IBAC’s investigation into branch stacking has led to the resignation of Victorian Labor minister Luke Donnellan after it was alleged that he paid for other people’s Labor party memberships.
Today was the first day of ‘Operation Watts’ – the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) hearing into branch-stacking.
“IBAC is holding public hearings into allegations of serious corrupt conduct involving Victorian public officers, including Members of Parliament. The hearings are part of Operation Watts, a coordinated investigation between IBAC and the Victorian Ombudsman, which is looking into a range of matters including allegations of 'branch stacking' aired in media reports in 2020." - IBAC statement.
IBAC’s investigation has already resulted in a number of resignations after secret tapes were broadcast during the Adem Somyurek special released by 60 Minutes. Somyurek was sacked by the Labor Party, but denies any wrongdoing.
Donnellan has relinquished his position as Minister for Child Protection and Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers. He has bowed out of Cabinet to sit on the backbench.
“I accept that I have previously breached party rules while a minister. But let me be very clear: I never misused public funds or resources in any way. And this has absolutely nothing to do with my staff,” said Donnellan, during his statement.
“However, I don’t believe it is possible or appropriate to maintain my Ministerial responsibilities given these rule breaches.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews thanked Donnellan for his work.
“He has been a passionate advocate for vulnerable kids, people with disability and older Victorians and he leaves a legacy of reform of which he can be proud.”
The Premier did not comment further on the IBAC investigation.
Other serious allegations have come to light after Federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne admitted to IBAC that Labor Party branch-stacking was ‘out of control’. As a witness before IBAC, Byrne made a range of accusations including that an aspiring Labor politician had paid $5,000 to factional bosses to win a federal seat.
Byrne detailed examples of branch-stacking within the Labor Party, including his own participation in the practice.
"In whatever way you want to define that, I think you can say that I was connected, if you're talking about payment for renewals of some memberships, yes, and potentially some, as I recall, some memberships – I can't be too specific about which ones I might have paid for,” said Byrne.
IBAC investigations are ongoing.