'Frank and fearless' review ordered into NSW Labor head office

Former federal attorney-general Michael Lavarch will lead a "frank and fearless" review into NSW Labor’s troubled head office, which is expected to overhaul the role of the party’s powerful general secretary.

Federal leader Anthony Albanese and state Labor leader Jodi McKay on Sunday announced the review into NSW Labor's governance and administration, including the role of general secretary,  which they said needed to change.

NSW Labor Leader Jodie McKay, former federal attorney-general Michael Lavarch and federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese

The review comes after NSW Labor's head office practices have been put under the spotlight at an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into

“The culture whereby the general secretary makes a directive and people fall into line needs to change,” Mr Albanese said.

Ms McKay said the ongoing corruption inquiry into NSW Labor’s head office had revealed there was “far too much power vested in the general secretary”.

Former NSW Labor general secretary Jamie Clements leaves the ICAC after giving evidence this week

Ms McKay said since 2015 the party had improved its governance but the recent ICAC hearings had exposed "serious shortcomings in the party".

"It's time to let the sunshine in," Ms McKay said. "This is about establishing a new era for transparency and accountability as we move into the 2020s."

Professor Lavarch will lead a two-part review into the governance and culture of NSW Labor, with the first stage to focus on the duties and responsibilities of the general secretary.

Mr Albanese said he expected it to be a "frank and fearless review to fundamentally change NSW Labor Party office culture".

"There is something fundamentally wrong when people running a political party office think its normal to behave in this way," Mr Albanese said.

During seven weeks of public hearings the ICAC heard former general secretary Jamie Clements was handed an Aldi bag containing $100,000 from controversial billionaire Huang Xiangmo during an April 2015 meeting in the ALP's headquarters in Sussex Street in Sydney. Mr Clements has denied Mr Huang was the source of the cash.

His successor Kaila Murnain was suspended indefinitely as general secretary in August after she gave evidence to the ICAC that she had kept quiet for three years about an illegal donation.

Ms McKay said the party would not appoint a new general secretary until the review was complete.

“[T]here will be no appointments for the general secretary, until we have a firm definition around the roles and responsibilities, and indeed how this position works within the broader party structure,” Ms McKay said.

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