A source, who asked to remain anonymous because of concerns their job could be under threat for speaking out, said political staffers had been asked to contribute up to $200 a fortnight to help pay for Labor’s election campaign costs.
But it is understood the amount requested by the party of the highest paid staff was actually $100 a fortnight.
This had created some angst inside ministerial offices, with concern the term-of-government contracts of those failing to pay up might not be renewed if the party wins office.
But a state government spokesman said the fundraising system was voluntary.
“WA Labor has established a voluntary recurrent donation system,” he said in a statement issued by Premier Mark McGowan’s office.
“How people in any work place choose to engage with political parties is a matter for them.”
Ms Harvey said the fundraising system was an attempt to redirect taxpayer money to the Labor Party by heavy-handed means.
“There is an implied threat that if you don’t pay part of your salary to the Labor Party, then your job is on the line,” she said.
“The Premier as the head of the public sector and head of the WA Parliamentary Labor Party needs to explain what role he played in this cash-for-jobs scandal and he must immediately undertake an investigation of this gross politicisation of the public service.
“It shows a lack of moral compass and it’s wrong. Any decent-minded employer would not do this to their staff.”
The practice of using political staff paid from the public purse to raise campaign funds is commonplace in the eastern states and federally, but is unique in WA.
WA Labor has been left cash-strapped after revelations money raised by state MPs had been ploughed into Bill Shorten’s failed attempt to win the 2019 federal election along with about $500,000 combined on the Perth byelection and Darling Range byelections.
It is unknown how much the party expects to raise by targeting state political staffers, but depending on take-up of the scheme, it could be tens of thousands of dollars.
While WA Labor’s state secretary Tim Picton didn’t comment on the plan, Liberal state director Sam Calabrese said, “it would be highly inappropriate if the Labor Party is pressuring public servants to fund their election campaign”.
Each of the state’s 17 ministerial offices costs on average $3.3 million to operate and support.
Although staff working for ministers are not supposed to campaign during elections, the ministerial resources – including employees – at the government’s disposal weigh heavily in favour of the party in office.
It is common practice for state ministerial staffers to take leave to work on state or federal election campaigns, such as the 2019 federal election or the 2018 Darling Range byelection.
Under the former Barnett government, staffers were required to take leave without pay to campaign.
“Ministerial staff are obligated to act in accordance with the Public Sector Management Act when it comes to activity during any campaign period,” the state government spokesman said.
As of February, there were 22.4 full-time equivalent staff working in the Premier’s office according to records tabled in Parliament.
The next most populated ministerial office was Environment Minister Stephen Dawson, with 16 full-time staff.
Nathan is WAtoday’s political reporter and the winner of the 2019 Arthur Lovekin Prize for Excellence in Journalism.