Text messages written by federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne have reportedly been released by disgraced party powerbroker Adem Somyurek, after the backbencher agreed to cooperate with corruption investigators.
The Age and Sydney Morning Herald have sighted private text messages in which Bryne calls former colleague Sam Dastyari a “crooked, corrupt [expletive],“ a female MP a “drunk” and an unnamed female Labor activist a “rat[expletive].”
Former Labor leader Bill Shorten, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and retired federal MPs Michael Danby and Alan Griffin are also subject to criticism in the text messages.
Byrne told the newspapers Somyurek had “selectively released a hand-picked selection of my text messages” as political payback after he contacted authorities told them he would assist with corruption investigations.
An investigation by The Age and 60 Minutes, which claimed the scalps of Somyurek and two allies, involved secret recordings in Byrne’s Melbourne electorate office in Cranbourne West.
— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) June 16, 2020
There are fears his office could have been bugged.
The potential problem is more acute given Byrne’s position on federal parliament’s powerful intelligence committee.
“In respect of the misinformation circulating, I want to make clear that I take the matters raised recently seriously and have been in touch with authorities to offer my full assistance,” Byrne told AAP.
“I welcome investigations into corruption, which has no place in the party I love.
“Because I do not want to cross over or impede any investigations that may be occurring, I’m unable to comment further at this point in time.”
Attorney-General Christian Porter described the installation of a recording device with an MP’s office as a serious concern.
Porter questioned why Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese had not questioned his backbencher about it.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg poked fun at the scandal during question time, when the intelligence committee’s Liberal chairman gave him a free hit.
“He, unlike other members of that committee, has informed me that he doesn’t have any secret hidden cameras in his office,” Frydenberg told parliament.
The prime minister also put the boot in when fielding a crossbench question about plans for a national integrity commission.
“I would be very surprised if those opposite in the Labor Party would be asking questions about integrity today,” Scott Morrison said.
Both attempts at humour elicited audible groans from those on the Labor benches.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said he had not spoken to Byrne about the branch-stacking scandal, which is being investigated by Victoria Police and the state’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.
Under Victorian law, recording a conversation does not require the consent of the person being recorded, unlike some other states.