DAVID ROODMay 20, 2010
ACTING Premier Rob Hulls has criticised an ALP whistleblower for taking allegations about branch stacking to the Liberals and for failing to co-operate with a Labor investigation into the damaging election-year claims.
In his first public comments on the alleged high-level rorting of ALP memberships, Mr Hulls also questioned the accuracy of the claims, made by long-time party insider and former Brimbank councillor Costas Socratous.
Mr Hulls said it was extraordinary that Mr Socratous was refusing to refer his allegations and evidence to the Labor Party.
”This particular person has made allegations of branch stacking … but has run off to the Liberal Party,” he said. ”You’ve really got to ask about the bona fides of this matter.”
Mr Hulls said branch stacking was illegal and a breach of Labor Party rules, but he would not give an assurance yesterday that it no longer happened in the Victorian ALP.
”I’m not aware of any rules that have been breached,” he said.
As revealed in The Age on Tuesday, Mr Socratous claimed he paid the membership fees of hundreds of branch members in the past decade, using money provided through MPs’ offices.
He has accused former state industry minister Theo Theophanous and state Labor MP Telmo Languiller – for whom he worked until last year – of knowing about and benefiting from the scheme.
Mr Theophanous and Mr Languiller have strongly denied the allegations.
The ALP has begun an internal investigation into the branch-stacking allegations and the state Ombudsman is believed to be considering running its own inquiry.
Mr Hulls yesterday rejected opposition calls for the government to stand down Mr Languiller, the parliamentary secretary for health, pending the ALP investigation.
”There have been allegations made that have been vehemently denied,” Mr Hulls said.
ALP state secretary Nick Reece has written to Mr Socratous asking him to co-operate with the investigation and to provide copies of the documents – including bank statements and fake invoices – shown to The Age.
Mr Socratous has refused, saying the ALP will try to cover up the branch stacking.
He has said he would co-operate with an independent or police inquiry.
In an interview on ABC radio yesterday, Mr Socratous defended his decision to take his claims to the opposition.
”[I went to the Liberals] because I believe, being in opposition, they would demand a full investigation,” he said. ”With an investigation the truth will come out.”
Labor sources said last night no one had contacted the party to corroborate Mr Socratous’s claims, and that ALP headquarters had received only one telephone call about them.
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard defended Mr Languiller, saying the allegations had been rejected.