John Lenders quits Labor Party campaign committee

Former Victorian treasurer John Lenders will step down from the Labor Party’s campaign committee amid renewed scrutiny over his role in the so-called red shirts scandal.

The Victorian Ombudsman is preparing to release a second report into the ALP misusing almost $400,000 in the lead-up to the 2014 election campaign, in which taxpayers funded casual electorate officers to campaign in marginal seats.

John Lenders will step down from the Labor Party’s campaign committee. Credit:Daniel Pockett

Ombudsman Deborah Glass in 2018 said Lenders held the “greatest share of culpability” for the scheme, into which she has reopened an investigation following a referral from the Victorian Parliament.

On Tuesday, Lenders told The Age he was quitting the party’s campaign committee preparing for the November 26 election.

“I don’t want to be a distraction for the party ahead of the state election, which is why I have withdrawn from the campaign committee,” he said.

The committee, which does not make decisions on behalf of the party, is made up of state and federal MPs, Labor elders and union officials. It meets monthly for an hour.

Lenders had been under growing pressure over the past week after The Australian revealed he was a member of the campaign committee, in light of a recent anti-corruption investigation that excoriated the unethical culture inside the Labor Party. Lenders was not the subject of the recent probe.

When asked on Tuesday morning if he supported Lenders remaining on the committee, Premier Daniel Andrews said it was a matter for the party.

“I’ve known John for a long time, he’s somebody that I respect,” Andrews said. “The campaign committee and its membership is entirely a matter for the state secretary and you should have a conversation with him.”

Lenders was ALP state secretary between 1994 and 1999 when Labor defeated the Liberals in a shock election victory under Steve Bracks.

He entered Parliament in 1999 as the lower house member for Dandenong North, before moving to the upper house in 2002.

He held a range of portfolios including education, treasury, finance and industrial relations, but then stepped down in 2014.

ALP state secretary Chris Ford said Lenders should be remembered for his key role as campaign director in the election of the Bracks government.

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