The Coffs Coast Advocate yesterday broke a story about alleged branch stacking in the Orara Valley branch of the National Party.
The story, by Janine Watson, discusses how two long term branch members, former Coffs Harbour Deputy Mayor, Bob Burton, and Barry Lee, believe that a sudden influx of eleven new members attended the branch AGM on July 27, 2019 when prior to that the active member base had been around fifteen people.
Apparently angered by the influx established members complained and the meeting was suspended after it quickly tuneed into being unmanagable and the Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan, acting as returning officer, closed the meeting.
The full Coffs Coast Advocate story can be found behind the paywall here; https://www.coffscoastadvocate.com.au/news/branch-stacking-allegations-rock-national-party-fa/4046785/
Mr Burton and Mr Lee, pictured above, discuss how among the new members present at the July 2019 AGM were former Coffs Harbour Nationals MP Andrew Fraser, his wife Kerrie and Director of the NSW Farmers Association, and high profile party member, Paul Shoker.
Contacted by Ms Watson of the Advocate for comment Mr Fraser said he was entiled to join a new branch as the Orara Branch is closer to his Bucca residence than is the Coffs Harbour branch.
Mr Burton subsequently wrote to the NSW State Office of the National Party asking for a membership list because, as branch secretary, he had not seen any applications at all from intending members.
Mr Lee stated he believed the influx of new members may have been an attempt to silence members who had expressed concerns about the rapid expansion of the blueberry industry in the region.
The story comes ‘hot on the heels’ of branch stacking allegations in the ALP in Victoria which has led to ministerial resignations and party expulsions.
Local ALP spokesperson and announced CHCC candidate Tony Judge on his Facebook site, ‘Tony Judge – Labor for City Council’, is quoted as saying that “he is ‘incredibly disturbed’ to hear the allegations. There is no place in politics for the sort of behaviour that has been alleged”.
“However, I am even more concerned that the Nationals are unwilling to come clean about why they chose to intervene in a small local branch,” Mr Judge said.” See; https://www.facebook.com/LaborForCoffsHarbour