Politics

ScoMo Has Been Called Out For Hypocrisy, Again, This Time Over The Branch Stacking Scandal

He's denied any responsibility for a scandal which aimed to install far-right conservatives in the Victorian Liberal party, despite blaming Albo for the same thing only months ago

Scott Morrison branch stacking

Scott Morrison has again been accused of dodging accountability, this time over a branch stacking scandal that’s claimed the scalp of one Victorian politician.

A 60 Minutes investigation found recordings and documents that implicated one of the Prime Minister’s own front benchers in a scheme to recruit far-right conservatives to the Victorian Liberal Party.

A similar scandal hit the Labor party only months ago, ammunition that Morrison used to attack Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. But now that the roles are reversed, Scott Morrison has wiped his hands of any responsibility.

Here’s what you need to understand about the branch stacking scandal.

Why Is Branch Stacking A Big Deal?

Branch stacking is when people recruit others to become members of a political party branch — people they know will vote a certain way (or can be told to vote a certain way).

Once they become members those people can influence internal decisions, like which political candidates should be up for pre-selection. That gives their faction greater control over their political party.

Branch stacking is not illegal, and it’s also nothing new — but it’s something that’s long been frowned upon.

In 2002 a report from former Labor leaders Bob Hawke and Neville Wran addressed the “anti-democratic” act, and described it as having a “cancerous effect” on democratic traditions.

“When membership lists are artificially inflated with large numbers of ‘members’ lacking commitment to the Party, internal democratic processes are distorted. The dilemma for the Party is how to guarantee only genuine, interested Party members participate in ballots without imposing excessive limitations,” they wrote.

While branch stacking itself isn’t illegal, all members in the ALP and LNP must live at their claimed address and pay for their own membership, and legal action can be taken if they lie about that.

What Does Scott Morrison Have To Do With This?

The latest branch stacking scandal has seen ScoMo’s words come back to haunt him.

In June the Victorian ALP faced their own scandal — right faction heavyweight Adem Somyurek was sacked and and two of his allies resigned from Cabinet after a 60 Minutes investigation revealed branch stacking on an “industrial scale“. It alleged he funnelled hundreds of fake members into local ALP branches to seize control of large sections of the Victorian Labor Party, by paying for memberships and using parliamentary employees to conduct political operations.

At the time ScoMo was quick to slam Anthony Albanese, saying the Labor leader was “leading a party in absolute chaos and disarray“.

Now the shoe is on the other foot.

Yesterday a separate investigation alleged that Victorian Liberal powerbroker Marcus Bastiaan targeted social and religious conservatives to boost factional numbers while working in the office of MP Kevin Andrews.

The allegations also implicate one of the Prime Minister’s frontbenchers, Michael Sukkar — while it is not suggested he was actively involved, he did endorse a memo from Bastiaan which set out a plan to give taxpayer-funded jobs in Andrews’ office to Bastiaan operatives. Sukkar was also caught on tape scheming to get rid of four Liberal MPs after they voted in support of a euthanasia bill. You can read a more detailed explainer on the leaked documents and secret recordings here.

When asked to respond to the allegations, the Prime Minister’s office said: “This is an organisational matter for the Victorian Division of the Party”.

Mr Bastiaan yesterday resigned from the party in a statement where he denied the allegations.