on to fix branch stacking

on to fix branch stacking

Royce Millar and David Rood

June 11, 2009

Illustration: Tandberg

Illustration: Tandberg

THE ALP is under mounting pressure to act on branch stacking and corruption as doubt grows about the bona fides of hundreds of memberships in the party’s western suburbs heartland.

A survey of members — based on confidential current membership lists — has revealed that many people named as members in the troubled Brimbank area know little about their memberships, including when they were paid for, to whom, and how much they cost.

The revelations come as ALP state secretary Stephen Newnham fights to keep his job as factional forces and senior government figures push for change.

Party sources said a senior figure in Premier John Brumby’s office has pressed Mr Newnham as recently as this week to stand down.

The move could be seen as making a clean start in the wake of the Brimbank Council scandal.

This week, The Age surveyed a cross-section of members in branches in Melbourne’s west believed to be dominated by right-wing factional heavyweight Hakki Suleyman.

Mr Suleyman is an ally of senior party figures including Senator Stephen Conroy and the member for Maribyrnong, Bill Shorten.

Mr Suleyman was also a central figure in the Ombudsman’s scathing report last month about the Brimbank Council and inappropriate interference by state political figures, including former minister Theo Theophanous and Keilor MLA George Seitz.

Mr Suleyman’s daughter, Natalie, is a former mayor of Brimbank and is also facing investigation over alleged offences under the Local Government Act.

Like Mr Suleyman, the vast majority of members across three branches — the Glengala “Macedonian, Sunshine Heights and North Maribyrnong branches — are of Turkish background.

The leaked lists reveal that the Glengala branch has 97 members. Although established as a “Macedonian” branch, almost all of the members have Turkish names.

One high-profile and active party source said that, with the exception of a handful, the 250 members across the three branches were unknown in the broader party.

Even those surveyed by Turkish interviewers struggled to answer basic questions about the membership.

Multiple family members, often from the same address, belong to the party. One family appears to have nine people as members in one branch.

The contact person for the Glengala “Macedonian” branch and the Sunshine Heights branch is Ken Capar, a former local councillor and Suleyman foot soldier who featured prominently in the Ombudsman’s Brimbank report.

The Ombudsman has recommended investigation of Mr Capar over offences including using confidential council information in a business deal relating to the supply of public toilets.

Labor has been embarrassed by the continuing fall-out over the Ombudsman’s report, which has included a concerted Opposition assault against Planning Minister Justin Madden. Mr Suleyman worked in Mr Madden’s electoral office until being stood down after the Ombudsman’s report.

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