Somyurek gone amid branch-stack scandal

Adem Somyurek has stepped down as a State Cabinet Minister for a second time. 201398_02 Picture: CAM LUCADOU-WELLS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Dandenong-based state MP and ALP factional powerbroker Adem Somyurek has been “sacked” as Minister for a second time while denying explosive allegations of branch-stacking.

In a stunning report by 60 Minutes and The Age, the Local Government and Small Business Minister was accused of using Parliamentary staff and paying thousands for fake memberships as part of the alleged practice.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced he’d sacked Mr Somyurek from the Cabinet, his caucus and “his team”, and expected Mr Somyurek’s ALP membership to be “terminated”.

He said that the matter would be referred to Victoria Police and the anti-corruption body IBAC for investigation.

Mr Somyurek’s comments about Cabinet colleague and Dandenong MP Gabrielle Williams were “completely deplorable” and “shameful”.

“On that basis there’s no place in my government for him.

“Mr Somyurek was not offered an opportunity to resign. He’s not worthy of an opportunity to resign – he was sacked.”

In a statement on 15 June, Mr Somyurek said he’d advised Premier Daniel Andrews of his resignation.

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

He however apologized “unequivocally” for his “inappropriate” language during an allegedly tapped phone call about Dandenong MP Gabrielle Williams.

“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.”

In the reported call, he allegedly said of Ms Williams, the Minister for Women, for Aboriginal Affairs and for Preventing Family Violence, that he’ll “get that f***ing bitch Gabrielle out”.

“I will force her out of the Ministry, that f***ing stupid bitch, when Andrews goes. She’s a stupid, stupid moll.”

Mr Somyurek said those comments as well as about Labor staffers had “quite rightly cost me my job”.

On the surveillance, he’d allegedly referred to the young staffers as “real little f***ing slimy little f***ers” and “little passive-aggressive f***ing gay kids”.

In his statement on 15 June, Mr Somyurek stated he’d seek a police investigation into the use of surveillance recordings in a “Federal electorate office without my knowledge” as part of the Nine report.

“It follows publication of numerous personal and private conversations between myself and a long time 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.”

In 2015, Mr Andrews had forced Mr Somyurek to resign from the front bench for allegedly bullying a staff member – claims that Mr Somyurek denied.

After the 2018 state election, Mr Somyurek was restored to the State Cabinet.

On covert phone taps reported by Nine, the destruction of Labor colleagues’ careers was discussed, including Bruce federal MP Julian Hill.

“I’m looking forward to this actually

“In between sacking councils and stuff, I’ll be sacking Julian.”

Holt federal MP Anthony Byrne was however ‘protected’.

“Anthony’s got a terrible reputation, everyone thinks he’s a waste of space. I don’t. I protect him.

“I had to stop articles talking about Anthony Byrne going. I said he’s got my protection, he’s going nowhere.”

Opposition leader Michael O’Brien and Green acting leader Ellen Sandell had called for Mr Somyurek and implicated front-benchers Robin Scott and Marlene Kairouz to be stood down “immediately”.

Mr O’Brien said the reports showed Mr Andrews’ “shocking failure of judgement”

“In backing Adem Somyurek, Daniel Andrews put his own political interests ahead of the interests of Victorians.

“Andrews bears full responsibility for the actions of his Ministers.”

Ms Sandell said Mr Andrews refused to stand up to Mr Somyurek “for years”.

“The toxic factions have been allowed to run Labor and Victoria for far too long, eroding our democracy.

“The fact that Andrews put this factional warlord in charge of the Ministry for Local Government, with a local election just months away, should be deeply worrying for local communities and their democracy.”

Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese told ABC that he’d spoken to Mr Andrews and expected “swift action” on the matter.

State opposition multicultural affairs spokesperson Neil Angus lambasted the “dreadful” attitude that Labor has towards “multicultural Victorians”.

“The blatant use of members of Victoria’s multicultural communities, including the Indian community, for the sole purpose of enabling organised Victorian Labor Party branch stacking is disgraceful.