Axed MP declares war on those who ‘destroyed’ him
Axed Victorian Labor powerbroker Adem Somyurek has vowed to go after whoever secretly recorded him, by bringing on a court action to flush them out.
Mr Somyurek told the Herald Sun last night: "I look forward to the litigation process revealing documents and evidence of all those involved in what I believe has been a co-ordinated conspiracy to destroy my political career using unlawful means."
Mr Somyurek was sacked from State Cabinet by Premier Daniel Andrews and banned for life from Labor after TV's 60 Minutes aired secret recordings of him using foul language about a female minister and allegedly paying money to stack ALP branches.
The finger of suspicion has fallen on federal Labor MP Anthony Byrne, as some of the footage was caught inside his Cranbourne West office. The legal action could also expose other senior Labor figures.
Mr Somyurek told the Herald Sun he was instructing his lawyers to prepare legal proceedings against those involved in recording him.
Mr Byrne, the deputy chair of Canberra's powerful parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, has been under intense scrutiny himself, as concern grows over his role in the unprecedented sting against his former ally.
Federal Labor leadership is standing by embattled federal MP Anthony Byrne after more text messages were leaked in an apparent payback attack by disgraced former Victorian cabinet minister Adem Somyurek.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said he had "counselled" the Holt MP over the messages but would not be drawn on his position the deputy chair of Canberra's powerful parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
"I have counselled him about the nature of those text messages, they are inappropriate," he said on Friday morning.
Deputy leader Richard Marles said Mr Byrne had been a "wonderful servant of his community".
"Albo has spoken with Anthony about that language. I'm not about to defend it," Mr Byrne said.
"But let me say this about Anthony Byrne, Anthony has been a wonderful servant of his community and of Labor throughout his career.
"He has played and continues to play a really important role, particularly on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
"I'm not about to defend what he said but I absolutely think that Anthony Byrne has a very important role to continue to play in politics."
In the leaked messages, Mr Byrne also uses foul language, makes derogatory remarks about a number of senior Labor figures and alludes to branch-stacking.
Further text messages obtained by The Australian reveal Mr Byrne once bragged about meeting with the journalist responsible for Sunday night's 60 Minutes report to destroy someone's career.
"Gimme a sec. I am just dealing wit (sic) Nic (sic) McKenzie (from 60 Minutes, Channel 9) and about to destroy a guys (sic) career,'' Mr Byrne wrote to Mr Somyurek in August last year.
In a July 2017 text, Mr Byrne savaged former Labor senator Sam Dastyari as a "crooked, corrupt f---'' before adding "I was with McKenzie last Monday.'' Mr Byrne also harbours animosity towards prominent former political adviser and cancer survivor Jamila Rizvi, calling her "an awful piece of work".
Another female state MP who suffered from cancer is described as a "loser".
Mr Somyurek said he was keen to get cracking on litigation. "I have received interim legal advice which makes it clear there is a serious legal issue here," he said.
Legal observers said it was highly likely that in a defamation action a judge would grant Mr Somyurek's lawyers access to the full unedited recordings made for 60 Minutes.
Mr Somyurek, still a member of the state's upper house despite his axing from Labor, said: "I remain bewildered that one of my oldest and dearest friends was involved in this … I do not believe he would have cooked this up on his own."
HEAT ON LEADER AS PARTY IMPLODES
The internal war gripping the Labor Party intensified yesterday amid divisions over whether veteran MP Anthony Byrne should be punished for helping bring down state powerbroker Adem Somyurek.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese was standing by Mr Byrne - the deputy chair of the powerful parliamentary intelligence committee - despite admitting his language in a series of leaked texts was "completely unacceptable".
Senior Labor figures fell in behind Mr Albanese, arguing Mr Byrne should be considered a "whistleblower" and a "Labor hero" after bugs in his office were used in an explosive sting on Mr Somyurek.
Some party figures were last night upset with "each-way Albo" after he combined with Mr Andrews to expel Mr Somyurek from the party. They argued Mr Byrne should lose his committee position.
Mr Somyurek said he was "really worried" about the mental state of his "long and dear friend".
"Everything I know about branch work, Anthony Byrne taught me," he said. "I have a lot of respect for the man but I do think something is seriously wrong."
Labor was bracing for the fallout from the factional fight to continue, with questions being raised about whether those responsible for the hit on Mr Somyurek were prepared for the inevitable retaliation.
It comes as the Herald Sun can reveal senior figures in the Andrews Government have reached out to trade union leaders after learning they were considering court action to stop a federal takeover of the party's Victorian branch.
Talks on a peace deal continue behind closed doors, with the government trying to manage union concerns about paying millions of dollars in affiliation fees to Labor while losing the right to preselection votes for three years.
It was revealed yesterday that Mr Byrne wished Mr Andrews had signed "his death warrant politically" over his treatment of former minister Jane Garrett.
Mr Andrews said yesterday: "I'm not particularly interested in talking about those text messages any more."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday he could not sack Mr Byrne from the intelligence committee but there were "very serious implications" from the controversy surrounding him. He said he would "take a recommendation" from Mr Albanese about Mr Byrne's position.
"The Labor Party nominates who they would have to serve as the deputy chair of that committee. I don't nominate that," Mr Morrison said.
"There are weighty things that are considered by members of parliament and the national security agenda of the country is one.
"You're raising questions about a member, who by his own admission, is saying that the events that are being inquired into are a corruption investigation."
It took Mr Albanese three days to speak to Mr Byrne about the scandal, and he said yesterday morning he checked on Mr Byrne's welfare because he had been "under pressure".
Mr Albanese said Mr Byrne - who has offered his full assistance to anti-corruption investigators - told him he had advice "that he has acted legally at all times".
Originally published as Axed MP declares war on those who 'destroyed' him