Cri­sis looms for NSW La­bor

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Saturday Extra -

Un­til Thurs­day, La­bor had at least a 50-50 chance of re­turn­ing to power in the state elec­tion next March. Then a sim­mer­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment scan­dal erupted, with ABC jour­nal­ist Ash­leigh Raper re­leas­ing de­tailed al­le­ga­tions of in­ap­pro­pri­ate touch­ing by now-for­mer La­bor leader Luke Fo­ley dur­ing a par­lia­men­tary Christ­mas party in 2016.

De­spite step­ping down as leader, Fo­ley main­tains his in­no­cence and claims he is pre­par­ing to take le­gal ac­tion for defama­tion.

Just five months out from an elec­tion in which La­bor be­lieved the Coali­tion gov­ern­ment led by Premier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian would be vul­ner­a­ble, it is now La­bor that must seek to re­cover.

Yet ob­vi­ously there are per­sonal pri­or­i­ties in­volved in this case, and La­bor deputy-leader Michael Da­ley yes­ter­day el­e­vated those con­cerns.

“It will be dam­ag­ing for ev­ery­one, par­tic­u­larly for Ash­leigh Raper,” Da­ley said of the on­go­ing con­tro­versy. “I think Luke should care­fully re­con­sider whether he wants to take those le­gal pro­ceed­ings or not.”

La­bor’s high­est-rank­ing fe­male MP, Jodi McKay, shared Da­ley’s view of Fo­ley’s an­nounced le­gal strat­egy.

“Do I think that is the right de­ci­sion? No,” she told re­porters. “This just pro­longs what Ash­leigh has gone through … I think there needs to be a lot of se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion by Luke.”

But be­yond ob­vi­ous is­sues that must have pri­or­ity at this stage, there will even­tu­ally have to be many po­lit­i­cal reck­on­ings un­der­taken by La­bor ahead of the 2019 elec­tion. The most ur­gent is the need to ap­point a new leader. Given the fac­tions within NSW La­bor, this process has the po­ten­tial to cause fur­ther party desta­bil­i­sa­tion.

Michael Da­ley has al­ready in­di­cated that he will con­test a Sat­ur­day bal­lot for the lead­er­ship. Kog­a­rah MP Chris Minns, too, has put his hand up.

“The only shot the La­bor Party has, in my opin­ion, is to present a bold, pos­i­tive and op­ti­mistic plan for NSW and get peo­ple ex­cited about change,” Minns said yes­ter­day.

“It’s very dif­fi­cult to get peo­ple ex­cited about change if they have no idea what it looks like.”

And that is La­bor’s other prob­lem: how to es­tab­lish leader recog­ni­tion among vot­ers with so lit­tle time avail­able. It’s a party po­ten­tially on the edge of cri­sis.

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