Rank and file Labor members are calling for an internal ombudsman to stamp out corruption inside the party in the wake of the biggest branch-stacking scandal to engulf the Victorian branch of the ALP.
Members have demanded greater transparency as well as long-lasting change, and believe problems inside the party are “significant”, after The Age and 60 Minutes revealed Victorian ministers, ministerial advisers and electorate officers were allegedly involved in “industrial-scale” branch-stacking.
Following the investigation, Premier Daniel Andrews called for a national intervention into the Victorian branch of the ALP, which is now being overhauled and internally probed by Labor elders Steve Bracks and Jenny Macklin.
In late June, Mr Bracks and Ms Macklin asked Victorian party members what reforms they should prioritise, the rules that needed to change, the cultural changes needed, and how the party should operate under administrators.
More than 460 members and groups responded, with a vast majority angry about what the investigation uncovered, according to an internal report the administrators sent to Labor members on Friday.
There was an “unambiguous” call for greater democratisation of the party, with members believing some groups and factions had a disproportionate power over decision-making. Many also lamented the “parachuting” of candidates into electorates.
“It was clear that members believe that the problems within the party are significant, that they want lasting change, and are broadly supportive of the decision to appoint the administrators, as well as the decision to scrutinise memberships (both past and present),” the report states.
“There was resounding anger among members in respect of the revelations of branch-stacking and the damage this has caused to Labor’s public standing. To this end, a significant volume of members called for punitive action against those involved, such as expulsion from the party, as well as remedial steps to ensure that branch-stacking, and other improper conduct, cannot re-occur.
“Suggestions to prevent this conduct included … rolling audits and an independent party ombudsman.”
Although the responses were wide-ranging, Mr Bracks and Ms Macklin identified eight key themes: the need to eradicate corruption and branch-stacking; appointment of administrators being a necessary step; role of factions; need for greater transparency; need for democratisation of the party; membership processes; the role and composition of branches; and party culture.
Labor’s Victorian headquarters were the subject of much criticism, with many members concerned about the lack of transparency at the administration level.
“Members believed that appointments within head office were not always made on merit and that head office was disconnected from local branches and rank and file members,” the report stated.
“Decisions of the administrative committee were seen to be shrouded in secrecy and removed from the broader membership.”
The Age and 60 Minutes in June revealed cabinet minister Adem Somyurek handed over thousands of dollars in secret cash drop-offs and used political advisers to stack branches with fake members in a bid to amass significant political power inside the party.
The revelations are being investigated by the Victorian Ombudsman and Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.
Mr Somyurek was leader of the powerful Moderates faction, and in a tussle with internal rivals, which escalated late last year.
Labor members broadly linked factionalism to branch-stacking, and many believed it did more harm than good, according to the update Mr Bracks and Ms Macklin sent to members on Friday.
“[They also] expressed concern in respect of both the secrecy that surrounds factional groups and the power that these groups wield,” the report stated.
“Members were aware of the stabilising role factions played historically, however, most believed that the current state of factionalism represented a significant problem that needed to be addressed.”
Sumeyya is a state political reporter for The Age.