Rusty to be sentenced

Former Morwell and Nationals MP Russell Northe may face jail time after pleading guilty to two counts of misconduct of public office. Northe will be sentenced later this month. Photo: File

Zaida Glibanovic

THE former Member for Morwell, Russell Northe, will be sentenced later this month after pleading guilty to two counts of misconduct of public office.

The 57-year-old falsely claimed $175,813.40 in public expenses, which he used on gambling services over the course of 14 months while in the role of the Member for Morwell.

On Wednesday, September 27, the Latrobe Valley County Court heard the former MP (pictured) now works as a manager at Coles in Cowes, electing to move away from central Gippsland.

Northe’s defence lawyer, Christin Tom, described the defendant as “extremely remorseful”, and “crippled by shame” for failing at his role in representing the people of Morwell.

Judge Michael McInerney replied to the defence’s statements stating: “There’s no doubt he’s failed his community – he’s failed his state.”

The former MP further “deeply regrets his behaviour” and is already well advanced in rehabilitation.

Quitting The Nationals party in 2017, Northe sat as an independent before his resignation in 2022 before the last state election.

Under regulations for elected members, Northe was allocated $200,000 from the Victorian Electoral Commission to pay for general costs in representing his electorate, but the court proceedings uncovered how Northe falsified expenses of an assistant, office rent and a printer in 2019.

Although the auditor processing his claims authorised its approval, Northe was found to be sending the money to two separate banking accounts in which he gambled.

Mr Tom explained Northe’s life as a “spectacular fall from grace”, with Northe being someone who was respected within the local community, but also Victorian politics, having served as a member in the Legislative Assembly for 16 years.

Northe’s defence said his gambling and alcohol addiction cost the former MP “everything”.

In his rehabilitation process, Northe has not drank or gambled since early 2021.

Mr Tom said that Northe had been undergoing treatment for his diagnosed depression and bipolar disorder.

The prosecutor, David Hancock, argued that imprisonment with a corrections order was an appropriate sentence for Northe.

Though Mr Tom asked the judge to consider Northe’s mental health in handing down his sentence, as a psychologist maintained Northe’s health would take a toll from imprisonment.

Northe is set to be sentenced on Wednesday, October 25 in Melbourne’s County Court of Victoria.