Kahshaliya Vaghela

Indians make history no matter where they are. And Kaushaliya Vaghela, the first Indian born Labor MP in Victoria, made history when she sensationally crossed the floor and delivered the crucial vote required to have the Andrews government’s infamous “red shirts” scandal reinvestigated? We sift through her political journey to find out.

It was the first ever and an ‘in-your-face’ type act of defiance in Premier Daniel Andrews led government.

As Labor party rules do not allow their members to defy party lines, Kaushaliya most certainly faces expulsion from the party for breaking party rules. Labor MPs can only cross the floor if allowed a conscience vote.

Not surprisingly, the motion was supported by the state opposition.

Nine of the upper house’s 12 crossbench MPs also supported it but that made it 18 even.  After Kaushaliya crossed the floor and decided to voter for the motion, it was carried with 19 votes for it and 17 against.

If disciplinary action is taken against her, she would most likely join the crossbench and make it things more difficult for the government in this election year.

If no action is taken against her, although the pundits would have a million interpretations for their audiences, she may vote with the government more often than not.

Now that the motion has passed through the house, Ombudsman Deborah Glass will have to reconsider the rort matter, making it rather interesting if she still sticks to her previous assessment of the issue or does what Adem Somyurek has envisaged all along – taking the matter to IBAC.

The motion also calls for her to consider an expanded investigation taking in taxpayer-funded staffers performing factional work, the misuse of government funding for branch-stacking activities and political appointments in the public service.

Under (section 16 of) Victoria’s Ombudsman Act 1973, the Victorian parliament – the Legislative Council, Legislative Assembly or a parliamentary committee – can refer any matter to the Ombudsman to investigate.

Also read: An Indian elected to the Upper House, Inga Peulich loses

After the Ombudsman receives a referral, she will determine how any investigation will be conducted. A report is then prepared for the parliament.

For the Premier, legally it is now up to the Ombudsman.

Politically, it is quite embarrassing to say the least.

The “red shirts” rort resulted in almost $388,000 in taxpayers’ money spent on part-paying electorate staff to campaign for the 2014 election.

The money has been paid back by the Labor party but the stench is still too pungent to go away.

Adme Somyurek writing a piece in the Herald Sun, described the rort as “the biggest political scandal of Victoria’s history”.

If the Ombudsman refers the issue to be investigated by IBAC, it would embroil a number of current and former Labor staffers in a potentially damaging public inquiry.

Adem Somyurek believes the Ombudsman is legally bound to refer the matter to IBAC because of the systemic corruption that underpinned the rort.

Bharat Times contacted Kaushaliya Vaghela’s office for an interview but is yet to hear back.

Kaushaliya Vaghela has reportedly been dumped from her upper house ticket for the upcoming election in December in a bloody factional war.

Giving evidence in the IBAC investigation into Labor’s branch stacking in 2021, Kaushaliya Vaghela admitted that her husband Dinesh Chauhan may have been performing factional work out of electorate offices of Adem Somyurek, Robin Scott and Marlene Kairouz.

Kaushalya herself was also employed by Robin Scott for some time before she was elected to the Upper House.

Later her daughter also found employment in the same office.

Kaushaliya Vaghela was a member of the (Premier Daniel Andrews’s) Socialist Left before moving on to Adem Somyurek’s Moderates faction.

She feels the IBAC investigation not including all factions of the Labor party was unfair.

“If branch stacking and factional operatives working in electorate officers (sic) is corruption, then the Socialist Left and all the other factions must be investigated.

“What happened at IBAC was a grave injustice because it was discriminatory.”

That may explain her motivation to cross the floor to the uninitiated.

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