’Covid story’ brain-stormed

Adem Somyurek on day three of his evidence at the IBAC inquiry.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Former ALP powerbroker Adem Somyurek was accused of “brainstorming” a story to explain footage of him withdrawing cash from an ATM to pay for other members’ party memberships.

The IBAC Operation Watts inquiry had heard that the practice was utilised by several Labor MPs as part of a branch-stacking regime.

It played a tapped phone call between Mr Somyurek and Andrew Landeryou discussing the footage screened on 60 Minutes’s expose ‘The Faceless Man’ two days earlier.

Mr Somyurek had been filmed withdrawing cash and handing it to staffer Nick McLennan in a car park.

On 16 June 2020, Mr Landeryou and Mr Somyurek discuss possible explanations, including that Mr Somyurek acted out of “Corona paranoia”.

“There are any number of explanations around that that are quite okay but it boils down to the forms had to be lodged by a certain time and you were lodging them,” Mr Landeryou says.

Mr Somyurek suggests: “Or the gentleman that received the money could not leave his house because of Coronavirus. Yeah, that’s probably (a) better one.

“That’s probably the best one, isn’t it.”

Mr Landeryou said: “You could have gone and visited to collect the cash, but during Corona you’ve been very paranoid about it and you thought it’s much better to go to the ATM.”

There was less chance that ATM money would be contaminated, Mr Landeryou mused.

At the inquiry on 12 November 2021, Mr Somyurek had said he got out the cash because a staffer was anxious about Covid.

“(The staffer) rocked up with rubber gloves and she looked all… apprehensive about touching anything.

“So I got it myself… And I did intend to get reimbursed for it.”

Counsel assisting IBAC, Chris Carr asserted the conversation with Mr Landeryou was the “genesis of the Covid story”.

“This is where you are brainstorming what story you are going to give to explain the facts that you apprehend will be publicly known?

“What’s the best explanation we can give?

“What’s the best lie we can come up with.”

Mr Somyurek responded that it was “not a story”. The “critical” issue was he earlier admitted to the inquiry he paid for the memberships himself.

IBAC Commissioner Robert Redlich noted Mr Somyurek had come a long way since the start of his evidence.

“It’s only been in more recent times that you have been willing to acknowledge things that previously you were not prepared to do?”

Mr Somyurek said: “And yeah it’s liberating.”

In his evidence, he’d said he’d “lost perspective” in which taxpayer-funded staffers and MPs were diverted into an inter-factional “war”.

He agreed that staffers rose to the ranks of MPs through branch-stacking and factional patronage.

And that this distorted who gets an opportunity to stand to be MPs.

There was a culture to misuse taxpayer resources for factional ends, he agreed.

“It reproduces itself. But the question is how you’re going to fix it.

“I came in, I knew nothing about it, I observed and I was socialized into it, and I continued the practice.”

Mr Somyurek’s four days of evidence concluded on 12 November.

Somali Australian Council of Victoria secretary Dr Hussein Haraco was scheduled to front the hearing on 26 November.

But because of ongoing medical reasons, he did not appear, IBAC stated.

Dr Haraco, an electorate officer for Mr Somyurek, had previously postponed IBAC appearances in late October on medical grounds.

The Operation Watts public hearings have closed for 2021.

IBAC stated that the investigation is ongoing.