Former Victorian Labor MP Adem Somyurek is being investigated for branch stacking. (Image: AAP/James Ross)

The ALP’s powerful national executive is expected to meet today or tomorrow to decide on the best way to deal with the Adem Somyurek “stackathon” allegations within the Victorian organisation. 

The scandal claimed a third scalp on Tuesday when cabinet minister Marlene Kairouz resigned. 

Labor’s national body has the job of investigating the claims and making sure Somyurek can never rejoin the party.

But who or what is the national executive, and what tools does it have to investigate branch-stacking?

And more importantly, can we expect it to introduce changes that would stamp out corruption and trigger widespread cultural change? 

Enforcing decisions

The ALP’s national executive is its chief administrative body which meets three times a year. It’s made up of several non-voting members — including Labor leader Anthony Albanese, national president Wayne Swan, and national vice-presidents Mark Butler and Mich-Elle Myers — and 20 voting members elected by the national conference. 

Its main job is to carry out the decisions made at national conferences. It also can intervene in a state branch or section.

In the past when scandals like this have occurred, the executive has ordered an independent review or investigation as part of an “intervention” into the branch.

Intervention powers 

An intervention occurs when the national executive intervenes in the affairs of a state branch. Under the ALP constitution, this allows the national executive to “take over and direct” its conduct.

An intervention into the New South Wales branch occurred last year after revelations at ICAC that the branch accepted $100,000 in banned developer donations from Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo. 

The national executive intervened to ask former attorney-general Michael Lavarch to lead a review into the scandal-plagued branch. 

The review recommended structural reforms which Albanese ultimately endorsed, including bans on the NSW general secretary from seeking elected office for five years, and setting up an audit and risk committee.

The national executive is likely to call for a similar review into the Victorian branch, with former Victorian premier Steve Bracks and former federal minister Jenny Macklin among those being considered. 

Suspension and audit 

An intervention could also involve a suspension of the branch, meaning the national executive would conduct any preselection that would have been decided by the state branch or section.

The national executive could also call for an audit of memberships. It is less clear how an audit would work, given roughly 4000 out of 16,000 of Victoria’s members have been stacked by various powerbrokers over several years, according to some estimates

Conducting an audit is much more politically risky than a review with recommendations, given that cancelling false memberships would destabilise factions and potentially trigger power vacuums in the branch.