The Victorian Labor Party has moved to expel rogue upper house Member of Parliament Kaushaliya Vaghela from ALP after she crossed the floor last week to vote with the former minister Adem Somyurek for a reinvestigation of her party’s “red shirts” election rort.
Gujarat born Ms Vaghela will be referred to ALP’s internal disputes tribunal and, if found guilty, will be expelled for showing “disloyalty to the party”.
Ms Vaghela has lashed out at the decision calling it “hypocritical’.
“Given that (ALP President) Mr Albanese is campaigning on a federal ICAC, expelling an MP for referring matters to IBAC (via Ombudsman) is hypocritical and sends the message that ICAC is merely a campaigning instrument for Mr Albanese and he is not serious about fighting corruption.”, Ms Vaghela said in a statement via twitter that ended with, “if this is the Labor Party’s response to fighting corruption and going public with systematic bullying complaint, it is not a party I wish to belong to.”
Earlier, on Wednesday, Mr Somyurek had moved a motion to ask the Ombudsman to revisit Labor’s misuse of nearly $400,000 of public funds during the 2014 election campaign. The watchdog had determined in 2018 that it was an “artifice” and “wrong” but not recommended laying charges. Ms Vaghela was interviewed by investigators and conceded her husband did factional work while being paid to be an electorate officer in allies’ offices.
After cross-bench MPs Fiona Patten, Samantha Ratnam and Andy Meddick voted with the government to oppose the motion, Ms Vaghela’s vote was the decisive one.
“The upper house motion gives the Ombudsman and ultimately IBAC (Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission) the power to expand their terms of reference to include all factions in the Labor Party,” Ms Vaghela said iafter the vote, adding, “I am a migrant in this country and thought that everyone was equal when it comes to the law. Apparently, some people are more equal than others.”
Importantly, Mr Somyurek wants Ombudsman Deborah Glass to expand the current joint investigation with the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) to examine the issue.
Ms Vaghela, along with other MP linked to Mr Somyurek, was dumped by Labor in December, and will not continue as an MP following November’s state election.
Mr Somyurek was removed as minister in June 2020 following media revelations of his alleged role in a large-scale branch stacking operation as well as his homophobic and misogynistic tirades against staff members and colleagues.
Ms Vaghela has accused Premier Daniel Andrews of being a misogynist, a nasty man and a person who had a “problem with anyone who doesn’t hold the same views as him or doesn’t do what he wants”.
She also claimed Mr Andrews turned a blind eye to relentless bullying by one of his staffers, who was sacked late last year. Premier Andrews has denied the allegations labelling Ms Vaghela’s claim that he turned a blind eye to bullying accusations as “fantasy without foundation.”.
Ms Gabrielle Williams, the Minister for Women, defended the Premier against accusations made by Ms Vaghela that he has a problem with women.
“The statements that were made and the claims that were made by Ms Vaghela yesterday do not reflect my personal experience nor do they reflect my observations, and nor do they reflect the work of the government,” she said.
“We have a cabinet of over 50 per cent women, we have… in the Premier’s own leadership team, his chief of staff and deputy chief of staff who are women, we have a caucus which is almost 50 per cent women.”
Ms Vaghela is the first Indian-born member of the Victorian Parliament. She has been a Labor Party member of the Victorian Legislative Council since 2018, representing Western Metropolitan Region.