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Third Victorian minister resigns as Labor reels

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Third Victorian minister resigns as branch-stacking scandal engulfs the state’s Labor Party

A third Victorian Labor MP has resigned over the branch-stacking scandal. 

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Marlene Kairouz stepped down as Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation this morning.

Her staff allegedly helped sacked minister Adem Somyurek recruit party members to influence which candidates get chosen for elections, a practice know as ‘branch stacking.’

Marlene Kairouz stepped down as Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation this morning

Assistant Treasurer and Veterans Minister Robin Scott, whose staff were also allegedly involved, resigned last night.

Both said they were innocent and looked forward to having their names cleared. 

Mr Somyurek was accused of branch-stacking in a 60 Minutes programme which aired on Sunday.

He denied the allegations, saying: ‘I reject those and will be providing a rigorous defence during any party process.’

But he admitted making inappropriate comments about a female colleague and young gay staffers and was sacked at 9am on Monday. 

Marlene Kairouz’s statement in full 

This morning I notified the Premier that I will stand aside from my ministerial responsibilities and notified the Governor of the resignation of my commission.

It has been an enormous honour to serve the Victorian people across a number of portfolios including Suburban Development, Local Government and Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation.

I no longer want these matters to be a distraction to the Government.

They have placed enormous pressure on my family and caused them great distress.

I look forward to the opportunity to clear my name and am confident any investigative process will do so.

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I note that these matters do not relate to any allegations of criminality or corruption.

I will continue to serve my electorate of Kororoit, which remains the greatest honour of my life. 

The 60 Minutes programme claimed to reveal the upper house MP handed over thousands of dollars in cash and used parliamentary employees to create fake branch members and amass political influence within the Australian Labor Party. 

Footage shows Mr Somyurek on April 13 withdrawing $2,000 in cash from an ATM, before handing it and dozens of party membership forms, to an adviser working for fellow Labor minister Marlene Kairouz, who then delivers the forms and cash to ALP head office.

The advisor reportedly carried out a similar cash drop-off earlier in the year.

‘Well, if he (the advisor) gets caught on the street, he’d better not say he’s doing f***ing this stuff,’ Mr Somyurek is recorded saying after the April 13 drop.

Mr Somyurek was also allegedly recorded ordering people to forge signatures and create false statements, in which Labor branch members claim to have paid for their own memberships.

The MP said he will ask the police to investigate if he was recorded illegally. 

Jaclyn Symes, Gabrielle Williams, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Melissa Horne and Adem Somyurek in 2018

Jaclyn Symes, Gabrielle Williams, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Melissa Horne and Adem Somyurek in 2018

What did Adem Somyurek say in secret recordings?

On the Premier: ‘F**** the Premier. Alright? That’s what this is about. F*** the premier. I’ll be just running the joint, like, it’s who I say is going to be the f***ing premier’

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On female colleague Gabrielle Williams: ‘I will f***ing force her out of the ministry, that f***ing stupid b****, when Andrews goes … She’s a stupid, stupid moll. ‘I’m going to f***ing knock her f***ing head off. She’s a f***ing psycho b****.’

On young Labor members: ‘Real little f***ing slimy little f***ers, right … little passive aggressive f***ing gay kids…’

Adem Somyurek pictured in May, 2019. He is said to have controlled two thirds of Victoria's Labor Party through branch stacking

Adem Somyurek pictured in May, 2019. He is said to have controlled two thirds of Victoria’s Labor Party through branch stacking

What is branch stacking? 

Branch stacking involves recruiting or signing up members for a local branch of a political party for the purpose of influencing the outcome of internal preselections of candidates for federal and state parliament. 

He also talks about directing taxpayer-funded parliamentary employees, meant to be working for other MPs, to conduct party political operations. 

In one recording, Mr Somyurek boasts of controlling two-thirds of the Labor party in Victoria.

‘I’ll be just running the joint,’ Mr Somyurek says.

‘It’s who I say is going to be the f***ing premier.’

It is against Labor rules to pay for other people’s memberships.

Party members are required to sign a form declaring they have paid for their own memberships.

In the recordings, Mr Somyurek also takes aim at his colleagues, including Ms Kairouz, who he describes as holding a ‘meaningless’ portfolio ‘made up just to make it look like we’re interested in the suburbs’.

He labels the Minister for Women and the Prevention of Family Violence Gabrielle Williams a ‘stupid b****’ whom he will ‘f***ing force … out of the ministry’.

Somyurek also describes these young staffers helping him as ‘patronising and annoying’, and ‘real little f***ing slimy little f***ers, little passive-aggressive f***ing gay kids’.’ 

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Adem Somyurek’s statement in full 

This morning I advised the Premier of my resignation as a Minister.

It follows publication of numerous personal and private conversations between myself and a long term friend and factional ally of mine.

It is clear that I was taped and surveilled in a Federal electorate office without my knowledge and that this material was published without my knowledge of its existence or my consent.

I will be taking steps to seek a police investigation into these matters.

With respect to allegations made around memberships of the party, I reject those and will be providing a rigorous defence during any party process.

The conversations published without my knowledge or consent were with someone who I trusted about internal party matters.

There are many robust discussions that occur on any given day in the Labor Party across all factions.

However I accept and take full responsibility for the fact that my language on a number of occasions was simply not appropriate.

While Ms Williams and I have been at odds factionally for many years, I should not have used the language I did about her and I apologise to her unequivocally.

Further, I am deeply sorry for language I used regarding highly valued and exceptional young people who are members of the LGBTI community.

These comments have quite rightly cost me my job. 

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