Labor’s national executive has appointed Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin as administrators of the Victorian branch, and has suspended all state committees, as the party continues to grapple with the damaging fallout of the Adem Somyurek branch-stacking scandal.
The extraordinary federal-led intervention is also expected to include suspending all voting rights in the Victorian branch until at least 2023, and preselections for the next state and federal elections will be conducted by the ALP national executive.
The substantial interposition follows 48 hours of internal jockeying after the Nine Network reported on Sunday night that Somyurek, the disgraced rightwing state powerbroker, orchestrated the payment of party memberships in a mass branch-stacking operation in Victoria.
It was clear on Monday that an audit of party membership and an administrative intervention would inevitably follow the damaging revelations about party culture.
But as Anthony Albanese, his deputy Richard Marles, and the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews worked to land a proposal that would be supported by the national executive, there was significant pushback from some quarters of the Victorian right about the scale of the correction, and sensitivity about the terminology that would be used to describe it.
The toppling of Somyurek puts allegiances in the Victorian right in flux. The controversial powerbroker had torpedoed a longstanding stability pact between the right and the left brokered by veteran powerbrokers and former ministers Stephen Conroy and Kim Carr – a contested power shift facilitated in part by the former Labor leader Bill Shorten that fractured relationships within the right, and reshaped transactional alliances with the left.
Guardian Australia understands Shorten was active in the internal discussions about the intervention proposal, and there was concern more broadly within the Victorian right about the consequences of an inevitable rebalancing of power within the branch. Somyurek’s fall from grace benefits the leftwing Albanese because it disrupts opportunities for right-led internal mischief.
The federal intervention in Victoria was worked up in the national executive committee of the ALP ahead of a full meeting of the national executive on Tuesday night. Andrews has also referred the allegations aired on Sunday night’s 60 Minutes program to the police and to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (Ibac).
Somyurek on Monday resigned his membership of the Victorian ALP before his expulsion by the ALP’s national executive. Two of Somyurek’s factional allies in the state, Marlene Kairouz and Robin Scott have also resigned from their ministries.
Andrews acknowledged publicly on Tuesday the improper conduct documented by the Nine Network would result in a restructure of the Victorian branch. The premier told reporters the response to the revelations would involve the party’s national executive “being involved in delivering a restructure and then it will be for us here in Victoria to get on and make the reform that is very, very important”.
In shaping the proposal for an intervention, Andrews asked the ALP’s national secretary Paul Erickson to suspend voting processes in the branch while an audit of the membership was conducted. Andrews said officials needed to establish that all party memberships in the state were “genuine, consenting and self-funding”.
The premier told the national secretary he had no confidence in the integrity of any voting rolls that would be produced for any internal elections in the branch. In backing the extraordinary intervention, Andrews declared a review was not enough to achieve the desired change.
Wayne Swan, the Labor party’s national president, said the behaviour exposed was reprehensible and “at odds with everything the ALP stands for.”
“The national executive takes these matters incredibly seriously, and the gravity of this step cannot be understated.”
Bracks and Macklin – a right-aligned former premier and a left-aligned long-serving federal minister – will be appointed for an initial term extending until 31 January 2021. The two will be asked to provide the national executive with an initial scoping study by 31 July.
The pair have been asked to provide recommendations about integrity measures for the branch membership, and to provide a framework for consultation with grass roots party members.
The national executive will request that a final report be delivered by November 2020. It is envisaged that the final report will include recommendations on a restructure and reconstitution of the branch so the branch is comprised of genuine members.
Albanese flagged earlier on Tuesday the scale of the improper behaviour in Victoria warranted a federal intervention. He said a similar process in New South Wales had yielded dividends. “There was an audit of the New South Wales branch that fixed these matters,” he said.
“We brought in Michael Lavarch, the former commonwealth attorney general. The branch has been restructured, and there are new party officers in place, and the NSW branch is better and stronger for it.”