As drive by shootings go, it was one of the greatest political hit jobs in a long time.
Victorian Labor MP Adem Somyurek, a man most Australians have never heard of, caught on tape abusing female colleagues and boasting of the power to make or break state premiers, and the Labor leader Anthony Albanese, during a year-long surveillance operation.
Now he’s out, sacked from the ministry, referred to the police and Victoria’s corruption watchdog, and expelled from the ALP.
But the question being asked in Canberra and Victoria’s Spring St today is simple: whodunit?
Who recorded Somyurek? Who passed on those tapes to 60 Minutes? What was their purpose and motivation?
The fact that several of the scenes in the 60 minutes expose appear to be filmed in the office of little-known Victorian federal MP Anthony Byrne certainly have raised eyebrows.
Some scenes even feature a map of his electorate while others include corflutes promoting Mr Byrne as the Member for Holt.
What we learn from the tapes is that Mr Somyurek believed he was protecting Mr Byrne.
“Anthony’s got a terrible reputation; everyone thinks he’s a waste of space. I don’t. I protect him. I had to stop articles talking about Anthony Byrne going. I said ‘he’s got my protection, he’s going nowhere’,” Mr Somyurek says.
He’s certainly going nowhere now if he turns out to be the Somyurek slayer.
Legally, Byrne could have put the CCTV up in his office for purposes unknown. Did he?
Did he know his office was being used to place his political ally and colleague Somyurek under surveillance? Or was he left blissfully in the dark?
Did a staffer in his office act as a whistleblower, legally recording a conversation that he or she was a party to and then leak the lot to 60 Minutes to bring Soyurek down?
Sadly, we still don’t know the answer to these questions because Mr Byrne has declined to respond to news.com.au‘s phone calls, texts and emails to his office this morning.
A staffer in question who is believed to have recorded some of the conversations, who news.com.au has decided not to name, has also gone to ground and is not returning calls.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese was confronted with the claims just before noon when he was bluntly asked if he had asked Mr Byrne about the recordings, which Mr Soyurek wants referred to the police.
“There were a range of other calls taped, somehow. I don’t know all of the circumstances of it. That will all come out, no doubt, over a period of time,” Mr Albanese replied.
“That really isn’t the story here.”
But surely it is a story if a federal MP has had CCTV cameras rigged up in his office?
Mr Byrne just happens to be the deputy chair of Parliament’s powerful Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security that oversees the nation’s spooks.
What a surprise to learn there was quite a large surveillance operation possibly underway in his office.
Did he know what was going on or not? Did members of the public end up on the CCTV tape discussing sensitive family court matters for example?
Asked if he knew that some of the recordings were taped inside Anthony Byrne’s office, Mr Albanese said he was not across this aspect of the expose.
“I am not aware of all of the details,” he said. “We will examine it in the force of time.”
What we do know is that Somyurek, a state MP, boasted of the power to hire and fire federal MPs including Rob Mitchell (McEwen), Julian Hill (Bruce) and Joanne Ryan (Lalor), Josh Burns (Macnamara) and Tim Watts, (Gellibrand).
“Tim Watts is like bowing to me. I don’t know what they say behind my back,” Somyurek said in a video.
In another recording, Somyurek said: “They’re all saying that I’m going to kill people … I did call in Robert Mitchell and told him that he needs to think about his future.
“I told Mitchell he’s got to retire … I said when are you going?”
He also boasted he had the power to force Mr Hill from Parliament.
“I’m looking forward to this, actually. In between sacking councils and stuff, I’ll be sacking Julian,” he said.
Interesting too that former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a close friend of Mr Bryne’s, also made a cameo appearance in the 60 Minutes program.
Gee, I wonder who told him about the secret tapes? What a coincidence.