The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was allegedly a key organiser in the Victorian Labor party’s use of “ethnic branch stacking,” the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) inquiry has heard.
The claims made by former Labor minister Adem Somuyurek come as the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) and the Victorian Ombudsman investigate “serious corrupt conduct” and the misuse of public money used for “party‐political work or other improper purposes” by Victorian public officials and members of parliament.
“I’ve done a lot of research on this. I can talk about what I’ve seen in the southeast; it was the left and right going at it hammer and tongs when I joined the party,” former Labor MP Adem Somyurek told Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) inquiry on Nov. 8.
Somyurek told the inquiry that he was aware of branch stacking when he joined the Australian Labor Party in 1995—during federal MP Anthony Byrne’s preselection—and named Daniel Andrews as an organiser for the Victorian Labor party’s Socialist left faction at the time.
“Throughout the 90s, branch stacking was rife in the ALP. Obviously, I knew about the practice,” Somyurek said.
“You had Anthony Byrne as the chief recruiter from the right, and I think Daniel Andrews was organising from the left.”
“Our job [on the right] is to anchor the party in the centre … without the right the party will never win government. The left perform an important role, they are the heart and soul of the party, our job is to stop them going too far so we can win elections.”
Andrews has previously denied any involvement in branch stacking, telling reporters on Oct. 12 that he behaved “appropriately.”
“If you go and ask [wife] Cath and the kids, they’ll tell you I’ve had no time to do much else other than my parliamentary and my ministerial duties.”
Anthony Byrne, Federal ALP MP for Holt, was the first witness to front the IBAC inquiry and said that the ALP branch stacking in Victoria was “out of control.”
Somyurek said that Byrne had asked him to contribute funds to pay for other people’s party memberships, and said he was “probably a stackee” himself. Approximately $2000 was paid for party memberships, Somyurek said.
Branch stacking occurs when factions within a political party enrol persons for the principal purpose of influencing the election outcome of local branches. It also happens when political party members enrol people who are not genuine members.
While not illegal in Australia, most political parties view the practice as controversial because it usually involves illegal acts of forgery, falsification of documentation, and even the intimidation of party members.
When asked about the “red shirts” affair that occurred in 2014, Somyurek said he was involved in discussions in the government caucus following the Victorian Ombudsman’s report.
Instead of addressing Somyurek’s concerns, Andrews told him: “do you want to win an election or not?”
“Red shirts was the gold standard [for rorting taxpayer resources],” Somyurek told the inquiry.
Somyurek said the Victorian Ombudsman’s investigation into the red shirts affair left the impression among Victorian politicians that they could “could do anything, even employing electoral officers to work on campaign activity.”
He also rebuked the Ombudsman for not using harsher language in the report “so that people actually got the message.”
The red shirts affair was a $388,000 scheme involving the misuse of parliamentary allowances to pay Labor’s political campaign staff ahead of the 2014 election, involving 21 past and present MPs.
Somyurek also told the inquiry that some electoral staff were “factional operatives” who were expected to do factional work for him, including recruiting and managing Labor Party members.
60 Minutes and The Age allege that Somyurek targeted ethnic groups, such as the Indian community, by registering and paying for Australian Labor Party (ALP) memberships in exchange for their support of his candidates.
“I don’t have a problem with my employees, my staff, being factional. I tried to limit that,” Somyurek said.
“I didn’t tell them not to do factional work; I might have instructed them to do some things that were factional.”
Somyurek will give evidence to the IBAC inquiry over four days this week.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that former Labor MP Adem Somyurek was part of the Socialist left faction of the Australian Labor Party (ALP); Mr. Somyurek was part of the moderate faction of the ALP. The Epoch Times regrets the error.
This article has been updated with more detail.