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Wednesday, 17 June 2020
Page: 3545


Senator HENDERSON (Victoria) (19:52): I rise in this adjournment debate to raise some very serious questions about the conduct of the Labor Party in Victoria and Victorian Labor Party members of parliament, not just state but federal. On 60 Minutes on Sunday night and in The Age newspaper the following morning, the shocking headlines reverberated in every household in Victoria and around the nation. Labor writes notorious head kicker, Adem Somyurek, a power hungry Minister of the Crown, brought back into cabinet by Premier Daniel Andrews after being forced to resign over his treatment of a staff member, was caught red-handed on videotape boasting about how he wielded most of the power in Victorian Labor as well as branch stacking, using disgusting foul language about numerous people—including the Premier and one of his female cabinet colleagues—seemingly organising forged documents, cash payments for fake Labor Party members, with staff improperly working for his factional machine rather than for the members of parliament for whom they were hired to work.

Labor has tried to give the impression that it has moved quickly to stop the rot, with the Premier referring these matters to Victoria Police and IBAC, sacking Adem Somyurek, expelling him from the party and forcing the resignation of two other cabinet ministers close to Somyurek. The national executive of the ALP has taken over the Victorian branch and a full-blown inquiry is now underway. It seems the pre-selections of all state and federal MPs in Victoria are now safe.

Labor and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Albanese, have been incredibly slow off the mark when it comes to understanding the role of the federal member for Holt, Mr Byrne. It was Mr Byrne's federal electorate office in Cranbourne West where these covert video recordings occurred. The surveillance may be unlawful under both Victorian and Commonwealth law. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Albanese, was the only person in the nation, it seems, who didn't seem to notice the map of the electorate for Holt, a poster, the parliamentary screensaver and there was even—for viewers who watched this very closely—a photo of Mr Byrne on the bookshelf. But Mr Albanese failed to speak with Mr Byrne, let alone understand whether he had any knowledge of this surveillance. Under the Victorian Surveillance Devices Act, it is an offence for a person to knowingly install, use or maintain a listening or optical device unless it's for law enforcement purposes, in the public interest or for the protection of the lawful interests of the person making the recording. The maximum penalty is two years in jail. Mr Byrne has agreed to cooperate with police. If he has any knowledge of these covert activities in his office whatsoever, his position as deputy chair of the parliament's—

Senator Watt: Point of order: I draw your attention to standing order 193(3), which states:

A senator shall not use offensive words against either House of Parliament or of a House of a state or territory parliament, or any member of such House, or against a judicial officer, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on those Houses, members or officers shall be considered highly disorderly.

I suggest that some of what Senator Henderson is saying right now contravenes that standing order.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Fawcett ): I have been listening very carefully, with standing order 193—particularly subparagraph 3—at the front of my mind. Senator Henderson has not been reflecting on the member nor has she to this point imputed improper motives but has been recounting facts. I am watching that very closely.

Senator HENDERSON: I won't be shut down in this debate. If Mr Byrne has any knowledge of these activities, it appears that his role as deputy chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is untenable. But there are other federal MPs who have said very little, including the member for Corio, Richard Marles, and Senator Carr, who are closely aligned with Mr Byrne in Victoria. It is indeed the case that the most prominent beneficiary of this week's fiasco is Mr Marles, and I ask: is that a coincidence? As the new king of Labor's Right in Victoria after Mr Marles white-anted the member for Maribyrnong, Mr Shorten, Victorians, and particularly the people—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Henderson! You do need to be careful about personal reflections under standing order 193.

Senator HENDERSON: Victorians, and particularly the people of Geelong, need to know exactly what Mr Marles knew. Was he aware of any of the goings-on in Mr Byrne's office or was he aware of any of this conduct or any of these allegations which have surfaced since Sunday night? It is no secret that Mr Marles will now be working day and night to take over the leadership from Mr Albanese. This is now much more serious—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Henderson! That is a personal reflection and an imputation of improper motive. You will withdraw that.

Senator HENDERSON: I withdraw. These matters are very serious, and Victorians deserve to know the full truth and nothing but the truth.