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Vic MP to leave Labor over red shirts vote

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A Victorian Labor MP will either resign or be booted from the party after siding with a disgraced colleague over the government’s 2014 election rorts scandal.

Kaushaliya Vaghela crossed the floor in Victoria’s upper house on Wednesday afternoon to ensure former Victorian Labor powerbroker Adem Somyurek’s motion passed 19 to 17.

It calls on Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass to reinvestigate the 2014 “red shirts” scandal in which $388,000 of taxpayer money was misused to pay political campaign staff, when the party was in opposition, and specifically any role Premier Daniel Andrews may have played in it.

On Thursday, Mr Andrews said the rules are clear that all Labor caucus members must vote with the party.

“Let’s wait and see whether that’s necessary,” Mr Andrews said over whether the party will have to remove Ms Vaghela from the party..

“If she has already resigned then there’ll be no need for us to deal with that issue.”

Mr Andrews said he wasn’t watching the vote and could not recall the last time he spoke with Ms Vaghela, who he refused to address by name.

The motion debated on Wednesday requested the ombudsman’s investigation be expanded to look at Mr Andrews’ social media staff, Labor-linked appointments in the public service, and the role of lobbyists in party politics.

It also invited Ms Glass to consider her powers to share information with the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, with the view to expanding the scope of its ongoing joint investigation with her into Labor branch stacking.

Mr Somyurek remains at the centre of that investigation as a key player in the branch-stacking scheme. The practice is not illegal but is against Labor rules, and involves the systematic payment of memberships to influence election candidate preselection.

Late on Wednesday, Ms Vaghela said in a statement that as a former factional staffer she knew all about branch stacking.

“If branch stacking and factional operatives working in electorate offices is corrupt, then the Socialist Left and all the other factions must be investigated,” Ms Vaghela said.

“Branch stacking is endemic in the ALP, and I understand it has been for decades, therefore what happened at IBAC was a grave injustice because it was discriminatory.”

Mr Somyurek also took to Twitter, declaring it was now up to corruption watchdogs to determine the next step.

“We may have dodged a bullet with this motion. Now over to the integrity bodies,” he tweeted.

The “red shirts” rort involved 21 past and present Labor MPs breaching parliamentary guidelines by diverting staff to help campaign for members.

In 2018 Labor paid back the money used in the scheme following an investigation by Ms Glass, but no criminal charges were laid following a separate probe by Victoria Police.

Speaking under parliamentary privilege, Mr Somyurek claimed both right and left Labor factions wanted to bring Mr Andrews down before the 2014 election and the Premier “designed this system”.

The ombudsman and IBAC have been contacted  for comment.

-AAP

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