Victorian Labor MP Kaushaliya Vaghela says she has been bullied and intimidated by members of her own party, including by a former adviser to Premier Daniel Andrews. She has also described the Premier as “nasty” and “a misogynist”.
Vaghela is set to be expelled from the Labor party after she voted against the Labor Government to support reinvestigating the ‘Red Shirts’ scandal.
The ‘Red Shirts’ scandal
The ‘Red Shirts’ scandal refers to allegations that taxpayer-funded staff in the offices of Victorian Labor MPs were using work time to do party-related tasks like recruiting members. Victoria’s anti-corruption body is investigating the allegations. A key figure being investigated is former Labor MP Adem Somyurek, who was expelled from the party following allegations he paid registration fees for new party members (‘branch stacking’). Somyurek remains in Parliament as an Independent.
Somyurek has admitted he participated in the Red Shirts scheme, but he says others, including Premier Andrews, had knowledge of it: “If I was corrupt, we are all corrupt – that’s what I want tested at IBAC”, he said last week.
He moved a motion in the Upper House calling for the investigation to broaden its scope, including to investigate Andrews specifically. The motion passed after Vaghela voted in support. “I know all about their branch stacking activities”, she said in a statement posted on Twitter.
In an interview with the Herald Sun on Friday, Vaghela said she had been bullied by members of Daniel Andrews’ faction (factions are alliances within political parties), including by a former staff member in Andrews’ office. “They wanted to break me mentally, physically, and psychologically”, she said. She said she was “scared” to vote for Somyurek’s motion because she feared “revenge”. “Every Labor MP, every Labor Minister is scared of the Premier because they know he is so spiteful”, she said. “He is a very nasty man. He’s a misogynist”.
Several Labor MPs have rejected Vaghela’s claims about Premier Andrews. Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams said the claims “do not reflect my personal experience… we have a cabinet of over 50% women… this is not the sign of someone who is a misogynist.” Treasurer Tim Pallas said the comments were “worrying… it goes to her state of mind”. Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said her “personal experience is that the Labor caucus is a strong team… when I was four months pregnant… [the Premier] couldn’t have been more encouraging”.
Daniel Andrews acknowledged yesterday there had been an issue with a former staff member, but maintained it had been handled appropriately. “There was an issue, and it was dealt with appropriately and that person no longer works in my office and to suggest that that was not dealt with appropriately is simply wrong… these claims are fantasy, have no basis in fact”, he said. Andrews declined to comment on Vaghela’s accusations about him personally: “I won’t dignify the stuff that’s said about me, I’m not going to”, he said.