‘If they say sign, I sign’ –Wollongong ALP branch boss in false forms hearing

FIRST WITNESS: Judita Matic, former Wollongong ALP branch secretary, departs Wollongong Courthouse after several hours on the stand on Wednesday. Inset: Noreen Hay
FIRST WITNESS: Judita Matic, former Wollongong ALP branch secretary, departs Wollongong Courthouse after several hours on the stand on Wednesday. Inset: Noreen Hay

A Wollongong grandmother says she maintained a total disinterest in the objectives of the Australian Labor Party – despite serving eight years as Wollongong branch secretary – at a hearing that is probing the origins of disputed enrolment forms lodged in the lead-up to a controversial pre-selection ballot. 

Giving evidence against a former party staffer in Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday, Yugoslavian-born Judita Matic, 69, disputed suggestions she had played a part in falsifying the forms, which allowed five people from neighbouring electorates to vote in the Wollongong ballot.

Ms Matic told the court her role in the branch was limited to taking minutes and handing out pamphlets, and was otherwise “just social”.

“I was doing this to improve my English as well,” she said. 

“I went through a divorce and that was my outing. 

“I wasn’t that much involved in politics.

“I wasn’t interested in who was going to win [preselection].”

Ms Matic, 69, is giving evidence against Susan Maree Greenhalgh, who worked for the now-retired Wollongong MP Noreen Hay for nine years.

Greenhalgh, 37, of Horsley, is accused of knowingly using forged electoral enrolment application forms on five occasions in the lead-up to a pre-selection vote that saw Ms Hay returned as the party’s Wollongong candidate ahead of the 2015 state election.

On three forms, lodged in the names of Ms Matic’s long-term friend Cveta Davidovic, her daughter Danica Vangelovski and another Crown witness, who cannot be named by order of the court – Ms Matic’s Hillcrest St, Wollongong home is listed as the member’s address. 

Greenhalgh is defending herself against all charges, claiming that Ms Matic led her to believe that the trio lived at the Hillcrest St home.

Susan Greenhalgh (left) departs court on Wednesday.

Susan Greenhalgh (left) departs court on Wednesday.

On day one of evidence, Ms Matic said she was aware her address had been used on the trio’s party records in the past, but said she believed this was “only for correspondence” and “to save on postage”. 

Greenhalgh’s lawyer, Cate Doosey, tendered phone records showing her client and Ms Matic spoke several times on November 6, 2011, the day the allegedly forged enrolment forms were lodged.

Ms Matic denied Greenhalgh called her that day to alert her to discrepancies between the Electrac and Labor party databases, and to tell her that member details could be updated online. 

“She explained to you that she would need their permission and you agreed you would speak to them and see if that was something they were comfortable with?” Ms Doosey said. 

“No,” Ms Matic replied.  

Ms Matic denied she provided the trio’s personal details, including their dates of birth, and occupations, to Greenhalgh.

But she admitted she visited her friend, Ms Davidovic, to collect information including her citizenship certificate number, before relaying the information to Greenhalgh over the telephone later that afternoon.

She told the court she didn’t know how the party would use the information. 

“So many papers I seen in [the] office. I just trusted – if they say sign, I sign,” she said. “I was just, like, hypnotised. Whatever they asked, I did.” 

Ms Matic told the court she had since quit the party, and the scandal had cost her her 30-year friendship with Ms Davidovic. 

Ms Matic grew exasperated during parts of cross examination on Wedneaday. 

“Susan knows; I’m just used and abused,” she said. 

“By who?” Ms Doosey asked.  

“The Labor party and the people that are there.”

The hearing continues before Magistrate Susan McGowan on Thursday.