On the ABC’s flagship current affairs program last night, Attorney-General George Brandis said he had “no knowledge at all” about issues with Bob Day’s electorate office until Special Minister of State Scott Ryan alerted him to the matter after the election.

But as we reported yesterday, the Department of Finance warned former special minister of state Michael Ronaldson about the problems with the lease as early as the start of 2014.

The emails and documents released in response to a freedom of information request in May and reported by Crikey at the time took on new life this week after the government indicated it would seek for the Senate to refer the matter to the High Court. While not directly raising constitutional issues of the government paying rent for office space Day owned, Finance did mention problems with the whole arrangement.

From a February 2014 ministerial submission:

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Instead, Ronaldson ignored Finance’s concerns and told Day in March 2014 that he would consider Day’s request for the Kent Town offices provided that the office met Commonwealth standards, and the government wasn’t charged rent until the lease on the Gilles Street premises vacated by outgoing senator Don Farrell was up in August this year.

From the May 2014 Ministerial and Parliamentary Services Management Team Meeting:

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In a May 2014 ministerial submission where issues arose over Day’s office for Kent Town needing to be split over two floors rather than one floor as originally planned, Finance again highlighted that the Gilles Street office was just there and ready to go.

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But Ronaldson did not agree to Finance’s push for Day to move to Gilles Street, even in the interim while his office was made ready.

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This is unlikely to be the last cache of files from the negotiations between the government and Day over the lease. More documents are likely to be released around the negotiations and issues raised by the department over Day’s lease as the case goes to the High Court.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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