13 June 2016
by James Robertson
Scandal: Parakeelia, Liberal Software CompanyGovernment staff worked for Liberal software company
Parliamentary staff were working for the Liberal-linked software company that has transferred large sums of money to the party exceeding $1 million, emails show.
The emails suggest that government staff were simultaneously doing work for Parakeelia Pty Ltd, a company that MPs pay $2500 a year in taxpayer allowances to use its Feedback software. Parakeelia has in turn become the Liberals' second-biggest source of income.
"Training sessions are provided regularly and there is no cost involved," a 2014 email from Sallyann Innes reads.
Ms Innes was operating a private email address linked to Parakeelia and listed as "training and operations" director for Feedback software. She regularly ran support workshops for the software in capital cities.
But at that time she was listed in staff directories as collecting a taxpayer-funded salary as a government media adviser in Parliament House.
Ms Innes refused to comment on Sunday on the nature of her work arrangements with Parakeelia and at Parliament.
Axed Liberal MP Dennis Jensen alleges government staff were employed "pretty well full time" to provide training for the software.
"Additional ministerial staffing entitlements would be used," he said. "It's very inappropriate given what we know now about taxpayer allowances being paid to the company being returned to the party."
But a Liberal spokesman denied Mr Jensen's claim its parliamentary staff were engaged full-time to provide software training.
"The allegation is false," a spokesman said without offering further comment on the relationship between Parakeelia and government staffers and the email from Ms Innes.
More than $1 million has been sent to the Liberal Party by Parakeelia in the past three years; the party has refused to say how much of this is a surplus generated from taxpayer allowances.
The Liberal campaign has refused to say conclusively whether the company generates a surplus from tax-payer allowances but has said Parakeelia incurs costs, including paying its staff.
Former Liberal staff, including John Adams, an ex-adviser to Arthur Sinodinos, have confirmed similar sessions were run frequently in all major cities.
"It looks like a scam," Mr Adams said of growing questions about the company's relationship to the party. "How much does the software cost them to run? If that's $500 then they should be charging $500, not $2500."
The Liberal campaign has only said that the company "has not run as a profit centre", an accounting term that often means a part of a business with ascertainable profits.
A Liberal Party spokeswoman has declined to clarify the meaning of profit centre.
Ms Innes was employed under the auspices of the "Coalition Advisory Services" – a controversial taxpayer-funded media unit based in Parliament.
She went on to work for former chief government whip Scott Buchholz.
Mr Buchholz did not answer questions about how much of Ms Innes' time was spent on Parakeelia business, but confirmed she left the office after he was sacked as whip.
Parakeelia is registered to the same office building as the Liberal headquarters in Canberra.
Its directors include federal Liberal director Tony Nutt and the party's federal president, Richard Alston.