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Ex-Victorian MP claims Dan Andrews ignored warnings about ‘red shirts’ branch stacking scandal

‘Do you want to win the election or not?’ Dan Andrews is dragged into Labor branch stacking probe – as former MP claims he refused to listen to concerns before ‘red shirts’ scandal

  • Ex-Victorian MP said Dan Andrews ignored concerns before ‘red shirts’ scandal 
  • Ahead of the 2014 election, Labor misused taxpayer cash to pay campaign staff 
  • Adem Somyurek appeared before independent corruption inquiry on Monday 

Daniel Andrews did not heed warnings about Labor’s red shirts scandal ahead of the 2014 election in which nearly $400,000 of taxpayer funds were misused, an inquiry has heard.

Former Victorian MP Adem Somyurek appeared in the witness box for the first time since the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission inquiry into Labor Party branch-stacking began.

He quit Labor last year before he could be expelled following a Nine Network investigation, which caught him handing over cash and using parliamentary staff allegedly to create fake branch members.

A corruption inquiry has heard Dan Andrews (pictured with wife) ignored warnings about a potential scandal involving campaign staff in 2014 

Mr Somyurek named the premier several times during Monday’s evidence, claiming he went to Mr Andrews with his concerns about the red shirts scandal before the 2014 election.

He said Mr Andrews responded: ‘Words to the effect of ‘do you want to win the election or not?”

In 2018 Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass’ investigation into red shirts found Labor had misused $388,000 of taxpayer money to pay political campaign staff ahead of the 2014 election.

Mr Somyurek described red shirts as ‘a gold standard rort’ and criticised the ombudsman for not coming down harder, saying she could have used ‘stronger language’ to get the message across.

‘That created an atmosphere of … anyone could do anything, even employing electoral officers to work on campaign activity,’ he said.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Somyurek said he was aware of branch stacking when he joined the Labor Party in the 1990s.

Adem Somyurek (pictured) gave evidence at the IBAC inquiry on Monday which is looking at branch stacking in the Labor Party

Adem Somyurek (pictured) gave evidence at the IBAC inquiry on Monday which is looking at branch stacking in the Labor Party 

He said Mr Andrews was a key organiser for Labor’s Socialist Left faction during federal MP Anthony Byrne’s preselection in the late-1990s.

‘You had Anthony Byrne as chief recruiter from the right, and I think Daniel Andrews was organising on the left,’ he said.

Mr Somyurek claimed ‘the left invented ethnic branch stacking.’

‘It was the left and right going at it hammer and tongs when I joined the party,’ he said.

Mr Somyurek admitted some of his electorate staff were ‘factional operatives’ and he expected they would do factional work for him, which included recruiting and managing Labor Party members.

Electorate office workers are paid by taxpayers to manage their officers for constituents.

‘I don’t have a problem with my employees, my staff, being factional. I tried to limit that,’ he said

‘I might have instructed them to do some things that were factional.’

Dan Andrews has recently sent a huge team to a major trade show in China after signing up to Beijing's international 'belt and road' infrastructure plan

Dan Andrews has recently sent a huge team to a major trade show in China after signing up to Beijing’s international ‘belt and road’ infrastructure plan

He said Mr Byrne had asked him to contribute to funds to pay for other people’s party memberships, and said he was ‘probably a stack-ee’ himself.

He said he had paid ‘about $2000 a year’ for party memberships himself and was aware of a kitty kept inside Mr Byrne’s office, but ‘knew nothing about what happened to the money’.

Mr Somyurek was shown text messages he sent asking electorate staffers about ballot harvesting, filling out ballots on behalf of members, ahead of the Labor Party’s 2018 national conference.

He said staff were only expected to do this work when there was no ‘genuine’ work to do.

His evidence will continue before IBAC Commissioner Robert Redlich on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

When contacted by AAP, a government spokesperson said it would be inappropriate to comment while the inquiry was ongoing.