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Victorian ALP branch-stack scandal claims third minister

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Labor’s national executive is preparing to take action against the party’s beleaguered Victorian branch, with three frontbenchers now forced out of state cabinet over a branch-stacking and infighting scandal.

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Party stalwarts are now swooping in to clean up the sordid mess.

“There’s a discussion about getting senior elders in to make sure we clean up the show,” federal Labor Leader Anthony Albanese told 2GB radio on Tuesday.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews expects the national executive to deliver a plan to restructure the state ALP.

“Then it will be for us here in Victoria to get on and make the reform that is very, very important,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“No-one should underestimate my resolve to deal with these issues properly to make sure that we make really significant reform.”

In the short term, senior party figures could be brought in to conduct a review or temporarily take control of the Victorian organisation.

Party powerbroker Adem Somyurek has been banished from Labor after being sprung handing over cash and using parliamentary staff to create fake branch members and amass political influence.

Two of his allies have also resigned from the ministry.

The scandal exposed by 60 Minutes threatens to seep through federal Labor ranks.

Somyurek claimed to be “protecting” veteran Labor MP Anthony Byrne and some of the footage was filmed in Byrne’s office.

Former senator Stephen Conroy alleged the factional heavy also intimidated federal Labor MPs including Tim Watts, Julian Hill, Joanne Ryan and Rob Mitchell.

“The intimidation of federal MPs is to be absolutely deplored,” Conroy told Sky News.

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten says the party thought it had stamped out branch-stacking until the Victorian scandal erupted.

Shorten described the saga as shocking and reprehensible.

“The party has been trying to clean up branch stacking across Australia and … well, we thought it had, but clearly it hadn’t in Victoria,” he told Nine.

“Every person’s credentials need to be checked again. Did they pay for it, their own membership?”

WA Labor MP Patrick Gorman, a former state secretary of the party, said banning cash payments for membership would go some way to stamping out branch stacking.

“That means you have to pay from a bank account or a credit card, making it really clear that the person who paid for the membership was the person who is applying to be or paying to renew their membership.”

Former federal Labor minister Craig Emerson said branch-stacking of political parties would be hard to stamp out because it was about power and influence.

Emerson was part of a panel that reviewed the ALP’s 2019 election loss.

The review did not identify branch stacking as an issue for the election, but he was aware it had been a problem in a number of states such as Queensland and NSW over recent decades.

“It is about power and ambition,” Emerson told the ABC.

-AAP

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