Who is Mohamad Abbouche?

Some interesting follow up to Victorian Liberal Party leadership wannabe Ted Baillieu’s question about “the former mayor of the City of Hume, Cr Mohamad Abbouche, also employed as electorate officer to Labor power-broker, Senator Stephen Conroy.

What is particularly curious about this story is the date on which Abbouche allegedly received the money – five days before the deadline for ALP members to renew their membership.

He received $5,000 on May 26 2004, and memberships were due by 12 noon on May 31. What did he spend the money on? Here is an article to read while pondering the issue, from page one The Australian of May 19 2003. It’s headed, ‘Rat’ in ranks at heart of ALP brawl, and reads:

When bitter debate over branch-stacking exploded into chaotic violence at Saturday’s Victorian ALP conference, it was a little-known suburban councillor named Mohamad Abbouche who unwittingly lit the fuse.

Abbouche, known to his political mates as Mo, had recently done what some in his party regard as unforgivable. He’d “defected” from the Left to the Right.

After a toilet break, Abbouche was attempting to return to the conference floor inside the Melbourne Town Hall when he was met by a former factional mate, Stephen Roach. Moments before, Roach and other allies of ALP federal president Greg Sword – who last year abandoned the Right to form a new Alliance group with the Left – had been herded back into the hall by Ron Chadwick, a long-time foot soldier for the National Union of Workers.

The conference was about to order the doors to be closed – to shut down the debate and bring on a vote – and Sword’s Alliance needed all its faithful in the room.

Abbouche was heading back in. But as he got to the door he was met by Roach, who blocked his path. Abbouche claims he was then pushed out of the hall. And as he was being manhandled, someone shouted at him: “You f..king grub. You scum.”

It was a crude clarion call to Abbouche’s new mates. The Right had decided to keep a close eye on their new man – fearing, with apparent justification, retribution from the Left.

Within seconds, supporters and enemies, including some women delegates, had left their seats and run to the back of the hall to join in what the AFL would describe as a melee.

Roach told The Australian yesterday he “had a crack” at Abbouche at the conference because of his decision to swap factions.

“I felt he’d ratted on people in the local area, and I was letting my view be known.”

“People have a right to join whatever side with the people they want, but they shouldn’t shit on others,” he said.

Earlier in the day, motions were moved, agendas changed and an argument broke out when, as the Left claims, members of the Right attempted to block state president Jim Claven from speaking, and to stop deputy federal leader Jenny Macklin, a stand-in for Simon Crean, from addressing the conference.

The Left, who now hold the numbers in the party after Sword took his people out of the Right and entered a historic alliance with the socialist Left, were now attempting to pass new rules to stamp out branch-stacking.

Political confrontation turned physical in the blink of an eye. Delegates were angry, pushing and shoving, arms taut, hands up, pointing.

But Roach is adamant no punches were thrown. Others say no one managed to land any.

Abbouche, an ALP member since 1994, said yesterday all he had done “was exercise my democratic right to associate with who I want”.

“But these are the typical tactics of intimidation by the socialist Left who are in control of the party,” he said.

Federal Labor frontbencher and Right powerbroker Stephen Conroy was one of several senior ALP members to break up the melee, which was widely condemned in the party yesterday.

The start of a beautiful friendship?

PS. Abbouche also appears to have worked at State Treasurer Brumby’s Broadmeadows electorate office after his defection to Labor Unity in 2003.

Peter Fray

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