Media reports claim to have uncovered branch stacking on an “industrial scale” in the Victorian Labor party.
Last night’s 60 Minutes program aired footage which purports to show a senior Labor figure named Adem Somyurek allegedly branch stacking.
The politician at the centre of the allegations emphatically denies any wrongdoing.
What is branch stacking?
Branch stacking is when people are recruited into a branch of a political party to influence who is pre-selected as an election candidate.
To break it down even more, imagine there are two members of a party who want to be the official candidate for an upcoming election.
The party has to undergo a preselection process, where all the members of the party vote for the candidate they prefer.
Perhaps there are factions of the party that favour one of the members over the other, for whatever reason.
Those factions might try to recruit new members into the party, perhaps by offering to pay their membership fees, in exchange for their vote towards the favoured candidate.
Why is it a bad thing?
Branch stacking inflates membership numbers and threatens to de-legitimise the democratic preselection process.
A 2002 report by former Labor leaders Bob Hawke and Neville Wran described the practice as having a “cancerous effect” on democratic traditions.
It also said branch stacking was one of the most “difficult challenges” for parties to stamp out, because any attempt to prevent it could impose excessive limitations.
Is branch stacking illegal?
No, it is not illegal.
It would only be illegal in a case where any false information was provided to the Australian Electoral Commission.
This might include members using a fake address or forging signatures.
But there are party rules around membership.
Under both the ALP and LNP national constitutions, members must pay for their own membership and must live at their claimed address.
Both parties promise to take disciplinary action against any infringing member.
What cases have there been in Australian politics?
Accusations of branch stacking are not uncommon in Australian politics.
In the past few years alone, there have been several allegations: