Flat White

Liberals must be careful wading into Somyurek’s derin bok

18 June 2020

2:13 PM

18 June 2020

2:13 PM

As the lurid text messages of the Adem Somyurek sting federal MP, Anthony Byrne, dominate today’s news cycle, it’s clear that the disgraced godfather of the Victorian ALP Right is determined not to go down alone.

Anthony Albanese looks at a loss.  The audio and video “obtained” by The Age and 60 Minutes and shown to devastating effect on Sunday night has caught Albo like a rabbit in the headlights. Sure, he backed the ALP national executive’s decision to put the Victorian branch under administration. Sure, he backed Somyurek’s lifetime expulsion from the party while claiming this was a bloke he hardly had ever met.  Yet he won’t even talk to Byrne about his role in the Somyurek sting despite, as Attorney-General gleefully pointed out in Question time yesterday, the video footage itself clearly identified it was taken in Byrne’s electoral office.  Albanese doesn’t want to be The Man Who Knew Too Much, which is hardly the mark of a confident party leader.

Somyurek’s industrial-scale branch stacking and the question of what did Albanese and Victorian premier Daniel Andrews know about the year-long sting and when did they know it looks like a golden gift for both federal and Victorian Liberals.  They can revel in it, they can pursue independent inquiries beyond Andrews’s referrals of the matter to the police and Victoria’s Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission, and they can keep picking the ALP scab all the way to the next federal and state elections.

But this political gift is a double-edged sword for the Liberals.

As those seeking to brush off Somyurek’s super stacking and his vicious intra-party power games are desperately pointing out, it’s not only Labor that is prone to these vicious internal party games.  The Coalition parties, and especially the Liberal Party in Victoria, cannot claim to be perfect in their casting stones at Labor.

The Victorian Liberals have been faction-ridden for decades, with groggy, soggy Wets and hardline social conservatives battling each other for power and influence within the party while treating ordinary members with contempt, with dominance see-sawing between the two.  Most recently it has been the hardliners who have been associated with member recruiting from Mormon and other conservative religious groups, building power bases in branches to dominate preselections and elections to the party’s State Council and Administrative Committee. Some state and federal MPs allegedly have played these power games, as well as figures in the party organisation. They may not have been as brazen as Somyurek, but have shared his lust for internal power and influence, and similarly revelled in manipulating and controlling others to further their own ambitions.

Labor looks likely to be embroiled in Somyurek’s derin bok (go to Google Translate) for months if not years to come.  If it comes still closer to Andrews and Albanese, and the Liberals actually make political and electoral headway in their political attacks, it won’t only be Somyurek who’ll be looking for payback.

The internal wars in the Victorian Liberal camp have been an open secret for a long time. There’s no doubt that Labor has a bulging dirt file on Liberal figures and, being the brutal players of the political game they are, won’t hesitate to use it.

Hopefully, any state and federal Liberal MPs who have been playing party games have been smarter than Somyurek and his henchmen and women, or Byrne and kept their taxpayer-funded offices, and especially staff, out of the game.  It’s essential that PM Scott Morrison and Victorian Liberal leader Michael O’Brien now make very sure of their own side before launching full tilt into Labor over this.

Since the party’s drubbing in the 2018 Victorian election, clean-up efforts led by current Victorian Liberal president Robert Clark have made some headway, and at least he and O’Brien can say that unlike Andrews and Labor until now, they’ve been striving to cut out the factional cancer in their own party.  But the Labor counter-attack surely will come, and ordinary voters who desperately want to believe the political class cares more about them than its own sordid party and personal power games will be even more disillusioned if Liberal figures go down as well as Labor’s.  Liberal leaders must be prepared and ready to receive ordure fired by a desperate and flailing Labor, by making absolutely sure that their organisational and especially their parliamentary teams are absolutely clean. 

Or else stones thrown at Labor over Somyurek and his fallout risk breaking their own glass house instead.  If they are smart politically and tactically, the Liberals will quietly and urgently make sure their own factional dirty linen in Victoria and other states is locked away, stay on safe ground and let Labor and the media do their work for them.

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