The Victorian Opposition had some fun today ripping into the government over allegations by Costas Socratous, a disgruntled former Labor staffer who has accused everyone from Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Home Affairs Minister Brendan Oâ€™Connor, Parl Sec Bill Shorten, state Parl Sec Telmo Languiller, former state industry minister Theo Theophanous and others of being involved in an elaborate branch stacking conspiracy.
Heâ€™s not the only one getting in on the act. The Age reported the Coburg branch of the ALP has condemned branch stacking and has demanded a full inquiry.
A branch secretary of the Coburg branch in Wills and an ally of Senator David Feeney, Robert Larocca sent out this email today:
You may have seen mentions of the branch in the press today.
Whilst the minutes are not finished yet I thought those not at the meeting may appreciate seeing the detail of the resolution.
So for your information attached is a copy of the branch’s resolution that was adopted by the branch without any dissent.
If you have any questions about it don’t hesitate to let me know.
It isnâ€™t certain whether thereâ€™ll be an inquiry into the Wills FEA over Laroccaâ€™s allegations of branch stacking corruption in his local seat but it is certainly calculated to put pressure of that kind on the Party Secretary Nick Reece. Larocca, a spokesman for real estate agents in Victoria, intends to run for Wills at some point, and is considered likely to have the backing of Senator Feeney.
Another Feeney ally, Christine Campbell, the state member for Pascoe Vale, has also complained about branch-stacking in the Wills FEA. But Laroccaâ€™s entry onto that territory is considered a dramatic escalation by party observers.
Meanwhile, there is a growing realisation in government circles that the ALP will face a tight election come November.
This has led to earnest discussions among cabinet ministers about whether they should call Ted Baillieuâ€™s bluff on his demands for the creation of a politician-hunting anti-corruption commission in Victoria.
Modelled on controversial similar agencies in other states like the ICAC in NSW, this body would potentially have the jurisdiction to be able to investigate complaints of the kind made by Costas Socratous and Robert Larocca, particularly if they related to allegations that public monies were misused in some respect or included allegations relating to the creation of false documents and so on.
VEXNEWS understands that the government is giving serious thought to introducing its own ICAC prior to the state election, depending on the recommendations of Elizabeth Proust who has been reviewing the issue and other bodies including the Victorian Ombudsman.
It would ensure that â€“ in the event Baillieu was elected â€“ an anti-corruption commission would be in place for day one of his government.
And while it could examine allegations from the likes of Socratous and Larocca, it could also examine the Baillieu government, if one was elected. Labor hardheads have reflected on the Kennett government and its various mini-scandals relating to everything from Crown Casino to the Premierâ€™s own private investments.
â€œMany think we should this trap for them, if Baillieu is half as dodgy as Jeff was, theyâ€™ll fall over in a heap.â€
One MP we discussed this speculation with was appalled by this possibility.
â€œBaillieu is playing the Latham tear-down-the-temple card. When Latham demanded the scrapping of the parliamentary pension, it gave Howard no choice but to scrap it. This ICAC idea is in much the same kind of cheap anti-politician nonsense. Itâ€™d serve Ted right (if Brumby introduced one) but it doesnâ€™t make it a good idea. Look at what recently happened in NSW. An MP sacked one of her staff. The staff-member then dobbed in the MP for allegedly rorting her electorate entitlements. The rest played out in public with the mere allegation being enough to cause her considerable difficulty. This could happen to any MP sacking anyone on their staff. They are sitting ducks for any allegation, however false. And they are especially vulnerable with an ICAC going around scalp-hunting and justifying its own monster-budget by nailing politicians regularly. This culture of political vengeance is what Baillieu is doing his best to create. Itâ€™s short-term stupidity and madness.â€
With allegations of wrongdoing from the ALP from Costas Socratous and Robert Larocca, even in a dual election year, there is no doubt a Victorian ICAC would have plenty of fuel for their politician-burning fire.