The ministerial staff is employed by the chief of staff on the recommendation of the minister, with staff responsible in the first instance to the minister. The Victorian government said issues concerning their appointment, including their conduct, could be escalated to the Prime Minister’s Office at any time by a minister, the chief of staff or the staff of ministers.
Aging and 60 minutes last year revealed that Somyurek had recruited taxpayer-funded MPs and ministerial advisers to work in a self-appointed “flying team” to stack branches across Victoria. Somyurek left the Labor Party before being expelled and has dismissed the charges.
To ensure that IBAC was alerted to the alleged misconduct, Byrne locked himself in a course where he would be forced to reveal his own role in participating in and taking advantage of alleged branch establishment and suspicious fundraising activities now in center of IBAC probe.
A source close to Mr Byrne said he had decided to warn IBAC in early 2020 because several appalling Labor figures had informed him of deep concern about unfairness but felt they would lose their jobs , if they complained to ALP’s national or state headquarters.
“Anthony knew that by exposing the rot, he would have to clean up his own role in historic branching, but he did it anyway because it [misbehaviour] had gone too long, ”said a senior source from a rival ALP faction. The same source called Byrne’s actions an act of “very principled political suicide”.
The Labor Party has been known to persecute whistleblowers and call them “Labor rats”, but it is unclear what impact Mr Byrne’s pending revelations as an IBAC witness will have on his career.
In secret footage, Mr Somyurek repeatedly boasted that he was “the most powerful man” and that he was stronger than other fractional warlords who had come before him.
Well-placed sources said that if Byrne had not supported the decision to warn IBAC about corruption allegations, it is possible that the agency would not have collected the evidence it had over many months.
It is not known whether Mr Byrne was questioned in a private hearing by IBAC. He declined to comment when contacted Friday.
Byrne, along with Prime Minister Daniel Andrews, have been the subject of repeated attacks by Somyurek since the scandal broke out last year. Somyurek has accused both men of historically branching out and has also leaked a series of embarrassing text messages between Somyurek and Byrne, in which Byrne made derogatory and offensive remarks about colleagues in Labor politicians.
After Byrne’s text messages were leaked, he faced calls to resign as deputy chairman of the Security and Intelligence Committee. Both senior Labor MPs and senior coalition officials intervened because of the perception that Byrne’s role in the committee had led to a solution to several political obstacles to national security laws.
Byrne has remained silent about his role in the political rudder scandal, other than publishing a brief statement when the scandal broke out in the media last year. The statement said he was committed to helping anti-corruption agencies deal with the allegations.
After Byrne entered parliament in 2002, he hired Somyurek and Labor Minister Luke Donnellan as staff.
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