News Politics Australian Politics ‘Power and ambition’: Labor stalwarts swoop in to clean up branch-stacking saga

‘Power and ambition’: Labor stalwarts swoop in to clean up branch-stacking saga

marlene kairouz labor branch
Marlene Kairouz on the campaign trail with Daniel Andrews in 2018. She resigned as a minister on Tuesday morning. Photo: AAP
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Labor’s national executive is preparing to take action against the party’s beleaguered Victorian branch after three cabinet ministers were forced out in little more than a day.

Party stalwarts are swooping in to clean up the sordid fallout from explosive allegations of industrial-scale branch-stacking that has rocked the ALP.

The claims – which led to former Labor powerbroker and upper house member Adem Somyurek being sacked by Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday – also claimed the scalp of the state’s consumer affairs minister, Marlene Kairouz on Tuesday.

Another upper house minister, Robin Scott, who is embroiled in the scandal resigned on Monday night.

Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and Victoria Police are considering the government’s referral of the allegations.

Mr Somyurek’s home was visited on Tuesday by a man and woman carrying folders and powder-free gloves.

They were initially denied entry to the house, in Melbourne’s outer-south-east. But after putting a business card under the front door, the pair were let in, where they stayed for a short time.

IBAC would not confirm if the pair were its investigators.

Mr Somyurek was sacked from the Victorian ministry and lost his ALP membership over allegations and recordings first aired on 60 Minutes and in the Nine newspapers capturing him using vile language against colleagues and staff.

He denies the branch-stacking allegations and wants police to investigate the recordings used in the expose.

Victorian Labor MP Tim Richardson also wants the Australian Federal Police and ASIO to investigate the covert recordings.

Mr Richardson was concerned, as some of the footage was shot in the office of veteran federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne. He is the deputy chair of the powerful parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security.

“We don’t know who put those recordings in, we don’t know what’s been compromised,” he said.

“That’s a great concern for our commonwealth and our national security.”

On Tuesday, The Age published more recordings involving Ms Kairouz, who is Mr Somyurek’s factional ally. They appear to encourage staff to take part in the branch stacking.

On the suggestion of an official going through membership forms, Ms Kairouz reportedly said: “I said to [my chief of staff] Michael [De Bruyn], let him do it because he’s got 2500 of our members that he has to go through. They drop one, we put in 10 … Always call his bluff.”

Ms Kairouz resigned just before 10am on Tuesday.

Earlier, Mr Andrews said he expected the national executive to deliver a plan to restructure the state ALP.

“Then it will be for us here in Victoria to get on and make the reform that is very, very important,” he said.

“No one should underestimate my resolve to deal with these issues properly to make sure that we make really significant reform.”

In the short term, senior party figures could be brought in to conduct a review or temporarily take control of the Victorian organisation. Federal Labor leader told 2GB radio on Tuesday there were talks about “getting senior elders in to make sure we clean up the show”.

However, there was no mention of Mr Somyurek or the Victorian crisis at a long federal Labor caucus meeting in Canberra on Tuesday.

Former senator Stephen Conroy alleged Mr Somyurek also intimidated federal Labor MPs, including Tim Watts, Julian Hill, Joanne Ryan and Rob Mitchell.

“The intimidation of federal MPs is to be absolutely deplored,” Mr Conroy told Sky News.

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten said the party thought it had stamped out branch-stacking until the “shocking and reprehensible” Victorian scandal erupted.

“The party has been trying to clean up branch stacking across Australia and … well, we thought it had, but clearly it hadn’t in Victoria,” he told Nine.

“Every person’s credentials need to be checked again. Did they pay for it, their own membership?”

WA Labor MP Patrick Gorman, a former state secretary, said banning cash payments for membership would go some way to stamping out branch stacking.

“That means you have to pay from a bank account or a credit card, making it really clear that the person who paid for the membership was the person who is applying to be or paying to renew their membership.”

Former federal Labor minister Craig Emerson said branch-stacking would be hard to stamp out.

Dr Emerson was part of a panel that reviewed the ALP’s 2019 election loss.

The review did not identify branch stacking as an issue for the election, but he was aware it had been a problem in a number of states such as Queensland and NSW over recent decades.

“It is about power and ambition,” Dr Emerson told the ABC.

-with AAP