Anthony Albanese won't call for Anthony Byrne to stand down despite admitting to branch stacking

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Labor leader Anthony Albanese will not, for now, order federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne to resign or be expelled from the party, despite the Victorian MP admitting to long-term branch stacking to gain political support, a breach of Labor rules.

The stunning admission from Mr Byrne - and the resignation of Victorian state Labor minister Luke Donnellan - came on day one of hearings by the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission into branch stacking and the misuse of public resources within the ALP's Victorian branch.

Mr Donnellan resigned from cabinet after Mr Byrne told IBAC that he and Mr Donnellan manipulated votes in that state's Labor branch by paying other people's membership fees. Mr Byrne also told the inquiry that branch stacking was "out of control" in the state.

Former federal party leader Bill Shorten has described the evidence as "humiliating", "industrial-scale" and "surprising".

Mr Albanese told reporters in Sydney that it is too soon for Labor to deal with Mr Byrne's admissions.

"We will allow the IBAC processes to take their course," he said on Tuesday.

"It's not appropriate to pre-empt their findings and those processes. That's a very clear thing when you have a legal matter [that] is taking place. We have intervened to make sure that no one can gain any advantage from any improper practices."

The Victorian branch of the ALP has been under administration since midway through 2020, when a branch-stacking scandal surrounding right-wing powerbroker Adem Somyurek first broke.

The ALP national executive appointed prominent Labor figures Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin as administrators of the branch, and has suspended all state committees.

"What I did was intervene strongly, immediately, decisively, intervened into the Victorian branch, so that any branch stacking or any manipulation of the rules couldn't achieve any advantage of anyone," Mr Albanese said.

"I note that the national executive was taken to court as a result of that national executive intervention. But we took over the preselections, federal and state, we took over the administration of the branch. That was decisive action. That was leadership that I showed and Daniel Andrews showed."

Mr Byrne has served as the federal member for the Melbourne seat of Holt since 1999. He is also the deputy chairman of the powerful Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

He has not made a statement outside of the IBAC hearings on the allegations.

IBAC commissioner Robert Redlich QC has commended Mr Byrne for giving evidence despite it being against his "best interests".

"You have acknowledged wrongdoing, you have acknowledged breaches of a number of party rules, and [...] you are to be commended for coming forth and speaking openly about your conduct and those around you," he told the MP.

"The work of the commission is considerably enhanced by your willingness to come forward in the way in which you have."

Mr Shorten said the evidence so far highlighted the need for a federal anti-corruption body.

"People hate seeing this sort of stuff, but frankly, I would rather it be seen and dealt with than covered up," Mr Shorten told the Nine Network on Tuesday.

"This isn't the way that our political party should be operating, and IBAC's got a fair way to go.

"It's like being hit in the stomach, and no wonder people get frustrated with politics when they see these antics. It's not the way it should be."

  • with Australian Associated Press

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This story Albanese won't remove Labor MP despite branch-stacking admission first appeared on The Canberra Times.