News State Victoria News Victorian Liberals confront their own branch stacking scandal

Victorian Liberals confront their own branch stacking scandal

Branch-stacked party members vote the way they're told. Photo: WVU
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The Victorian Liberal Party is probing potential branch stacking in its ranks, in the wake of state director Sam McQuestin finding membership irregularities during an audit.

Branch stacking is when people are recruited into a branch of a political party to influence who is pre-selected as an election candidate.

It is banned by the major political parties.

State director Sam McQuestin’s audit turned up a slate of irregularities. Photo: ABC

Senior Liberals are worried about potential membership issues in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

Last week Mr McQuestin completed a regular review of membership renewals for the recent financial year.

Among the audit were more than 20 irregularities.

“This review has found a small number of possible breaches of the party’s rules around payment of other members’ fees,” Mr McQuestin said in a statement.

“Each of the members concerned has been contacted to verify the position, ahead of action potentially being taken to cease their membership if the party’s rules have been breached.”

The members contacted have one week to explain the irregularities. If they do not have a legitimate reason their memberships will be void.
Mr McQuestin said the party took the integrity of membership very seriously.

Allegations of industrial-scale branch stacking recently rocked the Victorian Labor Government, with minister Adem Somyurek sacked and two other ministers stood down while an Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) inquiry investigated the claims.

One Liberal MP said there were fears of “industrial-scale branch stacking in the western suburbs” in their own party.

“If an MP is involved, they will be our Adem Somyurek,” the MP said.

“They’ll deserve to have their head cut off.”

The Liberal Party in Victoria has for years been riven by internal tensions that have included allegations of branch stacking in particularly conservative Christian communities.

As a precaution against branch stacking, an automatic investigation is triggered when memberships in any electorate increase by more than 5 per cent in one month.

‘Full faith in the party’

Liberal Shadow Health Minister Georgie Crozier said it was a matter for the state director and party organisation.

“I’ve got full faith in the party to absolutely undertake what needs to be done — and the state director in his role in what he is doing, in jumping on this very serious issue,” she said.

Ms Crozier would not comment on whether any senior Liberal ministers were involved.

“What I am pleased about is that the state director is jumping on this issue very quickly,” she said.

“Unlike the Labor Party, where we’ve seen a minister and his ministerial staff involved in branch stacking, our party is dealing with it and that’s a very good thing.