Anthony Albanese refers embattled Anthony Byrne for investigation
Anthony Albanese is standing by Anthony Byrne despite referring the embattled MP for further investigation after he told an anti-corruption probe he hired staff who performed factional duties instead of electoral work.
The Labor leader has been under pressure to take action against the Victorian MP since his appearance at the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission last week.
In a fiery press conference, Mr Albanese confirmed he had written to the Secretary of the Finance Department for further investigation.
It’s despite just last week the opposition leader indicating such a referral was not necessary.
“Anthony Byrne has been referred to the Department of Finance to examine his evidence, just like Kevin Andrews and Michael Sukkar were,” he said.
The Department of Finance is responsible for assessing whether MPs have appropriately used taxpayer-funded resources.
Mr Bryne last week told an IBAC hearing he had engaged in branch stacking and hired taxpayer-funded staff who did not show up to work but instead performed factional duties.
While branch stacking is not illegal, it is against party rules. However, the use of taxpayer funded staff to do political party work is not permitted.
Last October, the department cleared Michael Sukkar and MP Kevin Andrews following media reports the two Liberals had misused taxpayer funds.
But the press gallery pressed Mr Albanese further on if he should take a firmer hand in the matter prior to IBAC handing down its findings.
“When is the appropriate time then? Is it when the public hearings have ended but before any findings have been handed down?” a reporter asked.
Mr Albanese repeated earlier comments that processes were being followed. He subsequently deflected, throwing up a smokescreen by making reference to Gladys Berejiklian and her pending ICAC appearance.
“We'll deal with those matters at an appropriate time, but IBAC at the moment is still having hearings,” he said.
“I do know that there are other hearings underway today in the Gladys Berejiklian and her activity before the ICAC.”
Asked if he would move to disendorse Mr Byrne off the back of the evidence given to IBAC, Mr Albanese declined to answer and promptly ended the press conference.
“Shouldn’t Mr Byrne be disendorsed?,” a reporter asked.
“I’ve written to the department of finance about that matter,” he said tersely before leaving.
He also refused to answer questions on if Mr Byrne should repay the funds used to hire the staff who the IBAC heard did not show up for work and instead performed factional work.
On Friday, Mr Byrne resigned as the deputy chair of the parliament’s powerful national security committee.
Originally published as Anthony Albanese refers embattled Anthony Byrne for investigation
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