News National Liberal party reacts ‘urgently’ to branch stacking allegations

Liberal party reacts ‘urgently’ to branch stacking allegations

Victorian federal MP Michael Sukkar has denied any involvement in branch stacking. Photo: AAP
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Victoria’s Liberal Party director is demanding answers over branch-stacking claims involving two senior federal politicians.

But the party’s deputy leader is standing by his colleagues after the claims were aired on Nine’s 60 Minutes program on Sunday night.

Taxpayer-funded electorate staff were allegedly used to recruit new members in a bid to out-vote moderates.

Liberal state director Sam McQuestin wants a swift response from those connected to the claims.

“The party will be seeking full and detailed responses from party members who were named in the 60 Minutes report or who may be able to provide further information on relevant matters,” he told AAP.

“The party will decide urgently on immediate actions to be taken and will determine further measures having regard to the responses received and the findings of any further investigations.”

Victorian federal MP Michael Sukkar, the assistant treasurer and housing minister, has denied any involvement.

“I have never authorised taxpayer-funded staff to undertake party political activity outside of (parliamentary) policies and guidelines,” he told AAP.

He has sought an independent review of staffing in his Deakin electorate office, dating back to 2013.

Former defence minister Kevin Andrews has also sought a review by the Department of Finance and described the allegations as false.

“The suggestion that I would be coerced into making decisions on staffing arrangements in my electorate office by others is untrue,” he tweeted on Sunday.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg – the deputy leader of the Liberal Party – rejected suggestions either MP should resign.

“What I saw last night was language and conduct that was of real concern,” he said on Monday.

“The Liberal Party will conduct its own internal process on that.”

The Nine report cited secret recordings and text message transcripts dating back to 2016, many allegedly involving Liberal party powerbroker Marcus Bastiaan.

The communications revealed plans to remove up to six federal Liberal MPs and state party politicians, including MPs who backed Victoria’s controversial voluntary euthanasia legislation.

The alleged scheme by an ultra-conservative Victorian faction involved the recruitment of new members by targeting community and religious groups using electorate officers paid by the public purse.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has argued it is a matter for the Victorian branch.

The allegations follow damning branch-stacking revelations which shook the governing Victorian Labor party in June and cost the scalp of three cabinet ministers.