Michael Da­ley tipped to suc­ceed Luke Fo­ley as NSW La­bor leader

The Guardian Australia - - News - Michael Mc­Gowan

The deputy leader, Michael Da­ley, is widely ex­pected to re­place Luke Fo­ley as New South Wales op­po­si­tion leader. Fo­ley re­signed on Thurs­day af­ter­noon fol­low­ing de­tailed al­le­ga­tions by an ABC jour­nal­ist that he touched her in­ap­pro­pri­ately. Fo­ley de­nies the al­le­ga­tions.

ABC jour­nal­ist Ash­leigh Raper came for­ward on Thurs­day with al­le­ga­tions Fo­ley put his hands in­side her un­der­pants at a Christ­mas func­tion in 2016 and re­neged on a prom­ise to re­sign over the en­counter. The state­ment came sev­eral weeks after a Lib­eral MP used par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege to ac­cuse Fo­ley of ha­rass­ing the the­nun­named jour­nal­ist, ac­cu­sa­tions Fo­ley swiftly de­nied.

Fo­ley again de­nied the al­le­ga­tions when an­nounc­ing his res­ig­na­tion on Thurs­day af­ter­noon and said he would be tak­ing le­gal ac­tion over the al­le­ga­tions. The ABC has said it will not make fur­ther com­ment.

Ear­lier on Thurs­day one shadow min­is­ter told Guardian Aus­tralia Fo­ley’s po­si­tion was clearly “un­sus­tain­able” and that “he will have lost all sup­port”.

On Thurs­day af­ter­noon La­bor back­bencher and Blue Moun­tains MP Tr­ish Doyle, pub­licly called for Fo­ley to re­sign, say­ing she would call a spill of the party’s lead­er­ship if he did not go will­ingly.

Polling has in­di­cated that NSW La­bor is neck-and-neck with the govern­ment in the lead-up to the state elec­tion next March.

Who­ever takes on the role of op­po­si­tion leader will be charged with sal­vaging the party’s hopes of re­turn­ing to govern­ment after eight years in op­po­si­tion.

In pre­vi­ous lead­er­ship rum­blings, other touted lead­er­ship as­pi­rants have in­cluded shadow min­is­ters Jodi McKay, Ryan Park and Chris Minns.

But on Thurs­day Da­ley im­me­di­ately emerged as the most likely can­di­date.

He was Fo­ley’s main ri­val fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of for­mer La­bor leader John Robert­son in 2014, and is seen as hav­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence to lead the party.

“He’s rock solid,” one MP said of Da­ley on Thurs­day.

An­other de­scribed him as “a steady pair of hands”. “He’s very good, very steady. He’s a good thinker [and] has the ex­pe­ri­ence,” the MP said.

A stal­wart of the party’s usu­ally dom­i­nant right fac­tion, Da­ley en­tered par­lia­ment in 2005 in the seat of Maroubra, in Syd­ney’s south. The elec­torate was pre­vi­ously held by the for­mer pre­mier Bob Carr.

Cur­rently the shadow plan­ning min­is­ter and deputy leader, he’s also served as a for­mer roads and po­lice min­is­ter be­fore La­bor lost govern­ment.

Be­fore en­ter­ing pol­i­tics he served on Rand­wick coun­cil for more than a decade, and worked as a cus­toms of­fi­cial be­fore prac­tis­ing as a cor­po­rate lawyer for NRMA in­sur­ance.

A grad­u­ate of Mar­cellin Col­lege, a Catholic school in Rand­wick, Da­ley shares Fo­ley’s Ir­ish Catholic back­ground. He’s de­scribed him­self as pro­choice, but faced crit­i­cism in 2013 for vot­ing in favour of the con­tro­ver­sial Zoe’s Law bill that would have granted the le­gal sta­tus of “per­son­hood” to un­born chil­dren in NSW.

“If I thought this was a bill that did pit the rights of an un­born child against the rights of the mother, I would not be sup­port­ing the bill,” he said at the time.

“But rather, I see this as a bill that pits the rights of an un­born child against the ac­tions of an al­leged or po­ten­tial wrong­doer.”

Dur­ing his time in par­lia­ment, he has had sev­eral brushes with con­tro­versy.

In 2012 he was re­moved from the par­lia­ment after he was ac­cused of be­ing drunk while de­bat­ing a bill in the early hours of the morn­ing.

After sev­eral warn­ings, the sergeant of arms was called in to phys­i­cally re­move Da­ley after he chal­lenged the Speaker, Shelley Han­cock, to eject him from the cham­ber.

He later apol­o­gised to Han­cock and ad­mit­ted to “hav­ing a cou­ple of drinks” but de­nied be­ing drunk.

Video of the in­ci­dent cap­tured the for­mer pre­mier Barry O’Far­rell call­ing out to the op­po­si­tion to pro­vide a sober speaker for the de­bate.

“Dis­grace­ful. Can you find a sober speaker on that side?” O’Far­rell could be heard say­ing.

Asked again about the in­ci­dent last month, Da­ley told Fair­fax he “had a few drinks [that night] but I was not af­fected by al­co­hol”.

“The im­por­tant thing is I learned a valu­able les­son: since that day, when­ever par­lia­ment is sit­ting, I do not drink,” he said. “If the Lib­er­als want to con­tinue to smear me with that al­le­ga­tion, good luck to them”.

In Au­gust last year he had his driver’s li­cence sus­pended after he was caught driv­ing at nearly dou­ble the speed limit.

Da­ley was driv­ing at 78km/h on the Eastern Dis­trib­u­tor in Syd­ney after 11pm but said he did not no­tice signs show­ing a vari­able speed of 40km/h was in force be­cause of road­works.

He was also crit­i­cised by mem­bers of his party last Au­gust when the Daily Tele­graph re­ported that he had re­ferred to a for­mer La­bor up­per house mem­ber as a “cunt” just be­fore he died at the age of 87.

The Tele­graph re­ported Da­ley used the term to re­fer to John “Johno” John­son, who served in the NSW up­per house for 25 years, just be­fore John­son’s death.

“I did use colour­ful language,” Da­ley told the Tele­graph at the time. “I then apol­o­gised to a fe­male col­league for the use of that language. It is no se­cret within the La­bor party that Mr John­son and I were far from friends. He is de­ceased now and out of re­spect for his fam­ily, I will not be mak­ing any fur­ther com­ment.”

The deputy NSW op­po­si­tion leader, Michael Da­ley, mem­ber for Strath­field Jodi McKay and op­po­si­tion leader Luke Fo­ley on Thurs­day.Pho­to­graph: Joel Car­rett/AAP

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