Peter Jones, the secretary and lead Upper House candidate for the No Land Tax Party at the last NSW state election in 2015, was slammed by a Federal Circuit Court judge for not paying workers their promised $30 an hour and displaying a lack of remorse.
Mr Jones and his party admitted failing to pay the workers – all 3,600 of them – who were employed around the state to hand out how-to-vote cards for up to 10 hours on election day.
The workers were hired on the understanding of earning $30 an hour, as well as bonuses of up to $500 if candidates at their location polled well.
Among the affected workers were teenagers, students and people who were unemployed.
The court heard evidence from a number of affected workers, with one saying they felt “taken advantage of” and another saying she had “lost trust in elections and politicians”.
However, Mr Jones dismissed the seriousness of the allegations against him, telling the court “it cannot seriously be accepted by the court that not being paid approximately $300 for the day has had a material impact on their lives, wellbeing or finances”.
In handing down his verdict, Judge Tom Altobelli criticised Mr Jones and the party for not appearing to “take full responsibility for their contraventions”.
“The submission made on behalf of the respondents is both inconsistent with the evidence before the court from the workers themselves, and regrettably arrogant,” he said.
He imposed penalties of $13,315 on Mr Jones personally, and a further $67,575 on the No Land Tax Party.
Judge Altobelli also ordered the No Land Tax Party to audit entitlements owed and advise the Fair Work Ombudsman – which initiated the court proceedings – on how it will rectify the situation.
The judgment, however, may prove fruitless for the affected workers, with Mr Jones telling the court that the party has no funds or assets.
Press reports at the time of the election suggested the party was on track to in at least one seat in Parliament, however it ultimately failed to win any seats.