No Victorian Labor MP will face criminal charges despite an integrity investigation that revealed deliberate, extensive and blatant misuse of taxpayers’ money.
The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and the Victorian Ombudsman released their joint report on allegations made by branches within the party on Wednesday.
The watchdogs considered whether the identified abuses constitute a criminal offense that should be referred to the Public Prosecutor and ultimately agreed against it.
None of Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews’ MPs will face criminal charges over the investigation
The report made negative findings against Labor power broker Adem Somyurek
“While we consider the behavior blatant, the difficulties of proof are such that we cannot recommend prosecution,” the report said.
“On the contrary, it is now a matter for the Privileges Committees of each house to decide whether the said MPs have willfully discredited Parliament.”
It found that the stacking of branches was not limited to one Victorian Labor faction, but evidence of wrongdoing only concerned Mr Somyurek’s moderate faction.
“We had no specific evidence that would allow us to determine the extent of abuse by another faction,” the report said.
The investigation was launched in response to allegations in a Nine Network investigation that power broker Adem Somyurek of the Labor moderate faction handed over cash and used parliamentary assistants to create fake ward members and amass political clout.
The practice, known as stacking branches, is not illegal, but against Labor Party rules.
Mr Somyurek resigned from the Labor party in June 2020 before being expelled following the reports.
Former cabinet member Marlene Kairouz
His faction allies Robin Scott and Marlene Kairouz also left the cabinet after the unveiling. All three MPs have previously denied the abuses.
Luke Donnellan became the fourth ministerial victim of the scandal in October after then-Federal MP Anthony Byrne told the joint inquiry that the couple paid for the Labor membership of others.
The report made negative findings against Mr. Somyurek and Ms. Kairouz, but not against Prime Minister Daniel Andrews and other witnesses.
In all, Mr Somyurek and six other witnesses were questioned in public hearings and another 26 in private, including Mr Andrews.
The prime minister previously declined to confirm whether he was being interviewed as part of the investigation or to comment on it until the final report was released.
According to the report, Mr Andrews “agreed that the practice was not limited to one faction and was ‘across the board’”, but he “denied any personal knowledge of or involvement in such practices”.
The 233-page report makes 21 recommendations, including drafting legislation for a parliamentary ethics committee, tightening the definition of admissible work for voter officials and banning MPs from employing close relatives in their electoral offices.
The government banned voters from campaigning during working hours in 2019 following the Labor ‘red shirt scandal’, but the new rules don’t cover fractional work outside the election.
In public hearings, Mr Somyurek said he was aware of the stacking of branches when he joined the party in the 1990s.