Crikey sent out an email to our 1970 subscribers last Friday which contained some errors and unfair commentary about the affairs of Federal Labor MP Bob Sercombe and his businesswomen wife Carmen. We’re republishing that material and the formal apology requested to set out all the facts as we know them.

This is the offending item in question that we published last Thursday in the sealed section.

BOB SERCOMBE’S WIFE

The Federal ALP Member for Maribyrnong, Bob Sercombe, appears to have an interesting little set-up with his wife Carmen Sercombe.

Carmen is paid by the taxpayer to work as one of his electorate officers in his Keilor office. Now Crikey frowns upon this sort of nepotism but it gets worse because you see Carmen Sercombe is also a registered migration agent as you can see from an agent search on the Migration Agents Registration Authority website.

The number for Mrs Sercombe listed with MARA is (03) 9331 (number withheld for privacy reasons) which is the same number that appears on her Parliamentary email profile as one of her hubby’s electorate officers.

Now this number is different from Bob’s electorate office number in the white pages but surely Bob hasn’t got a second line put in for his wife’s moonlighting at taxpayers’ expense?

Only Israel has a higher proportion of its citizens born overseas than Australia’s 23 per cent rate so in solid working class seats like Maribyrnong, a large proportion of constituent issues involve migration matters.

So when someone wanders into Bob’s electorate office looking for help, does the member for Maribyrnong pass the work onto his wife.

And it would be interesting to know if Carmen earns any fees from this form of constituent work outsourcing?

Crikey does not get that many scoops but this might just be one of them. The mainstream should have a sniff at this one.

Bob has just won his third election and will be retiring on a handy pension at the next election making way for Prime Ministerial wannabe Bill Shorten, the national president of the Australian Workers Union.

Does his wife really need to supplement the family income that badly? The information we received on this was very detailed and checked out but it should be stressed I haven’t put it to him yet.

LAWYERS FROM CORRS CHAMBERS WESTGARTH CALLED IN

Melbourne Press Club committee member Adrian Anderson has taken some time off acting for 3AW Program Director Steve Price against Crikey and is on the job for the Sercombes and makes some fair points in his letter.

Bob tells Adrian who tells Crikey that he’s never referred any clients to his wife and that his wife’s migration clients have never had any dealings with Bob or anyone at the electorate office.

And the phone number listed in the Parliamentary email profile is actually the home number for the Sercombes so the suggestion that a special line was put in for Carmen’s business is completely wrong.

When applying to become a migration agent with MARA, Carmel Sercombe was specifically required to provide her residential details but she says she only uses her mobile number for business purposes and this was also provided to MARA.

As a result of this, the Sercombes have requested and I’ve agreed to run this formal apology:

FORMAL APOLOGY TO BOB AND CARMEL SERCOMBE

“On 23 November 2001 Crikey published a report on the Federal Member for Maribyrnong, Mr Bob Sercombe and his wife Carmen. In that report Crikey suggested that Mr Sercombe had used his position to gain clients for his wife’s business as a migration agent. Crikey also suggested that Mr Sercombe may have arranged for a second telephone line to be installed in his electorate office for use by his wife in running her business. Crikey acknowledges that these suggestions are without foundation and sincerely apologises to Mr and Mr Sercombe for any hurt and damage caused by the report.”

Ends

The only small point of clarification I would seek is whether Carmen is a taxpayer funded member of Bob’s staff or someone running a migration business, but this is a pretty minor point in the scheme of things.

It wasn’t too unfair an assumption for Crikey to make that the phone number listed in Carmen Sercombe’s Parliamentary email profile was actually a number at Bob’s electorate office. Afterall, you’d normally expect to contact paid electorate staff at the electorate office, not at their home.

And at least we only speculated that “it would be interesting to know” if she earnt any money from constituents and posed the question “does the member for Maribyrnong pass the work onto his wife?”

In agreeing to run the formal apology, we’re clearly indicating that we accept what Bob says in the answers to these questions.

Carmen runs a migration business in Keilor completely independently of her husband who is the local member and we accept that.

Once again, we’re deeply sorry about this and happily run this formal apology to create an accurate portrayal as the facts as they stand.

Feedback to [email protected]

Peter Fray

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