Suspended from the ALP for six months: a slap on the wrist?

The allegedly dodgy Auburn Labor candidate Hicham Zraika has been suspended from the Party for six months, which makes Peter Wicks ask: what do you need to do to be expelled?

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. In fact, it is fair to say that the penalty could be seen as an utter joke.

Hicham Zraika, who is currently a councillor on Auburn Councilwas 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 he had been

''... an energetic and effective member of the ALP and Mayor and councillor.''

I suppose that is true enough.

After all, he has been extremely energetic in recruiting members — the branch numbers in the Regents Park Branch exploded to over 300 in a short period. However, branch records showed that the addresses of many of these members were at best questionable — with them being recorded as living in post offices boxes, industrial estates and even, for several families, with Zraika himself.

When it comes to effective, that is quite a scary prospect, considering Fairfax has reported 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 Regents Park branch where Zraika was Secretary were so recklessly falsified that in the minutes of its meetings it recorded Zraika claiming in 2010 to have read the minutes from the Newington branch. The only problem was that the Newington branch didn’t exist until 2012.

As a Party, the ALP are still recovering from the ICAC corruption findings about Obeid, Tripodi, McDonald and Kelly. Now, as we have 11 Liberal MP’s embroiled in their own ICAC revelations, the last thing Labor needs is to have member in power who is happy to falsify official documentation for their own selfish 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 pre-selection 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 allegedly behaving in this manner is mind boggling and indicative that for real reform to take place within Sussex St itself.

However, Hicham Zraika’s principal backer throughout his political life has allegedly been Federal MP 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?

At the time of publication, Mr Ferguson had not yet responded.

Peter Wicks is an ALP member and former NSW Labor State candidate. You can follow him on Twitter @madwixxy.

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