/ 13 October 2021

Unstacking the power games

Image source: Getty
Image source: Getty

Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese will not force Victorian-based federal MP Anthony Byrne from the party despite his admission to the state’s anti-corruption commission that he participated in branch-stacking. Four Victorian Labor ministers have resigned over the claims since the Sydney Morning Herald/Age first published details of the scandal last year, and there are weeks of hearings to come. And it’s now causing problems for the party’s leadership.

In June last year, Andrews sacked former minister Adem Somyurek when it was claimed that he was at the centre of an “industrial-scale” branch stacking scheme. That’s the practice of signing up members who will vote the way you want to decide candidates for elections, for example. It’s not illegal and IBAC would not usually launch such an investigation, but it’s exploring whether public funds were used in that endeavour. And with hearings kicking off this week, Byrne turned on his former ally and said Somyurek’s “sole objective was power and power alone”. Former federal leader and Victorian-based MP Bill Shorten yesterday said the scandal is “just embarrassing. This isn’t the way our political party should be operating.”

So Byrne has also accused Andrews’ Socialist Left faction of branch stacking, and there are calls for the Premier to be called before the inquiry to answer questions. For his part, Andrews says he has always followed the Labor Party’s rules and doesn’t have time for factional battles. As for Albanese, he’s previously called for Liberal MPs accused of branch stacking to go. And it comes at a time when he is gearing up to take the high road on a Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC) as the Morrison Government gets ready to reveal the legislation. All that as former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian gets ready for her public anti-corruption hearing to kick off next week… #SquizShortcut

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