Australia’s national Labor Party Leader Anthony Albanese has expressed his support for federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne remaining in federal parliament despite ongoing corruption investigations.
Byrne announced his resignation as the deputy chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security after admitting to involvement in branch stacking and misusing Commonwealth-funded staff, which Albanese accepted.
However, Byrne, who is the member for Holt in Victoria, will remain in parliament as he waits for the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission’s (IBAC) processes to conclude before making any further career decisions.
“What he has said is that he’ll wait for the IBAC processes to be concluded before he determines his political future,” Albanese told the ABC. “It is important that these independent processes are allowed to take their course.”
The Labor party took immediate action to expel former Victorian state Labor minister Adem Somyurek after 60 Minutes reported on his alleged involvement in branch stacking in 2020.
However, Albanese expressed firm backing for Byrne, claiming the allegations against Byrne were “of a very different nature.”
“From time to time, there are breaches of party rules and the processes kick in to deal with that,” Albanese said. “But while IBAC is undertaking these investigations, it’s important that they be allowed to take their course.”
Albanese said he did not endorse the branch stacking behaviour that Byrne admitted to, but noted that the IBAC head commissioner thanked Byrne for his honesty.
“The party was completely out of control. I saw things and heard things that I didn’t think I’d ever see in a modern Labor party,” Byrne told the IBAC hearing.
“I’m referring to branch stacking; I’m referring to the coercion of staff being made to do things they didn’t want to do. I was referring to party being taken over by one person whose sole objective was power and power alone.”
Meanwhile, Somyurek has criticised the Labor party’s difference in attitude towards himself and Byrne.
“Byrne was the founder of MLG and my boss and mentor, he was not cowered or intimidated by me,” Somyurek wrote on Twitter. “I may have been the face of MLG but he stood large behind the scenes. The irony is I have never stacked branches I was tossed out on allegations.”
Byrne said he would fully cooperate with the IBAC inquiry but would not make any further comments while proceedings are underway.