Anthony Albanese hasn’t spoken to Labor MP Anthony Byrne since branch-stacking admissions

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Anthony Albanese and Anthony Byrne have not spoken since Mr Byrne admitted to branch stacking. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has not spoken to embattled colleague Anthony Byrne since the Victorian MP admitted to branch stacking while giving evidence to an anti-corruption inquiry.

Mr Byrne was called as a key witness to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission’s (IBAC) public hearings this week, as it investigates the misuse of taxpayer-funded resources in the Victorian Labor Party for political purposes.

He admitted to the inquiry that he was involved in branch stacking by paying for other people’s Labor Party memberships fees.

Mr Albanese has resisted standing the MP down or expelling him from the party, and told Nine Radio this morning a decision would be made only once all the evidence had been heard.

“All I have said is, ‘We’ll wait while the hearings are going on’,” he said.

“Halfway through people’s testimonies, you don’t reach a verdict.

“We will deal with the issues when we have all of the information, that [is] being conducted at the moment through public hearings.”

Mr Albanese was questioned on how comfortable he was with Mr Byrne continuing to sit in Parliament as a Labor MP, but would not give a clear answer.

“Are you happy for him to sit [in Parliament] as a Labor MP?” he was asked.

“He’s a Member of Parliament,” Mr Albanese responded. “He hasn’t been attending parliament because of the Victorian restrictions. He hasn’t been in Parliament for some time.”

Federal Parliament is due to return next week, but many MPs will be forced to attend virtually because of ongoing travel restrictions.

Provisions have been in place since last year allowing MPs to engage with Parliament remotely.

Albanese says it would be wrong to speak to Byrne

Mr Albanese confirmed he had not spoken to Mr Byrne since the evidence was provided to IBAC this week.

“While people are appearing before a judicial body, the idea that the political leader will ring them and have a conversation with them, while they’re giving evidence is entirely inappropriate,” he said.

Mr Albanese also pointed to some of the praise and support that Mr Byrne has received from fellow members of Parliament’s powerful Intelligence and Security Committee, including its Liberal chair, James Paterson.

Other MPs, such as independent Senator Rex Patrick, have called for Mr Byrne to be removed from his role as deputy chair of the committee.

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