Daniel Andrews appeared to be on the warpath as he vowed to ‘clean-up’ his party after a major scandal claimed three of his ministers and sparked a police investigation.
The Victorian Premier apologised to hard-working Labor supporters on Wednesday after allegations of ‘industrial scale’ branch-stacking were levelled in a 60 Minutes programme on Sunday night.
Branch-stacking is when new party members are recruited to influence the outcome of internal elections. The practice is against both Liberal and Labor guidelines and can be illegal if it involves faking addresses or forging signatures.
Adem Somyurek (pictured in May, 2019) has been sacked over allegations of branch stacking
Former Victorian minister Marlene Kairouz (left) resigned from her post after she was caught up in the scandal. She denies any wrongdoing
The 60 Minutes show aired a series of recorded CCTV footage and phone calls which allegedly showed former minister for local government Adem Somyurek plotting and carrying out a huge branch-stacking operation involving creating fake members, which he denies.
Mystery remains over who made the secret tapes, but the day after the show a furious Premier Andrews sacked Mr Somyurek and said: ‘I have ended his career.’
Since then two other ministers whose staff were allegedly involved in the scandal have resigned from their positions, Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz and Minister for Veterans Robin Scott.
Both vowed to clear their names but said they didn’t want to cause a distraction for the government or add to their families’ distress.
Premier Andrews, determined to find and stamp out any wrongdoing, has referred the allegations to the police and Victoria’s anti-corruption commission.
Last night he also made the extraordinary move of asking the national executive to block Victorian ALP members from voting in internal elections while every one is verified as a real and willing member who paid their own membership fees.
Adem Somyurek (centre) pictured at a meeting in May, 2019. Mr Somyurek is still an MP although he has resigned from the Labor Party
Former Victorian minister Robin Scott (pictured) resigned from his post after he was caught up in the scandal. He denies any wrongdoing
There are fears that up to 25 per cent of the members have been hoodwinked into signing up or faked altogether.
In a letter to the executive, Mr Andrews said he had ‘no confidence in the integrity of any voting rolls’ and asked national leadership to appoint former premier Steve Bracks and former federal minister Jenny Macklin to oversee the clean-up.
Speaking to reporters outside parliament this morning, he said: ‘We have got to go through a process where each and every rank-and-file member re-establishes that they are genuine, consenting and self-funded members of our great party.
‘We need to clean this up and we will’.
Premier Andrews, who has been praised for effectively handling the scandal by swiftly sacking Mr Somyurek, apologised to innocent party members who have had their voting rights stripped until 2023.
I thank you for your work and your passion. I apologise for your pain
Daniel Andrews apologises to Labor supporters
‘I’ve got a message for all of those true believers, those genuine hard-working local branch members, who hand out how-to-vote cards, who make phone calls, who knock on doors, who debate policy – I thank you for your work and your passion. I apologise for your pain,’ he said.
Meanwhile, questions are being raised over who took the secret recordings of Mr Somyurek and how they came into the hands of 60 Minutes.
Phone call recordings and footage taken in Victorian federal MP Anthony Byrne’s electoral office showed the former minister calling a female colleague a ‘psycho bitch’, branding gay staff members ‘slimy little f***ers’ and boasting he was more powerful than the premier.
Mr Somyurek said: ‘It is clear that I was taped and surveilled in a federal electorate office without my knowledge and that this material was published without my knowledge of its existence or my consent.
‘I will be taking steps to seek a police investigation into these matters.’
Victorian Labor MP Tim Richardson has also called for an investigation on national security grounds.
‘We don’t know who put those recordings in, we don’t know what has been compromised,’ he said.
Jaclyn Symes, Gabrielle Williams, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Melissa Horne and Adem Somyurek in 2018
‘That is a great concern for our Commonwealth and our national security.
‘The notion that there is an unknown covert recording is a great concern on our democracy and on our sovereignty and that needs to be investigated by the Australian Federal Police, and if it’s a national security risk, ASIO.’
Asked about the recordings on Monday, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said: ‘There were a range of other calls taped, somehow.
‘I don’t know all of the circumstances of it. That will all come out, no doubt, over a period of time. That really isn’t the story here.’
Who are the Victorian ministers that have lost their jobs?
* Accused of handing over cash and using parliamentary employees to create fake members to branch stack and amass political power
* Allegations were first aired by 60 Minutes and The Age on Sunday
* There are recordings of him using profanities against colleagues and staff
* Mr Somyurek denies the allegations and wants police to investigate the recordings used in the expose
* Mr Somyurek was sacked from the Victorian ministry on Monday and resigned from Labor before the party could boot him out
* He most recently held the local government portfolio
* In 2014, Mr Somyurek was made a minister only to have him stand down over bullying allegations a year later
* He was reinstated to the ministry in 2018, with Premier Daniel Andrews saying Mr Somyurek had made the case he had changed
* Will now sit in the Legislative Council as an independent for South Eastern Metropolitan Region
* Supports the ALP Right faction
* Factional ally of Mr Somyurek
* Accused of encouraging staff to take part in the branch stacking with Mr Somyurek, according to secret recordings obtained by The Age
* Assured Mr Andrews on Monday that she had acted appropriately at all times
* After becoming embroiled in the allegations, she resigned from the ministry on Tuesday
* Held various ministerial portfolios of suburban development, local government and consumer affairs, gaming and liquor regulation
* ‘I no longer want these matters to be a distraction to the government. They have placed enormous pressure on my family and caused them great distress,’ she said in a statement on Tuesday
* Ms Kairouz will continue to serve the electorate of Kororoit
* Factional ally of Mr Somyurek
* Mr Scott is accused of having staff involved in the branch stacking
* Stepped down from his ministerial post on Monday
* ‘To the extent that these matters relate to my conduct, I look forward to the opportunity to clear my name. I am very confident that the investigative process will do so,’ he said in a statement
* Mr Scott will continue to serve the electorate of Preston
Mr Somyurek claims he resigned but Premier Andrews said he sacked the minister at 9am on Monday.
‘Mr Somyurek was not offered an opportunity to resign. He is not worthy of an opportunity to resign. He was sacked. And that is the fact of the matter,’ Premier Andrews said.
‘He offered no defence of his actions. It was not a meeting where I was having a debate or discussion with him. I was simply doing him the courtesy of informing him in person of the decisions that I had taken.’
‘The conduct is appalling and unacceptable and will not be tolerated and I have taken action to deal with that.’
Party powerbroker Adem Somyurek (pictured) has been banished from Labor after allegedly being caught branch stacking, which he denies
The Premier said the first he heard of the allegations was when he watched 60 Minutes on Sunday night.
The programme claimed to reveal the upper house MP handed over thousands of dollars in cash and used parliamentary employees to create fake branch members and amass political influence within the Australian Labor Party.
Footage shows Mr Somyurek on April 13 withdrawing $2,000 in cash from an ATM, before handing it and dozens of party membership forms to an adviser working for fellow Labor minister Marlene Kairouz, who then delivers the forms and cash to ALP head office.
The advisor reportedly carried out a similar cash drop-off earlier in the year.
‘Well, if he (the advisor) gets caught on the street, he’d better not say he’s doing f***ing this stuff,’ Mr Somyurek is recorded saying after the April 13 drop.
Mr Somyurek was also allegedly recorded ordering people to forge signatures and create false statements, in which Labor branch members claim to have paid for their own memberships.
He also talks about directing taxpayer-funded parliamentary employees, meant to be working for other MPs, to conduct party political operations.
In one recording, Mr Somyurek boasts of controlling two-thirds of the Labor party in Victoria.
‘I’ll be just running the joint,’ Mr Somyurek says.
‘It’s who I say is going to be the f***ing premier.’
What did Adem Somyurek say in secret recordings?
On the Premier: ‘F**** the Premier. Alright? That’s what this is about. F*** the premier. I’ll be just running the joint, like, it’s who I say is going to be the f***ing premier’
On female colleague Gabrielle Williams: ‘I will f***ing force her out of the ministry, that f***ing stupid b****, when Andrews goes … She’s a stupid, stupid moll. ‘I’m going to f***ing knock her f***ing head off. She’s a f***ing psycho b****.’
On young Labor members: ‘Real little f***ing slimy little f***ers, right … little passive aggressive f***ing gay kids…’
It is against Labor rules to pay for other people’s memberships and members are required to sign a form declaring they have paid their own fees.
In the recordings, Mr Somyurek also takes aim at his colleagues, including Ms Kairouz, who he describes as holding a ‘meaningless’ portfolio ‘made up just to make it look like we’re interested in the suburbs’.
He labels the Minister for Women and the Prevention of Family Violence Gabrielle Williams a ‘stupid b****’ whom he will ‘f***ing force … out of the ministry’.
Somyurek also describes these young staffers helping him as ‘patronising and annoying’, and ‘real little f***ing slimy little f***ers, little passive-aggressive f***ing gay kids.’
Adem Somyurek’s statement in full
This morning I advised the Premier of my resignation as a Minister.
It follows publication of numerous personal and private conversations between myself and a long term friend and factional ally of mine.
It is clear that I was taped and surveilled in a Federal electorate office without my knowledge and that this material was published without my knowledge of its existence or my consent.
I will be taking steps to seek a police investigation into these matters.
With respect to allegations made around memberships of the party, I reject those and will be providing a rigorous defence during any party process.
The conversations published without my knowledge or consent were with someone who I trusted about internal party matters.
There are many robust discussions that occur on any given day in the Labor Party across all factions.
However I accept and take full responsibility for the fact that my language on a number of occasions was simply not appropriate.
While Ms Williams and I have been at odds factionally for many years, I should not have used the language I did about her and I apologise to her unequivocally.
Further, I am deeply sorry for language I used regarding highly valued and exceptional young people who are members of the LGBTI community.
These comments have quite rightly cost me my job.