Branch stacking

Branch stacking

In Australian politics, branch stacking is the act of enrolling persons to a party by offering inducement, or enrolling persons for the principal purpose of influencing the outcome of internal pre-selections of candidates for public office.

Branch stacking is not illegal unless it involves the use of false identities or false electoral enrolments, but it is contrary to the rules of both major parties.

Activities commonly described as branch stacking

Activities commonly considered to be branch stacking include:

* To pay a person's party membership fee as an inducement for that person to join the party
* To pay the membership fee of a person who is unwilling to pay their own membership
* To pay for membership for any person unaware that membership has been taken on their behalf
* To pay membership for a person on the precondition that the member is then obliged to vote in a particular way
* To encourage a person to join a party for the express purpose of influencing the outcome of a ballot within the party
* To enrol, encourage or assist a member to enrol on the electoral roll at an address that is not their principal address.
* To organise or pay for concessional rate fees for a person who is ineligible for that rate
* To recruit members who do not live at the claimed address of enrolment

Instances of alleged branch stacking

In 2001, the Sheperdson Enquiry, conducted by the Criminal Justice Commission of Queensland, uncovered a wide practice within the Australian Labor Party of making false enrolments to bolster the chances of specific candidates in preselections and also evidence of forged enrolments [ [ The Sheperdson Enquiry - An Investigation Into Electoral Fraud (Queensland Criminal Justice Commission, April 2001)] ] . Numerous members of the Australian Labor Party were convicted of electoral fraud in relation to this enquiry.

In 2005, there was an internal dispute in the Victorian branch of the Labor Party over allegations of branch stacking, related to pre-selections for the 2007 federal election. A number of sitting Labor members of the House of Representatives faced challenges from candidates enjoying the support of the Labor Unity faction, which in 2004 regained control of the Victorian branch from the rival Socialist Left faction. Fact|date=April 2008 The Socialist Left accused Labor Unity of branch stacking in several seats. Labor Unity countered with allegations that the Socialist Left also engaged in branch stacking over a long period. Fact|date=April 2008

In 2006, there was significant media attention on the Labor Preselection in Hotham, where former Federal Opposition Leader Simon Crean was challenged for preselection. Widespread ethnic stacking was reported, and that “Hong Lim, a state Labor MP, has for years, stacked the branch with Cambodian immigrants…There is also a smaller stack of Vietnamese and even a Latin stack” and that these people were “people only dimly aware they are members of the Party.” [ [ Adam Shand, "Labor At War" "Sunday Programme" (5 March 2006)] ] . Significant evidence emerged of many people being signed up to the Labor Party without their understanding, or were simply “visited by a member of the Cambodian Association and given their orders on how to vote”. Allegations were made that “The taxpayer funded Cambodian Association had acted as a local recruiting arm of the Party, allegedly forcing those seeking welfare to join the ALP.”

There were allegations of branch stacking in the Liberal Party in Victoria during 2005, in the run up to the Victorian state election of 2006. The Liberal Party branch in Scoresby in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne was suspended as a result of these allegations. Member recruitment drives by some Liberal federal Members of Parliament (MPs) have been described as branch stacking, but these members deny this; George Seitz was alleged by "The Age" to have run an extensive branch stacking operation in his electorate. Fact|date=April 2008

In 2006, the ABC current affairs program "Four Corners" aired allegations by members of the Liberal Party that senior figures in the right faction led by State Upper House MP David Clarke were recruiting members of the Maronite Lebanese community and stacking branches in seats held by Liberal MPs who form the far-left faction known as "The Group." Clarke and his supporters were accused of taking ballot papers from people and voting for them, along with behaving in an offensive manner at meetings. His supporters include Alex Hawke, Clarke's son-in-law, Kyle Kutasi and Nicholas Campbell and extends deep into the NSW Young Liberals. Branch stacking allegations were also reported by former Liberal member Irfan Yusuf. [ [ Michelle Grattan, "Branch Stacking, Rorting 'Rife' Among NSW Libs" "The Age" (18 July 2006)] ] According to Ian Hancock's history of the Liberal Party, Irfan was involved in stand-over tactics himself as a Young Liberal at a Gladesville SEC in 1997: "Longstanding members at the meeting felt that intimidation, threats of violence and insults were 'totally inappropriate' in the Liberal Party, let alone within a Conference which formed part of the Prime Minister's seat of Bennelong." [Ian Hancock, "The Liberals - The NSW Division 1945-2000" (The Federation Press, 2007) at page 340.]

In the 2006 "Four Corners" program, John Hyde-Page claimed that branch stacking efforts for candidates in the 2004 Wentworth preselection led to a situation where over 20% of the total membership of the NSW Liberal Party were enrolled in branches in the seat. Hyde-Page’s expertise regarding branch-stacking within the Liberal Party was largely established after the publication of his book "The Education of a Young Liberal". [John Hyde-Page, "The Education of a Young Liberal" (Melbourne University Press, 2006)] The book has since been pulled from the shelves by the publisher after the New South Wales District Court found its contents defamatory, but remains available in some libraries and among on-campus student political networks. In his book, John Hyde-Page describes how he joined the New South Wales Division and was himself involved in considerable stacking of several branches in the Wentworth electorate for the extreme-left faction known as “The Group”, and his various other activities aimed at destabilizing the sitting Federal member of Parliament, Peter King. Kyle Kutasi was the first to sue Melbourne University Press in defamation for the publication "The Education of a Young Liberal". [ [,20867,21298146-12332,00.html Brendan O'Keefe, "Young Liberal Sues Over Book" "The Australian" (28 February 2007)] ] [ [ "Kutasi v Melbourne University Publishing Ltd (t/a Melbourne University Press)" (2007) NSWDC 7; (2007) 4 DCLR (NSW) 56; (2007) ALMD 4050] ] David Clarke’s daughters also successfully sued for slurs on their character, [ [ "Anne-Marie Clarke & Anor v Melbourne University Publishing Ltd trading as Melbourne University Press" (2007) NSWDC 189; (unreported, New South Wales District Court, Gibson J, 21 September 2007, File No. 2788/2007)] ] and Clarke himself successfully sued for the same imputations against his character, while the imputations of political extremism were conceded by the defendant. [ [ "David Clarke v Melbourne University Publishing Ltd t/a Melbourne University Press" (2007) NSWDC 209; (2007) 5 DCLR (NSW) 308; (2008) ALMD 1736] ]


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