Explosive claims: MPs accused of ‘plotting’
A new investigation has accused Victorian Liberal MPs of plotting to remove sitting MPs and being involved in a branch stacking operation.
The report from 60 Minutes claims Victorian Liberal MP Marcus Bastiaan and federal MP Michael Sukkar discussed using their influence to remove numerous sitting federal MPs.
Mr Sukkar is the Member for Deakin and the federal Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Housing. Mr Bastiaan is a Liberal backroom powerbroker.
In secret voice recordings, social media communications and other leaked documents gathered during the investigation by 60 Minutes, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, the pair allegedly discussed removing different MPs up to 2020.
Mr Sukkar was recorded plotting to remove four state MPs and Mr Bastiaan was caught discussing removing six Liberal federal MPs.
Marcus Bastiaan is a man consumed by power. He has arrogantly anointed himself the future of the Liberal Party. But what he doesn’t know is that for years now, some of his closest political allies have been secretly recording him. #60Mins pic.twitter.com/Lexn0bYyb6— 60 Minutes Australia (@60Mins) August 23, 2020
Mr Sukkar denied being involved in branch stacking to the SMH, and Mr Bastiaan said he didn't breach the Liberal Party's constitution.
However in 2018 Mr Bastiaan was allegedly recorded in a phone call suggesting the party change its constitution.
"So why wouldn't we just change the (party) constitution, which is our plan, and open up preselections for 2020 when we've got the numbers all eligible.
"(When) we're locked in, we're institutionalised, we've got our members in the upper house, we've got a state director around our finger."
Materials leaked to the investigation by Liberal insiders include a memo from Mr Bastiaan, which sets out a plan to build a Bastiaan-Sukkar faction inside of MP Kevin Andrews' office.
Mr Sukkar had responded to the memo saying "good summary," the Sydney Morning Herald claimed.
The plan included giving taxpayer-funded jobs inside Mr Andrews' office to loyalists of Mr Bastiaan as electoral operatives, who would recruit more faction members once inside.
Mr Sukkar's brother was employed in the office in 2017. Stephanie Bastiaan, Marcus Bastiaan's wife, was also employed as an electoral officer in Mr Andrews office. She also worked for Mr Sukkar. Texts gathered by 60 Minutes show she agitated for the sacking of a fellow worker for doing their "electoral" work, saying they "don't need non factional people" in the office.
Marcus Bastiaan’s wife Stephanie had a taxpayer funded job in Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar’s office, while his brother Paul Sukkar was employed as an electorate officer in Kevin Andrews’ office. #60Mins pic.twitter.com/GbMcImIGjm— 60 Minutes Australia (@60Mins) August 23, 2020
The investigation suggested Mr Sukkar was not actively involved in branch stacking but said he may have benefited from it, according to the SMH.
However one conversation exposed by the report appeared to show Mr Sukkar plotting to "get rid" of upper house members after they upset conservative Liberals by supporting a euthanasia bill.
"My view is there is four people in the upper house on our side who have broken faith: Simon Ramsay, Bruce Atkinson, Mary Wooldridge, Ed O'Donohue," Mr Sukkar said.
"I think we can get rid of Simon Ramsay. We can potentially get rid of Bruce Atkinson, that's harder, but we can, it is still in the mix. So that is two out of the four gone."
Mr Sukkar had allegedly planned to move frontbencher Mr O'Donohue to the Mornington Peninsula seat of Nepean. The plan didn't happen.
The 60 Minutes report also alleged Mr Bastiaan maintained a close face-to-face relationship with businessman Rampal Muthyala, who helped him recruit for the party, but used racial slurs behind his back
Text messages showed Mr Bastiaan and his associates referring to Mr Muthyala and other Indian people in derogatory slang when discussing new sign ups to the party.
Earlier this year allegations about branch stacking in the Victorian Labor Party emerged, drawing strong condemnation from the Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
"Anthony Albanese has been totally burned by this scandal," Mr Morrison told 2GB at the time.
"We're fighting for jobs, they're fighting each other. Anthony Albanese is leading a party in absolute chaos and disarray."
Mr Morrison had a brief statement about the investigation into his own Party on Sunday night: "This is an organisational matter for the Victorian Division of the Party."
Originally published as Explosive claims: MPs accused of 'plotting'