Australian Opposition Leader Supports MP to Remain Deputy Chair of Intelligence and Security Committee Amid Branch Stacking Probe

June 19, 2020 Updated: June 21, 2020

National Labor leader Anthony Albanese has endorsed Anthony Byrne to remain as deputy chair of federal parliament’s intelligence and security committee after the prime minister said he would take Albanese’ recommendations on the matter.

This has come after Adem Somyurek—the man at the center of the branch stacking and corruption scandal—entangled Byrne, his mentor and friend, by releasing a selection of foul-worded text messages exchanged by the pair to the media.

In response, Byrne accused Somyurek of “cherry-picking” the texts, News Corp’s The Australian reported.

Byrne said: “Somyurek has selectively released a hand-picked selection of my text messages to him sent over two years just hours after I made a public statement that I had contacted authorities and would assist with their corruption investigations into him,’’ he said.

“That speaks for itself,” he added.

During a doorstop press conference on June 18, Adem Somyurek told 9News: “Anthony Byrne is someone that I respect, who taught me everything about branch work. I have a lot of respect for the man.”

On June 18, Albanese said he had sought and received assurance that Byrne has “acted legally at all times.”

The Text Messages

News Corp’s The Australian newspaper published the contents of the texts on June 18, which had been released by Somyurek to The Age the day before, after Byrne publicly supported the investigation into Somyurek’s actions.

Spanning over two years, the selection of texts contained disparaging comments about fellow Labor Party colleagues.

In the texts, Byrne wrote about wanting to urinate on the beheaded corpse of a former Labor Party MP and called former Labor Senator Sam Dastyari “crooked and corrupt.”

Byrne also accused an unnamed female Labor staffer of playing dirty politics and threatened to expose her via one of ABC Four Corners’ well-known in-depth investigative programs on China—which he referred to as their “hatchet job” on China.

The ABC reported Labor leader Anthony Albanese as saying: “The comments that are published today from Mr Byrne are completely unacceptable and inappropriate and I’ve counselled Mr Byrne about his language and the inappropriateness of those comments.”

Byrne Is Strongly Critical of Chinese Communist Party

Byrne is a high profile figure in the Australian Labor Party who is strongly critical of China’s recent behaviour.

He currently holds the position of deputy chair and has been a long-serving member of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.

On April 9, amid the height of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic (commonly known as novel coronavirus), Byrne explained on Twitter that he and West Australian MP Andrew Hastie, who chairs the committee, were concerned about Australia’s relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.

Byrne has also been outspoken about Chinese telecommunications company Huawei’s attempt to supply 5G networks globally.

In February, The Age reported that unnamed “sources inside the room” revealed that Bryne had strongly criticised the UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Rabb during a meeting, after Britain said in late January that it would not ban Huawei from building the country’s 5G mobile network.

“How would you feel if the Russians laid down infrastructure in your own networks? That’s how we feel about Huawei,” Byrne purportedly told Raab.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would later (upon recovering from COVID-19) direct officials to reduce Huawei’s involvement in UK infrastructure projects to zero by 2023.

Byrne, who has served on Australia’s intelligence committee for 13 years, and is highly regarded in the intelligence community, was also instrumental in developing the federal government’s foreign interference laws.

Parliament’s Non-Partisan Anti ‘Wolf Warrior’ Club

China hawk Anthony Byrne is also reportedly a member of a non-partisan Parliamentary group called the Parliamentary Friends of Democracy that displays wolf claws on their front office windows as a statement representing China’s aggressive “wolf warrior diplomacy,” The Age reported.

The informal group is co-chaired by Labor senator Kimberley Kitching and Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, and includes Liberal senators James Paterson and Amanda Stoker.

The group meets and interacts with stakeholders on matters that uphold the tenants of Australia’s democracy, including the rule of law.