Posted December 11, 2015 21:03:01

The Victorian ALP has failed in a legal bid to shut down a campaign by a dissident member to expose alleged branch stacking.

The selection in the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday afternoon meant veteran transparency activist Eric Dearricott would retain access to celebration membership records, which he stated proved the widespread use of pre-paid present cards to stack branches in Victoria.

The party had sought an injunction to force Mr Dearricott, who sits on the Victorian ALP’s membership administration committee, to hand over the membership records.

Nevertheless, Supreme Court Justice Kim Hargrave ruled that Mr Dearricott should retain hard copies of the records.

Justice Hargrave ordered that Mr Dearricott turn more than any electronic copies of the records to the party, but that he must be allowed continued to access to the electronic records at celebration headquarters, which will allow him to continue his campaign against the alleged stacking.

The party, through legal firm Slater and Gordon, had argued that it risked legal action from the Commonwealth Bank, which offers the E-Way electronic payments system employed by the party, if it allowed Mr Dearricott continued access to the records.

Georgina Schoff QC, for the party, said the bank demanded confidentiality of customer records as a situation of delivering the method.

The party pointed to media reports that apparently drew on the confidential records as proof that they were becoming inappropriately employed by somebody on the membership administration committee.

Nevertheless, Justice Hargrave expressed aggravation that the party had resorted to “urgent” legal action, saying that it was an situation that must arguably have been resolved by discussion amongst Mr Dearricott and the party hierarchy.

A number of supporters of Mr Dearricott were in court, including former Victorian Premier John Cain, as had been senior party officials and members of the membership committee.

Members of the committee were granted access to the very-sensitive membership records in current months right after signing an undertaking not to divulge credit card specifics inside.

Allegations of misuse of gift cards

Nevertheless, as media reports of apparent irregularities began to emerge, access was shut off and threats of legal action produced by the party hierarchy.

Media reports have alleged widespread use of the pre-paid present cards, which can be bought and employed with out the purchaser providing any identification, to sign up ALP members with no their understanding, or to spend for large numbers of memberships to cement handle of branches in many Victorian electorates.

Nevertheless, in leaks to other media outlets, opposing sources apparently aligned to the celebration hierarchy have denied that the rorting is widespread or systemic, and stated the party is functioning to stamp the practice out.

An investigation by celebration veterans Garth Head and Liz Beattie — ordered by the celebration leadership — identified some irregularities and referred to as for a purge of hundreds of Victorian members of the celebration.

However, critics have questioned no matter whether the investigation uncovered the full extent of the problem.

Transparency campaigners have stated the investigation focused only on the use of credit cards to obtain multiple memberships, rather than the allegedly rampant use of pre-paid gift cards to heavily stack branches in Melbourne’s north and west.

Labor faces struggle in Wills

The legal action against Mr Dearricott also came as the celebration ready for a potentially bruising pre-selection ballot in the formerly rock-strong Labor-held electorate of Wills.

The pre-choice, triggered by the impending retirement of MP Kelvin Thomson, is shaping up as a battle amongst former Labor senator Mehmet Tillem, reviled by some in the party as an archetypal Labor factional operator, and whoever emerges as the candidate of the anti-Tillem forces, who are agitating for a local, female candidate who will hold off the encroaching tide of Greens assistance.

Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten is believed to be taking into consideration backing a female candidate against Mr Tillem, due to Labor’s stated purpose of ladies filling 50 per cent of all party positions by 2025.

While some in the party, including opponents of Mr Tillem, have played down the extent of branch-stacking in Wills, other folks have said it is widespread and can’t aid but influence the outcome of the pre-choice ballot.

Topics: government-and-politics, political-parties, alp, federal-government, australia

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