Victorian Labor MP Luke Donnellan has resigned from his ministerial positions following evidence given to a watchdog probing branch stacking in the Victorian Labor Party.
Federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne, who admitted in evidence to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission on Monday that he had been involved in branch stacking, also said Donnellan had engaged in the activity.
Branch stacking, the act of recruiting or signing up large numbers of members to a political party’s local branch by paying for their membership to influence preselections, is against Labor policy but is not illegal.
Donnellan said in a statement that he accepted he breached his party’s rules while minister. “But let me be very clear: I never misused public funds or resources in any way. And this has absolutely nothing to do with my staff,” he said.
He resigned as Victoria’s Minister for Child Protection, Disability, Ageing and Carers but will remain a member of parliament.
“I don’t believe it is possible or appropriate to maintain my ministerial responsibilities given these rule breaches. The work to support vulnerable Victorians is too important, especially during the pandemic,” Donnellan said, thanking the premier and his colleagues for the opportunity.
“I also thank my staff and all the department officials who have been working so bloody hard to support the community. You’ve been marvellous.”
Byrne admitted to IBAC on Monday he had paid other’s memberships since he was elected in 1999, and that he allowed tax-payer funded staff to do factional work while being paid to perform electoral office duties during the day.
“If I felt that I had a choice, it wouldn’t have happened,” Bryne told the inquiry.
He said the staff activity went on for “some number of years” and was “very widely practised” in the party by other MPs.
The IBAC investigations follow a Nine network report that included recorded phone conversations and videos from inside Byrne’s office of Adem Somyurek. The duo were formal factional allies.
Premier Daniel Andrews released a brief statement on Monday acknowledging Donnellan’s resignation.
“I thank Luke for his contribution to the government in his various ministerial portfolios,” Andrews said.
“He has been a passionate advocate for vulnerable kids, people with disability and older Victorians, and he leaves a legacy of reform of which he can be proud.
“Due to inquiries currently on foot, I will not be making further comment.”
Byrne is set to continue to answer questions on Tuesday and Ellen Schreiber, electorate officer and former ministerial office executive assistant is expected to give evidence.