Politics

Federal Labor MP who helped branch stacking investigation quits intelligence committee role

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese will recommend Labor frontbencher Jenny McAllister replace Mr Byrne as deputy chair and Member for Wills Peter Khalil to fill the vacant spot on the committee.

Mr Khalil is a former national security adviser to Kevin Rudd and worked at Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before entering politics.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Albanese clashed with radio presenter Ben Fordham on 2GB over whether he was going to take action against Mr Byrne after the MP’s admission of branch stacking.

Mr Albanese took a strong line against Liberal frontbencher Michael Sukkar when The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald last year revealed allegations staff in his office had been doing party political work against rules. Mr Sukkar denied the allegations and a Finance Department investigation did not find evidence of misuse of taxpayer-funded resources.

Mr Albanese has also been campaigning recently on the government’s failure to legislate a long-promised federal anti-corruption body.

But he said the difference between Mr Sukkar and Mr Byrne’s situations was the former was a minister.

“Byrne isn’t a minister, mate,” Mr Albanese said.

Pushed on whether he was happy for the Labor MP to stay sitting in Parliament, Mr Albanese said that wasn’t a decision for him to make.

“He’s a member of parliament. He hasn’t been attending the Parliament, Ben, because of the Victorian restrictions. He hasn’t been in Parliament for some time. For some time,” he said.

Fordham said Byrne was “a branch stacker, a confessed branch stacker” and questioned why Mr Albanese wasn’t taking action as leader.

Mr Albanese insisted “these issues will be dealt with” but it wouldn’t happen while the IBAC inquiry was going on.

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“While the inquiry is going on, I have not spoken to Anthony Byrne. Because while people are appearing before a judicial body, the idea that the political leader will ring them and have a conversation with them while they’re giving evidence is entirely inappropriate,” he said.

Last year when the branch stacking allegations were brought to light, Mr Albanese acted swiftly to dismiss the Victorian ALP leadership and instigate an audit of its membership.

Mr Byrne said he would continue to fully cooperate with IBAC’s inquiry and did not plan to make any further comment while it continued.

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