Corruption is an invidious cancer in the body politic. It starts very simply with well-meaning people recruiting friends and family to local branches on the assumption that they will support their political aspirations. These family members are not really interested in politics but sign up to support their friend or relation, particularly if they are prepared to pay the registration fees. Often they don’t go to branch meetings and allow the candidate to file proxy votes for them.
It then spreads to pre-selection processes which are a simple extension of branch stacking. It also builds a pervasive network of obligation which is the cornerstone of the Labor Party factional structures.
Politicians installed through these processes can often be notoriously difficult to remove.
George Seitz, Victoria’s most notorious Labor branch-stacker, was an MP in Melbourne’s west for 28 years.
“He (Shorten) simply came … asking if I would support him,” said Seitz. “Knowing my history of supporting people, which I had done, he relied on that.”
Bill Shorten and (from left) Hakki Suleyman, George Seitz and Andrew Landeryou.
Once Shorten was pre-selected, the party’s powerful administrative committee – with Shorten as president – voted to exempt Seitz from a rule requiring MPs to retire at age 65. Seitz was then the veteran member for Keilor. factional structureschest local politicians,
And there seems to be no indication that the Victorian Labor Party is giving this problem under control.
Labor figure Intaj Khan, is under investigation over an October council election campaign in which he ran dummy candidates with bogus enrolment addresses and false occupations.
Khan with Anthony Albanese.
Last year, The Age printed this: Wyndham councillor Intaj Khan faces probity, conflict, branch stacking allegations.
He has endured investigations of his Western Institute of Technology, which has been criticised over mistreatment of workers employed on 457 visas and a highly critical report on its teaching standards by a federal regulator.
Then there is an ongoing ALP probe into branch stacking which could cause Khan further headaches after a surge in new, mostly Indian-background members, out west and elsewhere.
Inquiries by the Sunday Age have uncovered repeated failures by Khan to properly declare property and commercial interests, as required by the Local Government Act, including large swathes of farmland.
In August of 2016 The Australian wrote: A new Labor branch-stacking scandal has erupted in Bill Shorten’s home state, with a flood of up to 1400 prospective ALP members in Julia Gillard’s former seat of Lalor and applications frozen in other suburban electorates.
The freeze on the memberships — many of them from members of Melbourne’s large Indian community — comes just months after the party expelled hundreds of bogus members in the biggest purge in its history.
There are a lot of things that lead to the erosion of public confidence in our politicians. Branch stacking and its corrosively corrupting influence in one of them.