liberals” account to send this morning’s email.

“Speirs decided not to go ahead with it on Wednesday so has given it to The Advertiser for tomorrow,” they wrote on Thursday.

Speirs released a statement on Friday saying Labor minister Tom Koutsantonis had questions to answer about the Concerned Liberals account.

He said the media release had been given to one media outlet on an embargoed basis, which the journalist then provided to Koutsantonis’ office for comment.

Within an hour the media release “which had only been seen by two other people”, was emailed to multiple newsrooms, except the media outlet it came from, Speirs said.

He said Koutsantonis must explain if there’s a connection between the media release being sent to his office and the subsequent release by the Concerned Liberals account.

“This type of behaviour is disappointing,” Speirs said. “We must find out who is behind this fake email account and that conversation starts with Tom Koutsantonis’ office.

“Tom Koutsantonis needs to ensure this leak is investigated urgently by an independent party so we can finally get to the bottom of this.”

A government spokesperson released a statement saying Koutsantonis “categorically denies that either he or anyone from his office is responsible for this leak”.

“This is an outrageous slur and clearly a desperate attempt by David Speirs to divert attention away from internal divisions,” he said.

He said there had been multiple leaks from the Liberals in recent weeks.

“It’s time for David Speirs to provide evidence or cease making these defamatory comments.”

Topics: David Speirs
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