Victorian MP Kaushaliya Vaghela resigned from the Labor Party after accusing various members of the Labor Party – including Premier Daniel Andrews – of bullying her and engaging in intimidating behaviour since 2018.
The accusations span years, with Vaghela alleging that she has been subject to sustained and inappropriate treatment at the hands of the top power brokers who take their lead from Daniel Andrews.
Her claims remain under investigation with WorkSafe.
Tensions came to a head when Vaghela stunningly voted against her own party, siding with Adem Somyurek and his motion to refer the 2018 ‘Red Shirts’ scandal to IBAC. Labor MPs voting against the party is exceptionally rare, and Vaghela’s decision to break ranks in the interest of transparency and public decency caused outrage in the party.
Now, Vaghela has accused Luckee Kohli, a ‘closer personal friend’ of Daniel Andrews, of presiding over a bullying campaign against her.
“Mr Luckee Kohli, were ring leaders of a group of men who increasingly bullied, harassed and intimidated me. At events, they would stand over me and invade my space, pointing, laughing, mocking, and sneering at me,” said Vaghela in Parliament.
“Their campaign extended to spreading nasty rumours, and excluding me from attending events, and undermining my position to do my job. Their strategy was to bully, harass, and intimidate me to such a degree that I would simply walk away from politics.”
The formal complaint was lodged with the office of the Premier in May 2021 and was promptly informed that ‘no action could be taken’ against either of the named individuals. Vaghela has been frustrated that many of her complaints against the party were ignored over the years.
Vaghela believes that the campaign of bullying enacted against her began because she decided to defect from the Socialist Left faction and join the ‘Right’ faction of the Labor Party in 2018. She previously enjoyed a good relationship with the party.
“Before I left the Socialist Left, the Premier and I had a good relationship. However, when I became a member of his caucus, the Premier was a different man towards me.”
Vaghela described Daniel Andrews’ behaviour after the move.
“He was hostile, he would not speak or acknowledge me. He treated me like I was invisible. Despite knowing my bullying complaints against Mr Kohli and Mr Kolape and their friends, the Premier would brush past me at events and publicly embrace the bullies and their friends as if to ‘reward and encourage’ their bullying behaviour.”
Her complaints have not reflected well on a party that has built an election campaign by presenting itself as the pro-women, ‘me too’ party that – especially federally – has made a big show and dance of supporting women against bullying behaviour in Canberra. While federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese has spent a great deal of time speaking out against the Liberal Party’s treatment of women, he has not taken his state premier to task over the issue.
“I continued to make complaints because I was scared, not because I was crazy or irrational. I complained because I sense that the bullying would lead to violence of some form at some stage. I feared that something was going to happen because their actions were openly hostile,” added Vaghela.
Despite the severity of Vaghela’s accusations, the Premier has been oddly quiet. Other female members of the Labor Party have rallied around Daniel Andrews, offering their support of him and the party.
The Premier continued to deny the allegations and rejects Vaghela’s claims of bullying.
“I reject these claims, I reject these assertions, and I think I have made my position and the position of the government abundantly clear.”