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Labor escalates attack on Liberal candidate over failed business

The state government has called for the national corporate regulator to investigate the Liberal Party’s candidate for Dunstan over her directorship of a family business that went into administration in 2019.

Feb 29, 2024, updated Feb 29, 2024
The Liberal Party's candidate for Dunstan, Dr Anna Finizio. Image: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

The Liberal Party's candidate for Dunstan, Dr Anna Finizio. Image: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

Manager of Government Business Tom Koutsantonis said on Wednesday that Dr Anna Finizio was a former director of an electrical meter supply company known as Formway Group Pty Ltd, that collapsed in 2019 with debts of more than $22 million.

Finzio is listed as a director of the company on three separate occasions: March 2009 to July 2010, October 2011 to January 2012 and September 2014 to March 2017.

She was not a director when Kordamentha were appointed as voluntary administrators in July 2019 nor when the company was sold a year earlier.

The company, according to an administrators report, had $22.2 million in debts in the 2018/19 financial year – up from $15.6 million in FY18, $5.4 million in FY17 and $4.1 million in FY16.

The company’s 269 employees were owed more than $1.4 million for outstanding leave entitlements after the company was sold, according to the report.

“Between FY16 and FY19, FG had been operating with a deteriorating working capital position leading up to the administration of the company,” the Kordamentha report states.

The company was unable to generate profit since FY16 due to “high and increasing labour and operating expenses, which exceeded revenue growth”, the report said.

Koutsantonis on Wednesday called for Finizio to be disendorsed as the Liberal Party’s candidate for Dunstan, claiming she was not upfront about her involvement with Formway Group.

But Finizio has distanced herself from the company, telling media she was a “director on paper”.

“I was director in a family company. I ceased to be a director in 2017, the company was then sold, and I had nothing to do with it,” Finizio said on Wednesday.

“I was a director on paper, and I had no involvement in it, so that’s why I wouldn’t put something on my CV that I actually wasn’t properly involved in.”

Koutsantonis on Thursday raised questions over whether Finizio’s comments could constitute a breach of the Corporations Act regarding the duties of a company director.

The minister’s office has repeatedly highlighted Chapter 2D, Section 180 of the Corporations Act, which states that a company director “must exercise their powers and discharge their duties with the degree of care and diligence that a reasonable person would exercise”.

Koutsantonis said the state government has written to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) today asking them to investigate Finizio’s comments.

“We are asking ASIC to take a look at this – Ms Finizio’s public comments should raise alarm bells about her understanding of the role of a director,” he said.

“She can’t simply say this was a title and nothing more. If a company director can’t be held accountable for their company’s performance, who can?

“If Ms Finizio won’t take responsibility for a company of which she served as a director, how much accountability can we expect of her as an MP?”

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Asked about Finizio’s comments, a Liberal Party spokesperson said today: “Tom Koutsantonis has already publicly confirmed that no wrongdoing occurred.

“It is disappointing that Labor are more focussed on mudslinging than engaging with the people of Dunstan on record ramping – which Peter Malinauskas promised to fix – and cost of living pressures.

“This is a government with no positive agenda for the people of Dunstan.”

Earlier today, Opposition frontbencher Michelle Lensink labelled the Formway Group revelation “a complete non-event”.

“She had no practical involvement in the company which is based in Queensland while she was studying at Adelaide University… studying public policy in health,” Lensink told ABC Radio Adelaide

“Those circumstances for companies are hardly unusual. She’s been upfront enough to front and do an interview with the TV cameras, in stark contrast to the Labor candidate.”

Koutsantonis’ attack on Finizio comes after the Liberal Party raised questions last week over Labor’s Dunstan candidate Cressida O’Hanlon.

The Opposition tabled an email O’Hanlon received from her husband, James O’Hanlon, the director of a defence advisory firm, asking for a meeting with a government minister or chief of staff to discuss a foreign aid proposal.

The Opposition said neither the firm nor James O’Hanlon appear to be on the registered lobbyist list and raised questions about whether this would constitute a breach of the Lobbyists Act.

Labor says the firm does not engage in lobbying.

The Dunstan by-election is on March 23. Nominations close on Friday.

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