Shock messages revealed to a corruption inquiry reveal a Labor MP allegedly talking about wanting to ‘destroy’ a party candidate.
Shock text messages have been unveiled in a corruption hearing in which a federal Labor MP allegedly talks of wanting to “destroy” a factional rival.
Federal Holt MP Anthony Byrne has been quizzed during Victorian IBAC hearings about text messages between himself and rogue ex Labor minister Adem Somyurek.
In the text messages, believed to have been sent in 2019, Mr Byrne and Mr Somyurek talk about Labor candidate and factional rival, Steve Michelson.
“F**k Michelson,” Mr Byrne allegedly says in the text message, which was read out to the inquiry by Mr Somyurek’s lawyer Remy van de Wiel QC.
Mr Byrne’s message then refers to a meeting with himself, Mr Somyurek and others “to remind him who runs the show”.
“It’s you indicating to Adem you’d tell these people it’s you who runs the show in terms of who’s in charge of various members created by you and controlled by you,” Mr van de Wiel said.
“I”m sorry, that’s just not true,” Mr Byrne replied.
It was followed by a second message in which Mr Byrne allegedly said: “The second meeting is where we cut Michelson’s throat.”
When asked about that message, Mr Byrne responded that Mr Somyurek was “frustrated” at Mr Michelson’s behaviour.
“My understanding is he was trying to enlist my support to deal with Steve Michelson,” he said.
‘You’d have to be on the dark side of the moon to not know Adem Somyurek was in charge of just about everything.”
In a text message in March, 2019, Mr Byrne allegedly said: “Wish we could destroy him now.”
Mr Byrne said he didn’t recall the text but Mr Somyurek had made it clear he saw Mr Michelson as a problem.
“I also want to humiliate him at the same time as the preselection so he is unemployable as just punishment from the grief he is causing us,” Mr Byrne’s message continued.
“I really do want to kill him. This is personal for me now.”
Mr Byrne said the text messages were in the context of several conversations between himself and Mr Somyurek.
“The tone of this was that Adem was saying to me Michelson was a threat … and needed to be dealt with.”
When asked about his feelings of hostility towards Mr Michelson, Mr Byrne added: “I think you’d say Mr Somyurek’s feelings and therefore my feelings were very strong.”
It emerged on Monday Mr Michelson made a $5000 donation to factional bosses in a bid to garner support to try and secure the Labor seat of Isaacs once it was vacated by Mark Dreyfus.
The money was believed to have been used to buy party memberships, known as branch stacking, Mr Byrne said.
Branch stacking describes the act of signing up new members to local political party branches, so they can use their voting power to pick candidates and influence decisions. It’s not illegal but it’s against Labor Party rules.
The Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission inquiry is probing whether taxpayer-funded electorate office staff were used to assist branch stacking operations.
It was launched after allegations of branch stacking — involving factional heavyweight Adem Somyurek, his allies and taxpayer-funded workers — were aired in leaked videos.
The bombshell hearings started Monday and have already claimed the scalp of a cabinet minister.
Mr Byrnes has admitted to involvement in branch stacking and paying for party memberships and said he was also aware of Mr Somyurek and Cabinet minister Luke Donnellan paying for memberships.
Mr Donnellan quit the Victorian cabinet hours later the allegations were aired.
The hearing is continuing.
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