Labor leader Anthony Albanese is refusing to demote Labor MP Anthony Byrne despite revelations of vile text messages where he admitted he wanted to decapitate a colleague and “p*ss on his corpse”.
In a brutal act of political payback, dumped Victorian powerbroker Adem Somyurek last night dumped a treasure trove of texts from Mr Byrne, who he has accused of helping to set him up in a 60 Minutes exposé.
In the texts, Mr Byrne also wishes for the political death of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and suggests two Labor colleagues should be decapitated.
Speaking in Canberra this morning, Mr Albanese said the comments were “unacceptable” but said he had been assured he had acted legally at all times amid questions over the bugging of his office to film the 60 Minutes exposé.
“Yesterday afternoon I spoke with Anthony Byrne. I checked on his welfare,’’ he said.
“Anthony Byrne is someone who has been under pressure and it was appropriate that I check on his welfare. I also discussed and sought an assurance from him that he had advice, which he has, that he has acted legally at all times.
“That is consistent with what Channel 9 have said in terms of Nick McKenzie’s comments as well. He also assured me that he was offering full co-operation with Ibac and the police inquiries. And I took that assurance.”
However, Mr Albanese said the text messages were unacceptable.
“I note the comments that are published today from Mr Byrne. These comments are completely unacceptable and inappropriate. And I’ve counselled Mr Byrne about his language and the inappropriateness of those comments,’’ he said.
Mr Somyurek was sacked from the Andrews government ministry this week, after 60 Minutes broadcast audio of him describing a female minister as a “psycho b*tch” and suggesting he wanted to knock her head off.
But in Mr Byrne’s own texts to Mr Somyurek, he uses decapitation references – twice – to express his displeasure with two Labor colleagues.
During the exchanges he suggests a political decapitation should be arranged for former Victorian powerbroker Alan Griffin.
“I want Griffin destroyed. I want his head cut off and then I am going to p*ss on his corpse,’’ Mr Byrne wrote.
Mr Byrne told news.com.au last night that he had said similar things to Mr Griffin’s face as “a joke.”
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However, Mr Albanese brushed off questions over stripping him of his role as the deputy chair of the intelligence committee, a role that is not only powerful but close to Mr Byrne’s heart.
He noted the Liberal Chair of the Committee Andrew Hastie had backed Mr Byrne’s contribution.
“I note Andrew Hastie’s comments this morning, where he has said clearly, ‘I can speak to Mr Byrne’s character over the last few years. He has been a great servant of our country in the committee.’
“And certainly, the work that committee has done to keep our country safe has been important, has been bipartisan by and large, and certainly the chair and the deputy chair of the committee have worked very cooperatively,’’ he said.
In the texts, Mr Byrne also boasts of being able to organise colleagues to come under the scrutiny of the ABC’s Four Corners.
“If she mucks you up I will make sure she guest stars in the next Four Corners (hatchet job on China. Which I will be on. Watch her, she’s a ratf**ker,’’ he writes.
Mr Byrne told news.com.au the texts appeared accurate but were “cherry picked.”
“Somyurek has selectively released a hand-picked selection of my text messages to him sent over two years just hours after I made a public statement that I had contacted authorities and would assist with their corruption investigations into him,’’ he said.
“That speaks for itself”.