Embattled Labor minister Adem Somyurek has been sacked from the Victorian Cabinet following explosive branch-stacking allegations.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the claims – as aired by 60 Minutes and published in the Nine newspapers on Sunday – had also been referred to Victoria Police and the state’s anti-corruption commission by the Victorian Attorney-General.
“Just after 9am this morning, I met with Adem Somyurek and I informed him that I would be writing to the governor to terminate his commission as a minister to essentially sack him from my ministry,” he said.
“That letter was sent moments later and the governor has accepted that advice and Mr Somyurek is no longer a minister of the Crown.”
The move follows an explosive year-long investigation aired on Sunday night, in which Mr Somyurek boasted of having influence over federal Labor MPs from Victoria.
He is accused of handing over thousands of dollars in cash and using parliamentary employees to create fake branch members to gain influence within the ALP’s Victorian branch.
In the footage, he also talks about directing taxpayer-funded parliamentary employees, meant to be working for other MPs, including Preston MP Robin Scott, to conduct party political operations.
Mr Somyurek is recorded calling the state’s Minister for Women and the Prevention of Family Violence, Gabrielle Williams, a “stupid bitch” whom he will “f—ing force … out of the ministry”.
He describes the young staffers helping him as “patronising and annoying”, and “little passive-aggressive f—ing gay kids”.
Earlier on Monday, Mr Somyurek – who had been the state’s minister for local government and small business – said he had advised Mr Andrews he intended to resign as a minister.
“It follows publication of numerous personal and private conversations between myself and a long-term friend and factional ally of mine,” he said.
“It is clear that I was taped and surveilled in a federal electorate office without my knowledge and that this material was published without my knowledge of its existence or my consent.”
But Mr Andrews said he had sacked the man he once described as his “very good friend”.
“Mr Somyurek was not offered an opportunity to resign. He is not worthy of an opportunity to resign. He was sacked,” he said.
“That is the fact of the matter. Any statements to the contrary are simply false.”
Footage from Sunday night shows the former minister withdrawing $2000 from an ATM on April 13, before handing it and dozens of party membership forms to an adviser for fellow Labor minister Marlene Kairouz.
The adviser delivers the forms and cash to ALP head office.
Another cash drop-off reportedly occurred earlier in 2020.
Mr Andrews said Mr Somyurek’s conduct and comments were “completely deplorable, they are shameful”.
He said he would also write to the ALP national secretary to have Mr Somyurek, who is also a member of the party’s national executive, expelled from Labor.
“I now regard Mr Somyurek as no longer a member of the Victorian
parliamentary Labor Party, no longer a member of my team, my caucus, my government,” he said.
The Premier said he had spoken to Ms Kairouz and Mr Scott and “sought from them an assurance that they have at all times behaved appropriately”.
“They have provided me with that assurance,” he said.
Mr Somyurek has denied the branch-stacking allegations and said he would provide “a rigorous defence during any party process”.
“The conversations published without my knowledge or consent were with someone who I trusted about internal party matters,” he said.
“There are many robust discussions that occur on any given day in the Labor Party across all factions.”
But he apologised for his use of foul language about former ministerial colleagues.
“I accept and take full responsibility for the fact that my language on a number of occasions was simply not appropriate,” he said.
“While Ms Williams and I have been at odds factionally for many years, I should not have used the language I did about her and I apologise to her unequivocally.
“Further, I am deeply sorry for language I used regarding highly valued and exceptional young people who are members of the LGBTI community.
“These comments have quite rightly cost me my job.”
Earlier on Monday, federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese told ABC Breakfast he had zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour within the ALP.
Mr Albanese said Mr Somyurek had no influence on any members of the federal Labor caucus.
“No one watching that program outside of Victoria, including my federal colleagues, would have heard of this bloke, it is as simple as that,” he said.
The four federal MPs named in the reports have Mr Albanese’s backing.
“They are doing a good job representing their local electorates and they deserve better than to be distracted by this bloke,” he said.
Mr Somyurek will be replaced as Victorian local government and small business minister by Essendon MP Danny Pearson.