‘She’s done nothing wrong’: Liberal Party stands by Finizio in bitter Dunstan contest

Opposition leader David Speirs has stood by the Liberal Party’s Dunstan candidate Dr Anna Finizio and called on Premier Peter Malinauskas to say if he endorses Labor’s attacks against their candidate.

Mar 01, 2024, updated Mar 03, 2024
Opposition leader David Speirs, government accountability spokesperson Michelle Lensink and Liberal Party Dunstan candidate Dr Anna Finizio speaking to the media. Photo: Thomas Kelsall/InDaily

Opposition leader David Speirs, government accountability spokesperson Michelle Lensink and Liberal Party Dunstan candidate Dr Anna Finizio speaking to the media. Photo: Thomas Kelsall/InDaily

Speirs and Finizio spoke to the media this afternoon after the Labor Party released a job application Finizio submitted in 2020 asking to work as an adviser to Upper House Labor MLC Kyam Maher.

Manager of Government Business Tom Koutsantonis has led attacks on Finizio this week for her involvement in a family business that went into administration two years after she left as a director.

Today, Koutsantonis said the revelation that Finizio wanted to work for a Labor MP “speaks volumes about her authenticity”. He also confirmed the job application was released by the Labor Party and denied it constituted a privacy breach.

Speirs accused Koutsantonis and the Labor Party of perpetuating “rumour and innuendo” against Finizio, adding: “I actually find this whole thing quite disgusting.”

The Liberal leader also touted Finizio’s credentials as an “ambitious, talented, dynamic young woman” who’s represented the Hilma’s Network – an organisation helping young women get into politics – and the Women’s Community Centre in Stepney.

“I’m saying to the Premier of South Australia, Peter Malinauskas, rather than do your good news selfies somewhere in the state and fire them up on social media, how about you stand alongside Tom Koutsantonis and make these sorts of allegations against a brilliant candidate,” Speirs said.

“How about the Premier of South Australia… pull Tom Koutsantonis into line and say no we support women in public life and we’re not going to have this bully like behaviour perpetuated by their side of politics.

“We need to create a safe, nurturing environment for candidates from all walks of life. That’s how you get a diverse, dynamic representatives parliament.

“I stand beside Anna Finizio proud that she is the candidate for this seat – she’s done nothing wrong.”

A spokesperson for the Premier highlighted press conferences the Premier has done on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and two on Thursday in Mount Gambier.

“The Premier supports all his ministers and expects that when they sign statutory declarations, they do so truthfully,” the spokesperson said.

Speirs and Finizio did not answer questions about what the prospective Dunstan MP put on her statutory declaration when she was applying to be the Liberal Party’s candidate.

David Speirs must release the copy of the Liberal Candidate declaration that Finizio signed.

— Tom Koutsantonis MP (@TKoutsantonisMP) March 1, 2024

The Opposition leader said he was not made aware that Finizio had applied for a job in Maher’s office until Thursday and he would not have expected it to come out during the candidate review process.

“I’ve got no issue with the nature of the job (Finzio applied for) – that’s the long and short of this,” Speirs said.

“It’s not the sort of thing that would necessarily come out through that process, and I’m not going to make any further comment on the vetting process, which in my view is robust.”

Speirs also said he was not aware of Finizio’s family business going into administration until it was publicly discussed this week.

Finizio was a director of an electrical meter supply company, known as Formway Group Pty Ltd, on three separate occasions, including from September 2014 to March 2017.

The company was sold in 2018 before it went into administration in 2019 with debts of more than $22 million.

Asked specifically whether Finizio had declared the company’s administration on her statutory declaration, Speirs said: “I’m not going to go into what was discussed for the statutory declaration process and the vetting process.

“But I am very confident that that candidate review process is thorough, and it is not in the public’s interest for it to be revealed.”

Pressed further on what he knew about Formway Group, Speirs said he “knew that Anna and her family had had business interests” but “I don’t expect to know the ins and outs of those”.

“I don’t see the relevance of the collapse or closing down of a company after Ms Finizio had ceased having involvement in it,” he said.

Finizio today said she has never been a member of the Labor Party and was not a Liberal Party member at the time she applied for a job in Maher’s office.

She said the job with the Labor MLC was a “policy and research role”.

“To me, it was just a natural step in my career is to work in a policy and research role. It wasn’t advertised as a political role,” she said.

“I didn’t receive the job and that’s it.”

Finizio also denied that she was aware of issues with Formway Group while she was a director.

Asked to explain what she meant by only being a “director on paper”, she said she was not involved in the business’ “operational day to day”.

Libs won’t say where O’Hanlon email came from

Meanwhile, Opposition frontbencher Michelle Lensink refused to explain today where she obtained an email from James O’Hanlon, the husband of Labor’s Dunstan candidate Cressida O’Hanlon, that was tabled in parliament last week.

The email was sent by James, director of South Australian defence firm Citadel Secure, to Cressida on February 7, 2023, and discussed access to government decision makers.

Lensink tabled the email in the Upper House last week and raised questions about whether Cressida breached integrity standards. Labor denies that James O’Hanlon’s firm engages in lobbying.

Asked today how she obtained the email, Lensink said: “I’m not in a position to be able to disclose where the email came from.

“But it does stand, I think, in stark contrast, that we’re here today answering questions on these issues, and the Labor Party and their candidate has refused to say anything about it.”

Asked if she obtained the email illegally, Lensink said: “I’m not able to make any further comment. I think it is fair to say that it wasn’t illegal.”

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