What does one have to do to be expelled from the NSW Branch of the Labor Party?
I have been writing articles on the allegations against Hicham Zraika from the Auburn electorate for quite a while now, and now we have at long last seen an outcome.
While the findings have come as no surprise, the penalty has come as a complete surprise. In fact it is fair to say that the penalty has been seen as an utter joke.
Hicham Zraika, who is currently a Councillor on Auburn Council, was found guilty of “unworthy conduct” and suspended from the Labor Party for six months.
This decision was made by the Review Tribunal, which is the highest body the Labor Party has to make decisions of this nature. The tribunal stopped short of expelling Zraika for his conduct claiming that he had somehow been
“an energetic and effective member of of the ALP and Mayor and councillor”.
Although I suppose that is true enough.
After all he has been extremely energetic in recruiting members that have addresses that are at best questionable. Members that have a PO Box as their residential address, live in industrial estates, or even live with Zraika himself as branch records claim several families did. The branch numbers in the Regents Park Branch exploded to over 300 in a short period, as the Tribunal pointed out, energetic.
When it comes to effective that is quite a scary prospect considering that Fairfax has reported that he
“Took control” of the envelopes with the ballot papers for the 2013 federal leadership Labor contest between Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese and “distributed them to branch members”.
One wonders if that had any impact on the outcome.
One area however where Hicham has been extremely effective has been bringing the Labor Party into disrepute.
The branch records at the Regents Park where Zraika was Secretary were so recklessly falsified that in the minutes Zraika claimed to have read the minutes from the Newington branch in 2010. Nothing remarkable about that except that the Newington branch didn’t exist until two years later in 2012.
As a Party we are still recovering from the corruption findings of the days of Obeid, Tripodi, McDonald and Kelly. Now as we have 11 Liberal MP’s embroiled in ICAC revelations the last thing Labor need is to have member in power that is happy to falsify official documentation for their own self-interests.
Bear in mind Hicham Zraika is a person who just a few weeks ago was to be parachuted into the NSW Upper House, allegedly in the number six position.
This was part of an alleged deal with NSW Labor Head Office that was to solve the predicament of a bitter preselection and give Luke Foley a lower House seat. Yesterday NSW Labor’s General Secretary Jamie Clements responded to my queries with this response.
On Friday the 6th of February 2015 the Review Tribunal decided to suspend Hicham Zraika for a period of 6 months following charges laid against him by Barbara Perry.
The Review Tribunal is an independent body, chaired by retired Supreme Court Judge Greg James QC, and subject to judicial review.
I am not a member of the Review Tribunal, and I cannot make any comment on their behalf. Nor would it be appropriate, given their independence, for me to make any comment with regards to their decisions.
However, I have maintained throughout this matter, that I have full confidence in our internal processes to handle these allegations, and I retain that confidence in them.
Just what Sussex St were thinking doing a deal with someone whom they had been told was behaving in this manner is mind boggling and is indicative that for real reform to take place it needs to start with Sussex St itself.
However Hicham Zraika’s principal backer throughout his political life has allegedly been Laurie Ferguson, with his name having long been associated with Hicham. Yesterday I emailed Laurie two questions;
Given you have been a long term supporter of Hicham Zraika do you feel that the 6 month suspension was an adequate response to the finding of unworthy conduct that included branch stacking and the falsification of branch records?
Does Hicham Zraika still have your full support and is this the type of person you would normally throw your support behind?
Suddenly Laurie has gone quiet. At the time of publication Laurie had failed to respond.
I understand that despite the findings that there has been no decision taken on the memberships of all of the members that had registered under false addresses.
To rectify this a decision needs made to remove the branch charters of the branches involved, Regents Park and Newington. For this to be not followed through on would leave all of those “members” there to vote on all kinds of things, including federal pre-selections and pre-selections for council tickets.
Hicham’s “stacks” would also be in place to destabilise NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley and possibly be used to ensure he is not pre-selected for the 2019 State Election. Foley already faces difficulties with Paul Garrard, a Parramatta Councillor and former Labor Party member deciding to run as an Independent since it became clear Zraika would not be running. Garrard ran as an Independent against David Borger in the previous State election after failing to win pre-selection as the Labor candidate. His decision to preference the Liberal Party ensured that Labor lost the seat. Garrard is widely considered to still be a close ally of Laurie Ferguson. Perhaps that is why he has chosen not to run in Granville this time?
For this reason, a motion I will be putting forward at my next branch meeting is this, other members may wish to replicate this at their branch.
This branch seeks the expulsion of Hicham Zraika from the Labor Party for his proven unworthy conduct. The branch also asks that at the next meeting of the Admin Committee that the removal of the branch charters of the Regents Park and Newington branches be addressed.
The rank and file battle for Party reform continues.