Michael Daley tipped to succeed Luke Foley as NSW Labor leader
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