ALP 'ignored' warnings on electoral fraud

Monday 27 November 2000
2000-11-26 23:23:04, The Age, Melbourne

The federal ALP ignored warnings in the early 1990s about electoral rorting, former Queensland Labor president Ian McLean said yesterday.

Mr McLean said Right faction powerbrokers had said nothing should be done because the issue could jeopardise the Goss Labor government's survival. "What was going on in Queensland was known about at the national level, but there was no real interest in doing anything about it," Mr McLean said.

"The Left was told they would bring down the Goss government. People were leaned on and told to let it ride."

As Premier Peter Beattie yesterday called for federal help to clean up the mess in Queensland, Victorian Right faction powerbroker Robert Ray said that although the Queensland Left might have raised concerns about preselections, he had no previous knowledge of electoral roll rorting.

"I would have said it was a breach of law and to put it in the hands of the police," Senator Ray said.

"I would have known that rorting the electoral roll is a massive risk."

The Beattie government is likely to lose its parliamentary majority before the end of the year because the Premier pledged to expel from the ALP any MPs who had acted improperly.

Three state MPs have been named in evidence before the Shepherdson inquiry, and Deputy Premier Jim Elder resigned last week. Two federal MPs and a senior figure in the party organisation have been mentioned in evidence but their names have been suppressed.

Prime Minister John Howard said Opposition Leader Kim Beazley should speak to the federal MP named as having boasted he had 12 people enrolled at his home in the 1970s.

Mr Howard said that while Mr Beazley needed to determine if "everything is in order", the government would not name the MP, who was entitled to the presumption of innocence.

The inquiry has heard that Labor's right-wing Australian Workers Union faction rorted the electoral roll to strengthen its position against the Left in preselection ballots in Brisbane and Townsville.

Mr McLean said the row could cost Labor government in Queensland and might undermine the ALP's prospects of winning the next federal election. He said federal intervention in the state branch might be required if the AWU's strength was not reduced from about 30 per cent of state conference delegates to between 15 and 20 per cent.

Mr McLean said a 1993 report by a lawyer, the late Hamish Linacre, detailing evidence of electoral rorting, was given to the state ALP's disputes tribunal, but it was ignored.

Mr Beattie yesterday said a "respected national (ALP) figure" would be appointed to overhaul the scandal-ridden state branch.

"I need a strong son of a bitch who will stand by me to protect my back from the scum who are going to be squashed," Mr Beattie said.

"They will be squashed, everyone of them will be squashed ... I am absolutely determined to clean up the mess."

Under an eight-point plan released by Mr Beattie, the national figure would supervise preparations for the state election expected early next year and report to a special state conference as early as possible in 2001. The report would advise on reforms necessary to overhaul the ALP state office and implement rules to stop electoral rorting.

An Electoral Commission of Queensland would be established to supervise Labor preselections, with its structure including an audit system to prevent rorting.

The state Coalition yesterday released details of a package that Opposition Leader Rob Borbidge said would restore honesty to government. It included a requirement for establishing identification for enrolment and voting.

A poll published yesterday in Brisbane's Sunday Mail newspaper indicated that the issue was not yet causing the ALP serious damage electorally, with 42 per cent support for Labor against 30 per cent for the Coalition, but the high undecided vote of 22 per cent suggested it was generating concern.

Meanwhile, Local Government Minister Terry Mackenroth is expected to be named this week as the new Deputy Premier.

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