ALP’s branch stacking shame revealed in secret report
Labor Party branch membership books are so systematically falsified that rank and file members feel they have no choice but to partake in the practice, a damning report into ALP branch stacking has found.
An explosive secret Labor report into its branch stacking problem, handed to NSW party bosses in March, also found members had no expectation Labor leaders would punish offenders.
The report named seven party officials - including powerbroker and former federal MP Laurie Ferguson - as guilty of "unworthy conduct" over branch stacking, yet no final action has been taken against any individual.
NSW Labor frontbencher Julia Finn is named in the report for having breached party rules, but no action against her is recommended.
Fake branch attendance records are considered to undermine democratic processes, because meeting attendance is tied to voting rights for party preselection.
The report, labelled private and confidential, was handed to party officials on March 6 and calls into question Anthony Albanese's claims Labor takes a hard line after the exposure of a massive branch stacking scandal in Victoria.
The 37-page report is the product of a three-month investigation by former Queensland Labor boss Evan Moorhead, examining allegations limited to a string of branches in the Western Sydney area dating back to 2011.
Damning findings include:
■ Falsification of meeting attendance in several branches and a "culture of secrecy" around the practice;
■ Evidence of party officials paying for the membership of other people but an admission it's impossible to determine the extent of the problem due to insufficient receipts or records;
■ Members have little faith or expectation that head office would ever act on allegations of impropriety;
■ A "perception among branches" that they "must engage in conduct against the rules because other branches also participate in this conduct";
■ Members "regularly using false addresses on their membership";
■ Deficient branch records resulting in "significant incentive" for members to falsify records.
The report notes: "Unfortunately, only two branch officials interviewed have been forthcoming in identifying how records came to be falsified" and "some branch officials have refused to be interviewed".
The Daily Telegraph already revealed in March that the party pledged to adopt all major recommendations in the report, however as of tonight limited action had been taken.
The recommendations included suspending local preselections for two years, auditing the local area's membership by writing to members, an amnesty for fresh admissions, the consolidation of the local branches into a smaller number and central verification of records.
The party refused to answer any questions on what steps it had taken, saying the party was "in the process of implementing those reforms". One source said little had been done yet, citing the pandemic.
The report specifically accused Mr Ferguson and six other party officials - David Voltz, Joanna Devine, Luke McCaskie, Peter Monaghan, Paul Drayton and Maurice Campbell - of "unworthy conduct" which should be dealt with by a party "charge" before its independent appeals tribunal.
There are no criminal charges.
It is understood none of these members have been suspended from the party, with the matters still before the party's investigation process.
In a statement yesterday, Mr Ferguson confirmed he remained a member of the party and said he would be providing evidence to the review committee on the "outstanding issue".
He has long denied wrongdoing, however the report finds sufficient evidence to charge him with unworthy conduct over falsifying branch records by visiting members' homes to have them sign books outside the meetings.
About 50 party members, including Ms Finn, are named as having signed branch books outside meetings. The report did not recommend action, despite it being identified as a "breach of rules" which facilitates branch stacking.
The Daily Telegraph can also reveal a fresh letter, signed by more than 20 party members, has now been sent to NSW Labor secretary Bob Nanva, accusing the party of protecting Ms Finn and other elected officials.
Ms Finn has always denied wrongdoing and said she was a member of the Harris Park branch and therefore there was no benefit in her falsifying her attendance.
Mr Albanese refused to comment. state leader Jodi McKay stood by frontbencher Ms Finn.
NSW Labor stated: "The NSW Labor Party takes all allegations of impropriety by party members seriously."
Originally published as ALP's branch stacking shame revealed in secret report