Thursday, 12 February 2015
Australian Labor Party
Today's Sydney Morning Herald reports that an ALP tribunal has found that the mailing addresses of at least 20 ALP members' ballot papers for the federal Labor leadership election in 2013 were altered at the request of a staff member of Senator Dastyari. The addresses were changed to the home address of a Mr Hicham Zraika, who is reportedly serving a suspension from the Labor Party for branch stacking and other 'unworthy conduct', including falsifying the meeting records of his own branch.
The article reports that the changes of mailing address were requested by Mr Michael Buckland, who at the time worked as a senior policy adviser for Senator Dastyari. Mr Buckland previously worked for Mr Walt Secord MLC and, perhaps not insignificantly, from 2009 to 2010 for the Transport Workers Union. I note that evidence recently given to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption states that in 2010 a Mr Michael Buckland came up from New South Wales to help a McLean Forum financed campaign in support of the Biagini team in Queensland.
Serious questions need to be asked of Senator Dastyari and Mr Shorten. Did either of them know about this vote stacking reported in today's Sydney Morning Herald? Was Senator Dastyari aware of, or involved in, the apparently mischievous activities of his staff member Mr Buckland? Mr Shorten won the leadership vote by only two per cent. How widespread was this apparent ballot rigging and was he legitimately elected?
The actions emanating from Senator Dastyari's office do not sit comfortably with his claims to want the Labor Party reformed to give more power to rank and file members and to involve the community in preselections. He has previously told reporters that the three things that really matter are how a party chooses its policies, how it chooses its parliamentary candidates and how it chooses its leaders. We have now seen how much Senator Dastyari cares about rank and file participation in how a party chooses its parliamentary candidates. While promoting the importance of rank and file or even community involvement in preselections, he was happy to be parachuted into his own safe Senate candidacy as a 'nominee' with the blessing of factional backers and the party's administrative committee—no rank and file scrutiny whatsoever. We have also seen how much Senator Dastyari cares about rank and file participation in the choice of leader. This is the same faceless senator who pulled the strings to cut down one Prime Minister and abandon another, and then spectacularly failed to win majority government in either case.
The Labor party needs to get right to the bottom of this scandal and take steps to deal with any branch stacking or vote fiddling. An ALP tribunal may have suspended the middleman who received the redirected ballot papers, but what has happened to any others involved in this episode? Today's report of these irregularities in the ballot that installed Bill Shorten as Labor leader casts doubt on the validity of the vote. I note that Senator Dastyari would not provide comment on this story to The Sydney Morning Herald. I am surprised that Senator Dastyari has not made a statement to the Senate to personally explain this situation and what he knew about the machinations of his staff member. I call on the senator to do so.