Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews sacked his small business minister Adem Somyurek on Monday morning after secret recordings were published detailing his involvement in an alleged illegal branch stacking operation within the Victorian Labor Party.
The Age and 60 Minutes published photographic evidence on Sunday that Somyurek withdrew several thousand dollars in cash for the payment of fake Labor Party memberships, part of what was described as an “industrial-scale stackathon” to crush his political rivals.
The media outlets published several secret recordings in which Somurek describes placing fake members into Labor party branches, forging signatures and creating dozens of fake statements detailing membership payments that Somyurek or his political operatives paid for.
In the wake of the revelations, Somyurek initially claimed he resigned from Victoria’s ministry on Monday morning, rejecting the branch stacking allegations in a short statement.
“It is clear that I was aped and surveilled in a federal electorate office without my knowledge and that this material was published without my knowledge of its existence or my consent,” Somyurek said.
“I will be taking steps to seek a police investigation into these matters. With respect to allegations made around memberships of the party, I reject those and will be providing a rigorous defence during any party process.”
Victoria’s Independent Cureau Against Corruption (IBAC) and Victoria Police are now conducting inquiries into the case, Andrews said on Monday.
“There is no place in my team for him [Somyurek]. That is what I informed him [Somyurek] this morning,” Andrews said during a press conference about the revelations.
Andrews rejected any suggestion he has been personally involved in branch stacking on Monday, saying he follows the party’s rules.
“I’ve acted appropriately at all times,” Andrews said.
Andrews has moved quickly to limit portfolio disruption in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, swearing in Labor MP Danny Pearson as the state’s new small business minister on Monday.
Pearson has served in the parliament since 2014, representing Essendon.
The recordings detail Somyurek taking aim at his political rivals, labelling Victoria’s Minister for Women and the Prevention of Family Violence, Gabrielle Williams, as a “stupid bitch” he wanted to force out of the ministry.
Somyurek also boasted his branch stacking efforts would enable him to “run the joint”, allowing him to dictate who Victoria’s premier should be.
“They are being brave because they think they’ve got the Premier. F**k the Premier. Alright? That’s what this is about. F**k the Premier,” Somyurek is heard saying on the recording.
In response to the recordings, Somyurek said they were “robust discussions” that regularly occur within the Labor Party.
“I accept and take full responsibility for the fact that my language on a number of occasions was simply not appropriate,” Somyurek said.
“These comments have quite rightly cost me my job.”
Somyurek served two stints as Victoria’s small business minister after initially being stood down in 2015 after his chief of staff levelled bullying allegations against him.
He was brought back into the ministry after the re-election of the Andrews government in 2018, replacing the broadly-liked Phillip Dalidakis in the role, a move understood to have been factionally driven.