Deputy Labor leader dragged into corruption scandal as he denies raising money for branch stacking
- Labor MP Anthony Byrne has admitted to paying for popular party memberships
- He said on Wednesday that money from fundraising events would be used
- One of the events featured Deputy Leader Richard Marles as a guest speaker
- Mr Marles said he was ‘not aware’ of improper use of money raised
Richard Marles has denied knowing he attended a fundraiser to raise money to pay for Labor memberships in violation of party rules.
The deputy Labor leader was swept into an anti-corruption investigation on Wednesday as lawyers questioned Federal MP Anthony Byrne.
Mr Byrne has admitted that he paid for membership fees to popular festivals to increase support for his moderate faction in a practice known as branch stacking.
Richard Marles (pictured) has denied knowing of a fundraiser he attended to raise money to pay for Labor memberships in violation of party rules
On Wednesday, he said Labor would hold events to raise the money, including one in 2016 where Marles spoke.
“Generally speaking, there is an event that normally takes place in April or May. Party members and others, trade unions etc. would be invited to attend these meetings,” Mr Byrne said.
The Holt MP was then shown a leaflet advertising a fundraiser at an Afghan restaurant in Dandenong, south-east Melbourne, on Friday 29 April 2016.
The guest speaker was Mr Marles, who was then the Shadow Minister for Immigration.
The leaflet shown at the IBAC hearing
When asked who knew the money raised would be used for branch stacking, Mr Byrne said: “Most of the people who would have attended those functions had a pretty good idea that some of the money raised would go towards memberships.” .’
But a spokeswoman for Marles told the Daily Mail Australia that he “knows absolutely nothing about the funds raised from that event”.
In overwhelming evidence to the Victorian watchdog IBAC this week, Mr Byrne admitted to stacking branches and said he was working with state MPs Adem Somyurek and Luke Donnellan, who resigned as child welfare minister on Monday.
Mr. Somyurek was fired from the state cabinet in June 2020 after 60 Minutes made allegations that he was involved in branch stacking.
He strongly denies the claims and has launched a defamation lawsuit against Nine Network, The Age and investigative journalist Nick McKenzie.
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese has refused to fire Mr Byrne, saying he was not aware the MP was involved in the stacking of branches.
‘I’m not a member of the Victorian branch. I also don’t have a detailed knowledge of the entire electorate and you would be surprised if I do,” he said on Tuesday.
“We’ll let IBAC run its course. It is not appropriate to anticipate their findings and those processes.’
Federal Minister Alan Tudge said Mr Albanian “must take strong action”.
“It’s rotten to the bone in the Labor Party here in Victoria,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.
Mr Byrne (pictured) has admitted to paying for membership fees to popular festivals to increase support for his moderate faction in a practice known as branch stacking.