SHOCK CLAIMS: 'Dodgy accounts and sexism' in ALP branch
SOME members from the Redlands branch of the ALP behaved "more like a bunch of hooligans", swearing and intimidating voters and political rivals at the last federal election.
Sexism and misogyny were also rife in the branch with a woman "subjected to verbal abuse and howled down" simply for attempting to suggest it was improper to change the minutes of a previous meeting.
And there were questions over an online donations scheme operating last year under the name of high-profile Labor member for Redlands, Kim Richards.
The Clerk of Queensland Parliament said in a letter that there was an inadvertent error in relation to the donation scheme, and that Richards had apologised.
The claims and others are made in a series of explosive letters of complaint sent by members to branch secretary Jasper Every and ALP state secretary, Julie-Ann Campbell.
One veteran member wrote a formal complaint to the Crime and Corruption Commission alleging "sums of money paid into the branch did not show up in the bank account".
Michael Williamson from Ormiston in Redland Bay told CCC chief Alex MacSporran he discovered a series of "anomalies in the accounts" during his term as treasurer in the 2018-19 financial year.
"Put simply, the books didn't balance and there were sums of money paid into the branch that did not show up in the bank account.
"I have the records to prove this, of course."
Chris Boylett from Victoria Point told me he resigned from the branch in disgust because internal squabbles had "poisoned the branch and divided members".
He wrote a letter of complaint to the party hierarchy.
Boylett was ashamed that "a number of our members were using foul language aimed at opposition parties, candidates and more importantly, voters".
He added: "We sounded more like a bunch of hooligans than responsible party members working to get our candidate elected."
Boylett told me he had received no response to his letter.
The proud 40-year veteran of the ALP said he knew of five other members who had written letters of complaint.
In his letter to Every, Boylett also complained women "were always the last to be invited to speak" at meetings and "shouted down" if they dared express dissenting views.
"This is a serious social issue that will continue to fester until there are changes (in these) misogynistic tendencies".
Rosemary "Penny" Stewart from Victoria Point agrees.
She complained of "blatant bullying" and spoke of a female member "subjected to verbal abuse and shouted down" by males.
As a human resources executive in a multinational mining company, she was well aware of this type of behaviour. She experienced the disdain first hand when she tried to make a suggestion at a meeting. "I was howled down, basically told to sit down and shut up," she wrote.
Later, as she left the room, "I found myself feeling quite physically threatened", she said.
She added: "Given the number of female members in the branch, it would be easy to make the assumption that a misogynistic attitude does not exist.
"However, it is important to stress all too often, being humbly in agreement with the male members is 'hardwired' into the female psyche.
"This means that when faced with females who do not toe the line, a seemingly natural bullying culture springs up."
It is not suggested that Richards behaved inappropriately at party meetings.
In his letter to MacSporran, Williamson said he was especially concerned about a $500 donation from EMILY's List that was paid to party headquarters but "was still entered into the Redlands branch accounts spreadsheets".
"This transaction, and others, made me deeply suspicious," he wrote.
"I did raise my concerns with the branch secretary Jasper Every and president Ross Cornwill.
"I felt it was my duty to do so.
"I also had concerns that requests for donations from Kim Richards, the Member of the Legislative Assembly in Queensland, were not being sent to the appropriate fund.
"And I have no records of their amounts donated, or by whom they were donated."
Williamson said branch members were told Richards had to eat humble pie and apologise to the Clerk of the Queensland Parliament, Neil Laurie, for using the parliamentary server to solicit donations in two newsletters.
Laurie confirms this is in a letter to a Redlands resident who questioned the scheme.
Laurie said the online newsletters containing the donation buttons "were inadvertently sent from the wrong account".
"The Member (Richards) has apologised for the error."
In other correspondence obtained by The Courier-Mail, a prominent Redlands branch member accused Richards of wielding too much power in the branch.
And he wondered whether he should seek guidance from party headquarters.
"I need to ascertain what role our state representative has in the structure of the branch,'' he wrote to another member.
"It became obvious she (Richards) thinks she controls the branch. The number of references to 'MY' branch became apparent during this meeting.''
Two members I spoke to also asked whether it was appropriate for both branch secretary Every and president Cornwill to work at Richards' Victoria Point office.
Richards, Every, Cornwill, and Campbell did not return calls.
Des Houghton is a media consultant and former editor of The Courier-Mail and The Sunday Mail.
Originally published as SHOCK CLAIMS: Dodgy accounts, sexism in Qld ALP branch