Labor can’t figure out who forged dead men’s signatures

Labor can’t figure out who forged dead men’s signatures


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Labor’s internal watchdog has cleared a branch associated with cabinet minister Lily D’Ambrosio of forging the signatures of deceased people on membership forms, after it could not figure out who forged them.

In a statement released at 5pm on Friday night, Victorian Labor’s acting state secretary, Cameron Petrie, revealed the party’s monitor John Thwaites had concluded his investigation into the Lalor South branch.

Victorian cabinet minister Lily D’Ambrosio (right) has distanced herself from the revelations.Credit: Wayne Taylor

“The Party Monitor was unable to identify who was responsible for any breaches of the rules relating to the renewal of memberships of deceased members,” Petrie said.

According to the statement, Thwaites, who served as deputy premier between 1999 and 2007, instead found that “flaws in the membership renewal process” resulted in Antonio Donato and Celestino Nigro having their annual memberships renewed for two years after their deaths.

“Previous membership processes and rules were inadequate,” Petrie said. “As acting state secretary, and on behalf of Victorian Labor, I sincerely apologise to the families affected for the distress and hurt caused.”

In 2020, former Labor premier Steve Bracks and ex-federal MP Jenny Macklin were recruited to audit memberships.

“It is the view of the Party Monitor that the administrators’ work was effective in removing non-genuine members from the membership and that this will protect the Victorian Branch against those who seek to subvert its processes,” Petrie said.

“Our branch rules no longer allow the renewal of memberships in cash or the renewal of memberships in bulk. Further, there were significant changes to the local branch structure to promote oversight and improve governance – the Lalor South branch no longer exists.”

D’Ambrosio, the member for Mill Park, does not live in her electorate, where the Lalor South branch met. Instead, she is a member of her local Brunswick branch, where she lives.

When the forgeries were revealed, D’Ambrosio said a review of branch stacking in the Victorian Labor Party did not speak to her. “Certainly, no findings were made by the same review into these matters,” she said. “No such claims were presented to me by that review, and no findings.”

Former deputy premier John Thwaites looked into who forged the signatures of two dead men in a Victorian Labor branch.Credit: Natalie Boog

When the forgeries were revealed, family members of the two dead men indicated they would request Thwaites ­investigate the matter. When informed about the decision, Antonio Donato’s son Tom told The Age: “That’s OK, I’m sure Victoria Police will be happy to look into it.”

Earlier this month, it was revealed by The Australian that more than 100 members at the Lalor South branch had been removed from Victorian Labor’s membership roll during the audit.

This included Donato and Negro, who both died in 2017 but had their memberships renewed annually for at least two years. The branch met weekly in D’Ambrosio’s office, but she distanced herself from the revelations by stating she had not been a member there for a “number of years”.

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