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Suleyman elected to key ALP body

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Royce Millar and David Rood

THE ALP has responded to the Brimbank Council controversy by elevating one of the central players to the party's supreme decision-making body.

Hakki Suleyman - identified by the Victorian Ombudsman as an unelected person with "undue influence" on the council - has been elected as one of 86 delegates to Labor's national tri-annual conference in Sydney this year.

The conference sets the party's broad platform and elects the powerful national executive, which manages party matters in between conferences.

Among those who voted for the national delegates at the weekend's state conference was Premier John Brumby, a member of Mr Suleyman's Right factional group.

But last night he would not reveal whether he voted for Mr Suleyman, nor would he comment on Mr Suleyman's election to the national body.

Mr Suleyman would not comment and referred The Age to his solicitor, George Defteros. ALP state secretary Stephen Newnham also declined to comment.

Mr Suleyman was identified in the scathing Brimbank report as one of a group of Labor figures who had meddled in the affairs of the council, including in the allocation of council resources to community and sporting clubs.

Planning Minister Justin Madd|en stood down Mr Suleyman as his electorate officer in light of the Ombudsman's findings.

Following last month's Ombudsman report, the ALP transferred pre-selection decisions from local and state hands to the national executive.

Now, in a neat twist for Mr Suleyman, his national conference role means he will be among those that elect the party's national executive, although the new executive will not decide the looming round of pre-selections.

Factional negotiations ahead of those pre-selections are now frenzied, including around the future of Mr Madden.

As revealed by The Age on Saturday, Mr Madden is resisting pressure from his faction to move from his upper house western province seat to a safe lower house seat in the western suburbs.

One senior Labor source said that, after the Brimbank scandal, Mr Madden "did not have the luxury of dictating anything to the party".

Asked his views on the Madden quandary yesterday, Mr Brumby said: "They are matters for me and him to talk about."

Another complication is a late push to rescue the political career of former major projects minister Theo Theophanous, who is a traditional ally of Rudd Government minister Stephen Conroy.

Mr Theophanous was implicated in the damning Brimbank report and is also fighting a charge that he raped a woman in his Parliament House office in 1998. He strongly denies the charge.

- The State Government's plan to ban local councillors from working in the offices of MPs may faces serious legal obstacles, with a senior QC arguing the move may be in breach of Victoria's human rights charter and even the federal constitution.

The proposed ban, backed by the State Government, was made by the Ombudsman to reduce outside influence on local councils in the wake of the Brimbank saga.

However, ALP sources say in confidential advice to the Municipal Association of Victoria, QC Jeremy Gobbo queries the legality of the move.

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