Anti-Graft Bid Spurs Rudd to Change Labor Branch Rules

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has intervened in the running of the New South Wales branch of the ruling Labor party in a bid to stamp out corruption that has hobbled his chances of winning this year’s federal election.

Changes imposed on the branch include zero tolerance of corruption, a ban on property developers standing as election candidates, and the establishment of a new appeals tribunal, Rudd told reporters in Canberra today.

“The time has come to modernize the Australian Labor Party,” Rudd said. “As a party, we must stamp out a culture that has allowed this type of behavior to take hold.”

Voters in New South Wales have this year heard details at an anti-corruption inquiry that include allegations former state Labor lawmaker Eddie Obeid earned millions of dollars from illegal property deals. Rudd, who challenged and defeated Julia Gillard on June 26 to reclaim the leadership, needs to shore up support in the nation’s most-populous state, with polls showing many of the 26 seats the party won there in 2010 are in jeopardy.

Craig Thomson, a former national secretary of the Health Services Union and member for the federal New South Wales seat of Dobell, faces charges he misused a union credit card to pay for prostitutes between 2002 and 2007, before he entered parliament. Thomson, who resigned from Labor and sits in parliament as an independent, denies the allegations.

The Tony Abbott-led opposition coalition leads Labor by 51 percent to 49 percent on a two-party basis, according to a Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper July 1. The measure is designed to gauge which party is most likely to form government under Australia’s preferential voting system.

Rudd must hold an election before Nov. 30. While Gillard, Australia’s first female leader, pledged to go to the polls on Sept. 14, he’s yet to confirm a date.

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