Victorian Labor MP Luke Donnellan has announced his resignation from the Andrews government ministry after allegations of branch-stacking were aired at an anti-corruption hearing today.
Mr Donnellan, the Minister for Child Protection and Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, issued a statement this afternoon, saying he had called Premier Daniel Andrews to resign from cabinet.
At the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) hearing today, Mr Donnellan was accused of paying for the memberships of Labor members as part of a branch-stacking operation.
“I accept that I have previously breached party rules while a Minister,” Mr Donnellan said.
“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.
“However, I don’t believe it is possible or appropriate to maintain my Ministerial responsibilities given these rule breaches.
“The work to support vulnerable Victorians is too important, especially during the pandemic.
“Serving as Minister in this government has been an incredible privilege and I thank the Premier and my colleagues for that opportunity.
“I also thank my staff and all the department officials who have been working so bloody hard to support the community. You’ve been marvellous.”
Branch-stacking is not illegal but is against party rules.
Branch-stacking allegations aired to IBAC
Mr Donnellan’s resignation followed Federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne blowing the whistle on branch-stacking within the ALP in Victoria, admitting to being involved and describing the system as “well-entrenched”.
The veteran MP gave evidence today in an inquiry before IBAC.
“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,” Mr Byrne told the hearing.
The IBAC probe was launched after 60 Minutes and The Age alleged former party powerbroker Adem Somyurek had directed taxpayer-funded staff members to help recruit non-genuine members into local Labor branches.
Mr Somyurek, who was sacked as a minister and forced out of the ALP, has denied any wrongdoing.
Asked by the counsel assisting Chris Carr, SC, when branch-stacking within the party occurred, Mr Byrne said: “I don’t think the system ever stopped, I think the system had been operating through the ’90s and continued through the 2000s and the 2010s.”
“If people joined a branch, depending on how they joined, monies could then be sort of provided after those members joined,” he told the hearing.
“More recently with central branch memberships, the same sort of thing.
“There would be, people would be joined, there would be some monies that would be provided by some source to fund those memberships.”
Mr Byrne offered his own explanation.
“There were a very large number of members after I became the Member for Holt in 1999,” he said.
“I knew straight off the bat, unless something was done, then we would have a period of time where we would be branch-stacking for the next however long I was in Parliament.
“What I did was I reached out to the Socialist Left and over a period of time tried to negotiate a discussion to minimise branch-stacking,” he added.
“I believe – effectively from what I experienced, what I’d been through and what I’d been doing – that branch-stacking was wrong, branch-stacking was corrupt, branch-stacking rips the soul out of the Labor party and the community,” Mr Byrne said.
Victorian Labor MP resigns from cabinet over branch-stacking allegations