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‘F**k the premier’: Labor’s secret tapes reveal industrial scale stackathon

On a clear autumn day just before noon one of the most powerful politicians in Victoria drove into a suburban shopping centre car park, got out of his four-wheel-drive and walked briskly to an ATM. He used two bank cards to withdraw a wad of cash.

Wearing a dark blue sweater, balding and slightly paunchy, Adem Somyurek strode towards the shopping centre as if on an ordinary grocery run. But he then spun around and walked back to his car. He drove to the furthest parking spot, opposite a Red Rooster.

With the money stuffed into a blue folder along with Labor membership forms, the state cabinet minister waited for the handover. His bagman Nick McLennan, a senior adviser to another of Premier Daniel Andrews’ ministers, was on his way. After arriving, McLennan made his way to Somyurek’s car, leant into the driver’s side window and took the folder filled with $50 notes.

McLennan then drove off under instructions to deliver the forms and cash to ALP head office.

Among the most extraordinary things about this cash exchange, which took place on May 13 and is secretly captured on tape, is that for Somyurek, it was not unusual. Even more extraordinary is the way this former taxi driver has amassed his immense political power – not just in Victoria but at federal level.

Credit:Photos: Jason South

An investigation by The Age and 60 Minutes has unearthed dozens of phone and video recordings captured over 12 months that provide an unprecedented insight into Somyurek’s operation. Beneath the bravado and deal-making of a chronically ambitious politician is a self-described “stackathon” that has funnelled hundreds of fake members into local ALP branches, to seize control of large sections of the Victorian Labor Party and become a powerbroker with unrivalled influence.

The recordings reveal Somyurek ordering others to forge signatures and create dozens of false statements in which Labor branch members claim to have paid for their memberships when Somyurek or his political operatives have footed the bill. He also talks about directing taxpayer-funded parliamentary employees – who themselves claim to have the backing of their bosses – to conduct party political operations. Somyurek’s misconduct appears to breach ALP rules designed to stop branch stacking and may also breach the law.

The recordings are also peppered with colourful allegations about Somyurek’s Victorian ALP friends and enemies. He claims close ally and cabinet minister Marlene Kairouz holds a “meaningless” portfolio “made up just to make it look like we’re interested in the suburbs”. He labels Gabrielle Williams, Victoria’s Minister for Women and the Prevention of Family Violence, a “stupid bitch” whom he will “f—ing force … out of the ministry”.

And the tapes capture damning reflections on Andrews. Somyurek recounts comments allegedly made by the Premier’s cabinet allies, claiming they say the Victorian leader is untrustworthy and a “c—“.

According to Somyurek, state and federal ministers are intimidated by him. The numbers he claims to control – almost two-thirds of the Victorian ALP – mean Somyurek has been impervious to any challenge from Andrews, Anthony Albanese, Bill Shorten or any other Labor heavy hitter. By his own account, it is Somyurek who is truly in charge of Victoria.

“I’ll be just running the joint,” boasts Somyurek in one recorded exchange. “It’s who I say is going to be the f—ing premier.”

Credit:Photo: Eddie Jim

A BORN FIGHTER

Adem Kubilay Somyurek was born in 1967 in Izmir, a coastal city with a history of battles and conquerors: the Persians, the Greeks and, finally, the Turks. His parents migrated to Australia when Somyurek was 18 months old. His sense of history would shape his life as a series of contests to be fought and overcome.

The recordings depict a man who sees himself as a general in battle. There are those in the ALP who need to be vanquished: “f—ed”, “sacked” and “stabbed”.

In his 20s, he gravitated to those who could open doors for a young man with a funny name who drove taxis and studied at night. He worked as a staffer for Labor MP Jacinta Collins in 1996 and, after a 1999 byelection, in the office of federal MP Anthony Byrne. By 2002 he had built enough influence within the party to secure a seat in the state’s upper house.

In his 2003 maiden speech to State Parliament, Somyurek, then 36, spoke of memories “indelibly etched in my psyche”, waiting as a child inside factories for his parents to finish menial, low-paid jobs.

“As we drove home to our housing commission flat every night, I remember my parents would always tell me to take note of the conditions and to never end up like them — that is entrapped and without choice.”

The rest of his speech is mundane, mostly recycled Labor talking points. His enemies say this hints at something. “Without any policy bone in his body,” says a senior Labor federal MP, nominally in Somyurek’s Right faction, who did not want to be named. Even some of Somyurek’s allies say he exists for one thing – “power”.

TAKING CONTROL

The more ALP branch members a politician controls, the more votes they control within the party. This equates to influence over Labor policy at national and state conferences, as well as who is chosen to run for the ALP in state and federal seats.

But convincing someone to sign up as a Labor member isn’t easy. “Most people can’t get their own family members to show up to their kids’ recital. Good luck trying to convince your mates down the street to join a political party,” says former senator Sam Dastyari.

Dastyari was schooled by the most infamous branch stacking machine of them all – Labor’s NSW Right faction. He says branch stacking becomes corrupt when political operatives sign up people they know have no genuine interest in becoming party members, or who may not even know what they are joining. Dastyari says this amounts to “a con job”.

Sam Dastyari (L) and Adem Somyurek

Sam Dastyari (L) and Adem SomyurekCredit:

Signing up fake members can involve dishonest or potentially illegal acts, including forgery of signatures on forms or false declarations that a person has paid for their own membership. The ALP attempts to stop stacking by requiring a member to pay a small amount – usually $50 a year – when they join. The use of fake addresses to conceal branch stacking also involves impropriety. It can also involve using taxpayer-funded parliamentary staffers to secretly engage in branch stacking on the public purse.

The state Ombudsman has previously described the use of taxpayer-funded staffers to engage in party business as wrong. Barrister and corruption fighter Geoffrey Watson, SC, goes further. He argues that if a minister was to abuse public resources, engage in egregious dishonesty to amass power or promise political benefits to branch stackers, they could be at risk of committing the jailable offence of misconduct in public office.

Ethnic communities have long been targeted by branch stackers. They are tight-knit groups often with a long-held interest in grassroots politics, which makes their people ripe for recruitment as real and fake members. In the past, the practice has been defended on the basis the ends justify the means. A disadvantaged community is empowered and Labor’s base is broadened.

Somyurek estimates on tape that by the end of 2019 nearly two-thirds of the Victorian ALP was under his control. Other Labor sources agree and note he became the only member of the Andrews government on the federal ALP national executive, the main decision-making body of the party that counts party leader Albanese, federal shadow minister Mark Butler and former treasurer Wayne Swan as members.

“Anybody who is anybody in Australian Labor politics knows the name Adem Somyurek,” says Dastyari.

The tapes reveal Somyurek as boastful and a big noter. But Labor insiders agree he is now more powerful than any of the factional warlords who have come before him, such as Stephen Conroy, Graham Richardson, Kim Carr, Greg Sword and Robert Ray. And he isn’t shy in saying so.

“I’m f—ing busy, mate. I’m a f—ing minister. I’m the most powerful man … Every time anyone has a problem, they go through me,” he barks in one covert recording in late 2019.

The secret tapes show a man supremely confident of his power. “I am f—ing more powerful than Conroy, Robert Ray, f—ing Greg Sword, all of them put together.”

Somyurek declined multiple requests for a sit-down interview but emphatically denies involvement in branch stacking.

Top from left: Kim Carr and Graham Richardson. Bottom: Stephen Conroy and Greg Sword.

Top from left: Kim Carr and Graham Richardson. Bottom: Stephen Conroy and Greg Sword.Credit:

A TROUBLED ROAD

Somyurek has always made headlines.

As a backbencher in the Brumby government in 2009 he lost his job as chair of the electoral matters committee after receiving a one-month suspended jail sentence and $300 fine for driving while disqualified.

Five years later, under Andrews, he became minister for small business, innovation and trade, but he was forced to resign from cabinet in 2015 for standing over his chief of staff, Dimity Paul. Retired judge Michael Strong, who investigated the allegations, made adverse findings against him, which the Premier said caused him to lose confidence in his minister. Somyurek once again found himself in the political wilderness.

Somyurek did what he does best and began planning his return to the centre of power by controlling the Right faction. There were public hints that he was not only intent on regaining a cabinet spot but securing enough numbers to cause a reckoning among those who had cheered his demise. He took advantage of divisions within the party that opened up after a pact between Conroy and Carr deteriorated in early 2018, just as the new federal seat of Fraser in the western suburbs of Melbourne was being created. The Left and the Right wanted it for themselves and Somyurek went about shifting old alliances, realigning the factions and establishing himself as the key powerbroker. Some unions aligned with the Left, the CFMEU and RTBU, joined the Somyurek camp.

“Adem Somyurek did something that I think no one thought he’d be able to do. He united the Right of the Labor Party in Victoria, as much as it could possibly be united, and he did it by himself,” says Dastyari. “That’s unprecedented. That’s unheard of. And that’s what makes him such an unprecedented figure in Australian politics.”

As his power grew, Somyurek began to flex his political muscle. Time and time again, he would threaten real or perceived enemies with a mixture of bombast and genuine threats.

Three years after he was cast out of the ministry, Somyurek clashed with state Tourism Minister John Eren in the parliamentary dining room, allegedly threatening him with a butter knife (allegations Somyurek denied). The same day in February 2018, text messages Somyurek had sent to Eren threatening federal Labor’s defence spokesman, Richard Marles, were leaked.

“I’m going to f— that Marles,” Somyurek wrote. “No one f— lies to [sic] and rat f—s like that and gets away with it. There will be payback mate”.

Somyurek believed Marles and Eren were blocking his factional plans. It’s unclear how serious the “payback” threat was. But Marles remains safe in his seat of Corio.

Richard Marles

Richard MarlesCredit:Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Somyurek’s accumulation of power did not go unnoticed. Later that year political operatives controlled by Conroy and Carr were briefing journalists that Somyurek was engaged in industrial-scale branch stacking. But without any hard evidence, their attempts to investigate were fruitless.

In November 2018, with the re-election of the Andrews government, Somyurek achieved the seemingly impossible for someone with such a poor parliamentary record. He was recalled by the Premier as the Minister for Small Business and Local Government. The position made him responsible for upholding the integrity of local councils, including some led by Labor operatives running their own party branches.

“To my good friend, Adem Somyurek, I’m very pleased to welcome Adem back to the cabinet and he’s going to do a fantastic job,” Andrews said.

Somyurek was back, bigger and stronger than before.

“Daniel Andrews, I can only assume, made the assessment, it’s better to have him inside the tent than outside,” Dastyari says.

(L to R) Jaclyn Symes, Gabrielle Williams, Daniel Andrews, Melissa Horne and Adem Somyurek.

(L to R) Jaclyn Symes, Gabrielle Williams, Daniel Andrews, Melissa Horne and Adem Somyurek.Credit:Photo: Eddie Jim

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd, who was taken out by factional bosses when his popularity waned, has watched on with horror. Rudd regards Somyurek as “the Frankenstein of factional politics”.

“Having been a willing accomplice, he then became the kingpin himself,” says Rudd.

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THE SECRET RECORDINGS

The first covert recording of Somyurek was made in the second half of 2019. The Age and 60 Minutes have obtained more than 100 audio and video surveillance files.

Somyurek is always on the phone, mixing charm and menace as he micro-manages those in his operation. He is a quintessential ALP numbers man, as unsubtle as he is effective.

“Our people have been putting like industrial-scale numbers, you know, just f—ing masses for a year,” he says on one recording in which he describes his state-wide activities.

On another recording, he talks of launching a “big f—ing stackathon” to crush his rivals.

He claims that across Victoria, his operation involves placing fake members into branches every month. “We’ve got f—ing massive numbers” being stacked in seats, he tells several young Labor operatives on one tape. He describes stacking in the federal seat of Calwell (held by Maria Vamvakinou) and putting “massive numbers in Lalor”, the seat of federal opposition whip Joanne Ryan.

Somyurek says he has “just started” to stack in federal MP Tim Watts’ seat of Gellibrand, but claims he has been at it a long time elsewhere: “Scullin [the seat of federal MP Andrew Giles] keeps going, Jaga Jaga [the seat of federal MP Kate Thwaites] keeps going … I’ve been keeping a watching brief on all of those.” (There is no suggestion any of these members are aware of the stacking).

Somyurek is dismissive of the idea that some of the members he’s signing up are actually interested in joining the ALP, scoffing at the prospect that “by some stroke of amazingness, that some people joined [the ALP] of their own accord”.

He can easily “rock up f—ing 50 people to a branch meeting” and discusses with zeal how to cover up branch stacking through a practice called “warehousing”. This involves getting members to sign up with false addresses, only to later move them to different branches in different locations after their membership addresses have been accepted as genuine.

“I think we do need to do some warehousing. So you put some people in now. And in about a year later, put them in …. another area,” he says in one recording.

The only thing that drives Somyurek more than accumulating numbers is holding on to the numbers he already controls. “We’re just going to go to town. This is f—ing war … we got f—ing numbers over them all over the place and we got 63 per cent, so they gotta be f—ing careful.”

When Left faction members began stacking branches, Somyurek described it with genuine excitement as “the trigger to start the war”.

“I’ve been secretly itching for it, to tell you the truth,” he said. “We’re going to be arseholes, and f—ing bad and loud.”

A branch meeting at the home of Jasvinder Sidhu, a rival numbers man from the Left faction, turned violent in late January. The meeting was gatecrashed by 100 people and Sidhu claims he was punched in the head (a man is now facing assault charges). Sidhu, who declined to be interviewed, has claimed that forces aligned with Somyurek were behind this hostile takeover of his branch, an allegation dismissed by Somyurek.

Jasvinder Sidhu with Daniel Andrews.

Jasvinder Sidhu with Daniel Andrews.Credit:Photo: VISPENN Photography

But the covert recordings capture Somyurek taking credit. “Our little operation, as acrimonious as it was, has been very successful. We are about to take over that branch easily,” he says of the Sidhu fracas. In another conversation with Labor operatives in early February, Somyurek chuckles at how Sidhu infuriated the gatecrashers at his house by publicly accusing them of violence.

“They are very angry, very angry with him,” he says in the conversation. And then, as laughter erupts, he adds: “They want to bomb his house.”

Credit:

MASTER AND COMMANDER

Somyurek is involved in so much political string pulling that he needs a significant number of loyal Labor operatives to be at his service. There’s plenty to do. Any form of recruiting – ethical or otherwise – is labour-intensive. The job requires hundreds of forms to be filled out and dozens of branch meetings to be organised.

“These guys aren’t going to do anything without me, they’re very hierarchical, they see me as controlling the party, and do what I’ll want them [to do],” he says on one tape.

Somyurek’s soldiers appear to include taxpayer-funded staffers meant to be working for other MPs. This is a high-risk endeavour and potentially unlawful, particularly in Victoria, where the ALP was engulfed by the 2015-2018 “red shirts” scandal. Parliamentary funds were used to help pay for red-shirted Labor staffers to engage in political campaigning, an arrangement state Ombudsman Deborah Glass described as improper and in breach of parliamentary rules. Police launched an investigation but no charges were laid. Andrews ordered the ALP to repay $380,000 to the state and endorsed laws passed in 2019 expressly prohibiting parliamentary staff from engaging in party political behaviour.

The recordings of Somyurek appear to show him directing parliamentary employees to form a “flying squad” of branch stackers tasked with “raiding” branches. His squad includes aspiring Labor operatives who have just landed their first jobs as parliamentary employees in the offices of state and federal MPs. In one recording, Somyurek says he has directed several senior ministers “to offer up a staff member” to his operation.

He claims cabinet minister Robin Scott agreed to allow an electorate officer, Nathan Croft, to branch stack while employed in Scott’s office. “He’ll be doing work from there, Robin won’t mind,” Somyurek says. Another tape captures Croft claiming Scott approved the arrangement.

“I spoke to Robin and he said on his days [when I work at his office] he’s pretty chill,” Croft says. “I gave him the heads-up that I was doing some of this stuff and he’s like, ‘Have fun.’ “

Scott told The Age he and his office have no involvement in branch stacking.

Robin Scott (L) and Premier Daniel Andrews

Robin Scott (L) and Premier Daniel AndrewsCredit:Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

On another tape, Somyurek is recorded claiming he will direct state MP Tien Kieu to try to enlist a taxpayer-funded staffer. “I will speak to Tien and get you for a couple [of days],” Somyurek says. Kieu said on Friday the staffer, Jake Cripps, was “working for me but I don’t know anything about branch stacking”.

SECOND IN CHARGE

Somyurek’s closest ally is Marlene Kairouz, who has been Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor since 2016. Two years after that she gained the suburban development portfolio. It was a promotion that did not impress Somyurek, who says in one recording it is a “made-up portfolio, just to make it look like we’re interested in the suburbs”.

“It’s meaningless. She [Kairouz] says, ‘I don’t even know what it means.’ It is not a real job. It’s just tacked on and she shouldn’t have a f—ing adviser for it.”

Marlene Kairouz

Marlene KairouzCredit:

Kairouz, who did not respond to efforts to contact her, is taped having discussions about using staffers on the public purse, including her adviser Nick McLennan, for political work. She complains on one recording that renewing the membership of hundreds of party members takes forever and “my staff were just working on that, it was terrible”.

The recordings suggest McLennan’s job as a senior policy adviser to Kairouz has been arranged by Somyurek in part to help accumulate numbers. As Somyurek describes it, it’s a job provided”because of a factional thing”. Yet he repeatedly complains that McLennan isn’t branch stacking aggressively enough, despite being paid more than $100,000 a year.

Nick McLennan

Nick McLennanCredit:

“He has a brilliant, light ministerial portfolio that has nothing in it. Suburban development is nothing … he’s gotta do some f—ing factional stuff,” Somyurek says on one recording. “He should be all over the branches stuff now,” he says in another. “He hasn’t got much on. He’s an adviser with no f—ing job – he’s got suburban development, he’s got nothing.

“The guy got a 30 f—ing thousand-dollar pay rise … He didn’t get there because he’s a great policy genius.”

In a meeting with the “flying squad”, Kairouz addresses young staffers like a football coach, urging them to recruit with zeal.

“You guys have come in now where we are in charge. We’re it,” Kairouz says of her and Somyurek’s influence within the ALP. “We’re very big, but if we can continue to grow, why not?”

Kairouz is recorded on tape saying: “In the Parliament, people come to Adem and I, particularly Adem, they don’t know anything. So we are in charge now.”

Kairouz did not respond to questions about branch stacking. McLennan also declined to answer questions.

THE SOMYUREK WAY

Somyurek’s stacking operation relies heavily on members of Melbourne’s rapidly growing Indian community. He scoffs at his rivals who use “Anglos” to stack.

“Stacking Anglos, it’s not going to work. Anglos just f— off after a while,” Somyurek says.

Somyurek prefers members from ethnic communities because they last for years. He directs his operatives to use Indians as they stack branches that are controlled by “Anglo” members. “We can put 1000 [Indians] in, they’re all fully f—ing resourced,” he says in another recording.

Somyurek’s interactions with the 20-something Labor staffers placed in his branch stacking flying squad are just as telling.

Behind their backs, Somyurek describes these young staffers as “patronising and annoying”, and “real little f—ing slimy little f—ers, little passive-aggressive f—ing gay kids”.

“We’ll have our gay kids just doing what they do: just being patronising and annoying.”

Yet given the chance to stack in Somyurek’s service, these staffers don’t hesitate. They boast about how they’ll turn other young political idealists into factional warriors.

“You sit them down and go, ‘Oh, there is factions and this is how this works, and you’re in this faction and it’s the best faction.’ And then a year later, they’re flying around,” says one.

YOU SCRATCH MY BACK …

The exchange of favours, of course, is the lifeblood of politics. But former prime minister Rudd warns favours given in the shadows are deeply problematic.

He describes a culture of favours and fear created by “faceless, factional thugs whose power is underpinned by industrial-scale branch stacking”.

“It makes it really hard for people to stand up and have the courage and simply say ‘no’ because they fear for their own future in politics, they fear for their ability to be elected to Parliament, they fear their ability to stay in Parliament.”

In February Somyurek called someone he thinks owes him, Meng Heang Tak, the state member for Clarinda in Melbourne’s south-east. Somyurek claims he landed Heang the safe seat formerly held by Hong Lim.

Meng Heang Tak (L) and Former MP Hong Lim

Meng Heang Tak (L) and Former MP Hong LimCredit:Photo: Wayne Hawkins and Paul Harris

“Whereas Hong used to be this f—ing whingeing turd, Heang’s not like that. It’s like, ‘I got you in [to Parliament], you gotta do as I say,’ ” Somyurek says.

Somyurek describes how Heang must hand over his branch members. “So I rang Heang up, I said, ‘Mate, what’s going on? … We support you for preselection and you hand your votes over.’ “

As if to make his point, Somyurek later calls Heang and instructs him to start branch stacking by placing 13 people – the maximum that can be put into a single branch at any one meeting – every month. It is unclear if that instruction was carried out.

“From now on, it’s just going to be hard, hard, hard war … and then we’re going to start big recruiting.”

The “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” ethos underpins Somyurek’s operation. Safe seats in State Parliament are offered as rewards to ethnic community leaders in return for them placing members into branches that will help Somyurek control federal seats and federal MPs.

Somyurek is recorded in a conversation describing how one branch stacker is seeking a federal seat in Parliament. Somyurek tells another parliamentary aspirant, Manoj Kumar, to funnel members into the Cranbourne ALP branch, which supports state MP Pauline Richards, whom he is trying to topple.

“Put them all to Cranbourne. I’m going to take that branch,” Somyurek instructs Manoj, who in turn seeks an assurance Richards will be rolled at preselection and lose her job.

“Our numbers will be enough [to] put Pauline out or not?” Kumar responds.

Somyurek has many lieutenants. He instructs Sepal Patel, who is a part-time parliamentary employee, to transfer “all his people into the Cranbourne branch, we’re going to f—ing take that over”. Patel is recorded describing how he will conceal his branch stacking by warehousing – using fake addresses to disguise the location of fake members.

“I can just use my friend’s address,” he says. He then describes how he will sign up Cranbourne residents using a false Springvale address and “ask them to transfer” into Cranbourne once they’ve been accepted as ALP members.

Adem Somyurek and Ramazan Gunes.

Adem Somyurek and Ramazan Gunes.Credit:

Some of the audio and video capture what appears to be the attempted falsification of documents. A video recording shows Somyurek telling a Turkish businessman, Ramazan Gunes, to forge the signatures of members on documents so it appears they attended a branch meeting that they did not.

“Do you know their signatures?” Somyurek asks Gunes before telling him to “just do all of it”.

When Gunes asks: “How am I meant to do their signatures?” Somyurek tells him: “Do your sibling’s one then.”

Somyurek pushes him to forge other signatures. “Do you know how to do it? Do Bestem’s as well.”

Gunes hesitates, before refusing, saying: “I can’t do it.”

Somyurek then retreats. “If you don’t know how, if you can’t do it well, let’s bring them back [to sign themselves].”

PAYING THE BILLS

Somyurek is engaged in another elaborate deception. The membership forms he sends to ALP head office on behalf of his real and fake members all state that a member must “pay for their own membership”.

But in some cases Somyurek is secretly paying for members, either using his own cash or that of his lieutenants. “We should try not to let people know about the payments. No one,” he says. “Ramazan will pay for the Turks,” Somyurek says in another recording.

Somyurek says many of his Indian members are funded by two wealthy brothers, Aloke and Aakash Kumar, who own the Thornbury Theatre.

“The good thing about Indians is they pay. Well, people pay for them. But I’d rather not be exposed too much with the Indians,” Somyurek says.

The Age made several attempts to contact Aakash and Aloke Kumar for comment.

Adem Somyurek (L) and Aakash and Aloke Kumar (R)

Adem Somyurek (L) and Aakash and Aloke Kumar (R)Credit:

Somyurek is forced to dip into his own pocket to pay for other fake members, including his Somali recruits. “I’ll have to pay for them,” he says of Somalis. “They didn’t want to do it because they were stretched. I said, ‘Well, if they are here, they are our responsibility, they are ours.’ “

It was the need to pay for fake members from his own bank account that led Somyurek to the Hampton Park shopping centre in Melbourne’s south-east on May 13. It was a cash-drop operation he had undertaken exactly a month before. But this time, Somyurek was being watched. Covert cameras capture him withdrawing multiple sums from an ATM.

He then places the cash in a folder with membership forms he has filled out and which each include the explicit statement, above a signature, that the member named has paid for their own membership. After driving to a corner of the car park, Somyurek hands the folder to Kairouz’s adviser McLennan.

This is high-stakes politicking. A covert recording captures Somyurek talking about the April 13 handover. “I’ve packaged it up and given him [McLennan] the funds. I’ve packaged it up,” he says. “If he gets caught on the street, he’d better not say he’s doing f—ing this stuff.”

The Age and 60 Minutes have seen copies of the membership forms used by Somyurek in his branch stacking operations and have spoken to several of the new recruits. Some admitted they did not pay for their own memberships, while others were unable to name the Premier of Victoria.

THE POWERBROKER

Somyurek likes to say he wields the real power in Victoria – not Andrews.

The Premier’s political allies don’t trouble Somyurek. “They are being brave because they think they’ve got the Premier. F— the Premier. Right. This is what this is about. F— the Premier,” Somyurek tells a meeting of his backers.

Andrews notched an emphatic election victory in November 2018 and has enjoyed enduring popularity with the public due to his handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Yet Somyurek is quick to repeat criticism of the Premier.

Somyurek claims that even Andrews’ most staunch allies, such as former upper house MP Gavin Jennings, complain about the Premier behind his back. “He started bagging the f— out of Daniel, saying the c— this and that,” Somyurek says of Jennings, who retired from Parliament in March.

Somyurek alleges others in Victorian Labor don’t trust Andrews. “They hate him. They say Daniel is a prick … yeah, saying we don’t trust him. You know,” he claims.

Somyurek thinks it is he who will decide who is Victoria’s next Labor leader. “I’ll be just running the joint … It’s who I say is going to be the f—ing premier.”

And then there is Victoria’s Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and Women, Gabrielle Williams, a Labor up-and-comer whom Somyurek intends to crush.

“I will f—ing force her out of the ministry, that f—ing stupid bitch, when Andrews goes … She’s a stupid, stupid moll,” he says. “I’m going to f—ing knock her f—ing head off. She’s a f—ing psycho bitch.”

Gabrielle Williams

Gabrielle WilliamsCredit:Photo: Penny Stevens

It is clear from the tape Somyurek wants to reshape the party to suit his interests. Politicians who block him won’t survive if he has his way.

“F— ’em, they’ve got to die. The younger, the new generation of leaders have got to be taught a lesson.”

CANBERRA CONNECTIONS

Federal MPs in Victoria are placed in two camps by Somyurek. There are those he says offer him fealty and can expect his protection in return.

Rising federal Labor MPs Josh Burns (the member for Macnamara) and Tim Watts (the member for Gellibrand) – who Somyurek claims rely on his numbers in the party to keep their safe seats – fall into the first camp. According to the recording, neither is directly involved in branch stacking.

“Tim Watts is like bowing to me. I don’t know what they say behind my back,” says Somyurek in a video in which he imitates Watts bowing to him.

Tim Watts(L) and Josh Burns

Tim Watts(L) and Josh BurnsCredit:Photo: Alex Ellinghausen, AAP

Another to be “protected” is Anthony Byrne, the member for Holt in Melbourne’s south-east and the deputy chair of the Federal Parliament’s powerful intelligence and security committee. “Anthony’s got a terrible reputation, everyone thinks he’s a waste of space. I don’t. I protect him. I had to stop articles talking about Anthony Byrne going. I said he’s got my protection, he’s going nowhere.”

And then there are those Somyurek has sworn to force from Federal Parliament, such as Rob Mitchell, the member for McEwen in Melbourne’s north and an ally of former Labor leader Shorten.

“They’re all saying that I’m going to kill people … I did call in Robert Mitchell and told him that he needs to think about his future. I told Mitchell he’s got to retire … I said, when are you going?”

Another on the hit list is Left faction federal MP Julian Hill, the member for Bruce, whom Somyurek blames for doing the numbers in seats he controls. In comments made after Somyurek, as local government minister, sacked a council, he boasts about removing Hill from Parliament.

Julian Hill (left) and Robert Mitchell.

Julian Hill (left) and Robert Mitchell.Credit:Photos: Alex Ellinghausen

“I’m looking forward to this actually. In between sacking councils and stuff, I’ll be sacking Julian.”

He boasts about toying with Lalor MP Joanne Ryan, whom he is also trying to topple. “She’s [Joanne Ryan] always going on about me,” Somyurek says.

THE UNTOUCHABLE MAN

Rudd warns that many MPs may feel they have no choice but to cosy up to Somyurek, a man who Rudd says may have amassed such backroom power that he may believe himself above the rules.

“If we now have a faceless man with even more power, then he has to be rooted out. Otherwise, it is fundamentally destabilising for our party’s and our country’s future,” the former prime minister says.

Rudd, however, doubts if the ALP can take on Somyurek. It is a sentiment shared by Somyurek himself.

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Of Andrews, Somyurek is recorded saying: “The shit I’m doing is, like, pretty bad for him.” But should the Premier challenge the kingmaker “it’ll just be too destabilising”.

“F— the Premier,” he says.

Victoria was never going to be enough for Somyurek. He claims his reach in Canberra now extends to federal Labor leader Albanese’s inner circle.

“I’m having discussions with people who are close to Albo,” he boasts on one tape. It comes as no surprise to learn Somyurek is dismissive of Albanese’s authority. As he tells one Labor staffer: “Who’s going to protect Albo?”

Victorian cabinet minister Adem Somyurek.

Victorian cabinet minister Adem Somyurek.Credit:AAP

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