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IBAC closes in on Daniel Andrews over ‘Red Shirts’ and branch stacking claims

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is coming under increasing scrutiny as the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption (IBAC) hearings continue.

IBAC closes in on Daniel Andrews over ‘Red Shirts’ and branch stacking claims
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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is coming under increasing scrutiny as the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption (IBAC) hearings continue.

Accusations have been made that political influence over police operations may have altered the way detectives approached sitting MPs during the ‘red shirts’ investigation.

Secret police files from 2018 revealed that senior Victoria Police officers prevented fraud squad detectives from arresting sixteen MPs in the Andrews government connected to the ‘red shirts’ investigation.

The contents of the files, confirmed by three whistle-blowers, show that ‘detectives were directed by high-ranking officers to make sure that 16 named members of Parliament “not be arrested, photographed, searched if they are interviewed”.’according to The Age.

The ‘red shirt’ rorting investigation relates to the 2014 Victorian state election where the Ombudsman found $388,000 worth of taxpayer funds incorrectly used by the Labor Party through the use of false timesheets.

Police had been intending to arrest, fingerprint, photograph, and interview MPs as part of the investigation, but were directed not to by senior officers in October, 2018. This order was meant to remain a secret, according to the files.

The 2018 Operation Ocotillo into the ‘red shirt’ affair exposed external political pressure which changed operational directives. The probe into police conduct has shown that Labor MPs were not treated the same as civilian criminal suspects because senior officers feared ‘political blow back’.

 

There sources with knowledge of the police inquiry said the investigation did not pursue all possible avenues and that a more robust approach of laying a criminal charge, or raiding and arresting select MPs, might have opened up fresh lines of inquiry or prompted suspects to co-operate with police,” said Nick McKenzie, writing in The Age.

 

A statement by Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton in 2018 said that police involved in Operation Ocotillo were following ‘the letter of the law’.

Former Labor power broker Adem Somyurek appeared as a witness in a separate IBAC inquiry run jointly with the Victorian Ombudsman over historic branch stacking allegations against the Labor party.

 

I told you Mr Andrews went through this apprenticeship as well,” said Somyurek. “They’ve all gone through it. Mr Andrews was doing all the things we were doing … how do we rationalise it?”

 

IBAC is under pressure to follow up on allegations that Premier Daniel Andrews was both involved in branch stacking and knew about the ‘red shirts’ rorting affair.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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