Victoria’s corruption watchdogs have given the government a hurry-up on implementing recommendations from a bombshell report into branch-stacking within the Labor party.
A progress report into the joint Operation Watts investigation was tabled in parliament on Thursday by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and Victorian Ombudsman.
The final report, released in July last year, laid bare a “catalogue of unethical and inappropriate behaviour” inside the party.
Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed his government accepted all 21 recommendations, including establishing a parliamentary integrity commissioner and a new offence for ministers who allow staff to undertake party-specific activities.
The Department of Premier and Cabinet and Department of Parliamentary Services have told the watchdogs that work is under way on 12 of the recommendations and two have already been acquitted.
“We acknowledge the work that has been undertaken by DPC and DPS to date on implementing the recommendations,” the progress report said.
“Given the gravity and volume of misconduct that we catalogued in the Watts report, we do impress upon the government the importance of implementing our recommendations in full and without delay.”
The DPC has assured the watchdogs that enabling legislation is being worked on but it has not yet indicated a time frame for its introduction to parliament, beyond reiterating the government’s pledge to implement key reforms by June 2024.
Operation Watts was launched following allegations former factional powerbroker Adem Somyurek handed over cash and used parliamentary employees to create fake branch members and amass political influence.
The practice, known as branch stacking, is not illegal but is against Labor party rules.
Mr Somyurek quit the party in June 2020 before he could be expelled, while his factional allies Robin Scott and Marlene Kairouz also departed cabinet.
The watchdogs ultimately decided not to refer Mr Somyurek and Ms Kairouz for potential criminal prosecution as laws around the employment of parliamentary staff are “weak” and difficult to prove in court.