Furious Democratic Labour Party officials have savaged John Madigan's decision to quit the party and continue serving as an independent senator, demanding he give the precious Senate seat back to the party they say he has betrayed.
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John Madigan quits DLP
Cross bench Senator John Madigan will now serve as an independent, blaming a 'cancer of political intrigue' in the Democratic Labor Party.
Senator Madigan shocked his colleagues by announcing his resignation from the party on Thursday morning because of an ongoing internal feud.
He told the Senate that the "cancer of political intrigue" had infected the Victorian state executive of the DLP. He said a staff member planted in his office had undermined him, leading to his decision to leave the party. He said he planned to serve out the remaining three years of his six-year term in the Senate as an independent.
"It's a tough decision, life is what it is and I've made my decision. I stand by my decision, I'm comfortable with my decision, it hasn't been taken lightly. It's a very difficult decision for anybody in my position," he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
Senator Madigan tried to table documents in Parliament using privilege but was delayed because he had not shown them to the Coalition government or Labor for their agreement. He said once tabled the documents would provide "a little bit of insight to people as to why I made the decision I did". He was later successful in tabling six pages of emails sent by his former staffer Rachel Carling-Jenkins.
Senator Madigan accused Dr Carling-Jenkins of seeking Victorian Liberal preselection two weeks after joining his office.
Included in the correspondence tabled by Senator Madigan was an email from Dr Carling-Jenkins to the Victorian division of the Liberal Party in which she requested a party membership application and preselection form.
In other emails purportedly from Dr Carling-Jenkins to other office holders in the DLP, the former staffer refers to herself as an "informant" and "spy". Dr Carling-Jenkins has been contacted for comment.
DLP national president Paul Funnell on Thursday lashed out at Senator Madigan's claims, saying they were "absolutely untrue", adding that Senator Madigan's mind had been "poisoned against the party" by his new chief of staff Brendan Gullifer who joined Senator Madigan's office earlier this year.
"John Madigan has betrayed the party. . . it's shocking and I'm just sickened by it," Mr Funnell told Fairfax Media.
He said his friend had become "addicted to power" and "turned his back on the people who had put him there, he has dumped on all those people in the DLP who have nothing and supported him to get elected".
And he called for Senator Madigan to leave Parliament and give back his seat to the DLP: "As far as I'm concerned it belongs to the DLP."
He declared John Madigan's career "over as a politician", but predicted the Senator would try to link up with independent South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon to try and match his success.
"I don't believe he can pull it off," Mr Funnell said.
Mr Gullifer rejected Mr Funnell's accusation and said "Senator Madigan is quite capable of thinking for himself and frequently does so".
Shortly after announcing his resignation from the DLP, Senator Madigan left open the option of contesting the next federal election in his own right and said his policies had not changed.
"One only has to look at the campaign Cathy McGowan [the independent MP for Indi] ran. She ran a very good campaign, Nick Xenophon runs a good campaign," he said. "I've got the best part of three years to finish this term . . . I've made no decision."
DLP Victorian secretary Michael Murphy told Fairfax Media on Thursday that the party had become worried about Senator Madigan's office because 10 staff had "been sacked or quit since his election" in 2010.
"We were aware of the difficulties so we requested a member of the executive be placed in his office," he said.
But he said it was completely untrue that Dr Carling-Jenkins, who was the the DLP's candidate in the federal Victorian seat of La Trobe, but is now the DLP Victorian state president, was planted to undermine Senator Madigan.
"She was there to work for the best interests of John and the party," he said.
Fairfax Media has been told a Liberal MP sounded out Dr Carling-Jenkins, who sought preselection documents, however, they were never received and the matter went no further.
Mr Murphy said he was first alerted to Senator Madigan's resignation from the party via an email received at 9:26am on Thursday - just minutes before the senator made his speech to Parliament. The media were alerted to the speech nearly 10 minutes earlier.
He said he was "saddened" by the decision and also called on Senator Madigan to relinquish his seat. "If John Madigan is resigning from the DLP he should resign from his seat," he said.
While vacancies created by an MP who resigns from the House of Representatives must be filled via a byelection, vacancies in the Senate are filled by the party of the resigning senator.