NSW election flop means Michael Daley will be challenged for Labor leadership

Updated March 24, 2019 16:30:12

NSW Labor leader Michael Daley will face a leadership challenge after he stumbled badly in the final week of the campaign and his party’s primary vote went backwards at the ballot box.

Key points:

  • There is division within NSW Labor about postponing the leadership ballot until after the federal election
  • Mr Daley beat Kogarah MP Chris Minns for the top job in November 33 votes to 12
  • Both the Labor and Liberal parties endured decreases in their primary vote in Saturday’s election

Party insiders have told the ABC Shadow Water Minister Chris Minns will run against Mr Daley, while Shadow Transport Minister Jodi McKay could also put her name forward for the top job.

Mr Daley has been Opposition Leader for only 19 weeks, after replacing Luke Foley, who resigned suddenly when it was revealed he sexually harassed an ABC journalist at a 2016 Christmas party.

Labor narrowly won the seat of Coogee off the Liberal Party, and remain locked in close races with the Government in Lismore and East Hills.

Labor MPs are dismissive of Mr Daley’s prospects of retaining the leadership, with one telling the ABC: “I reckon he’s toast.”

While Mr Daley started the election campaign on the front foot, the final few days were a disaster.

First, a video emerged of him telling a Labor function last year that young people were leaving Sydney because “Asians with PhDs” were taking their jobs.

Then, during the final televised election debate, he was unable to recall how much some of his party’s signature education policies would actually cost.

The comments about immigration were particularly damaging for challenger Mr Minns, who has a high Chinese-Australian population in his Sydney seat of Kogarah.

Mr Minns endured a swing of about 4 per cent against him in the seat — not enough for him to lose it, but enough to make his previously safe electorate marginal.

Labor was so concerned about the possible impact of Mr Daley’s comments in Kogarah they took out a front-page advertisement in a Chinese-language newspaper to clarify them.

‘Last week really hurt us’

The ABC understands federal Labor powerbrokers are keen for their NSW colleagues to delay any leadership spill until after May’s federal election.

Under new rules introduced to reduce leadership churn, rank-and-file Labor members now get a say in who will lead the party, meaning in practice balloting will take weeks anyway.

Today Mr Daley defended his performance as NSW Labor leader, pointing out the Coalition had lost seats, and seen its primary vote decrease.

He maintains he can continue to lead the party.

“Now we have the same primary vote as the Liberal Party — we’ve got to keep that in mind,” he said.

“When the entire electorate moves away from all the major parties and sends their votes to minor parties and independents, I think you can conclude there is a great deal of cynicism, at least at a state level, with an electorate, that’s disengaged.”

Mr Daley beat Mr Minns 33 votes to 12 in November’s leadership spill, and said he has received supportive phone calls from colleagues in the wake of the election loss.

On election night, Shadow Transport Minister Jodi McKay told the ABC panel Mr Daley’s comments about immigration were a “major setback”.

“Look, to be honest, I think last week really hurt us,” she said.

The clock is now ticking on the leadership challenge.

Topics: elections, state-elections, government-and-politics, parliament, state-parliament, political-parties, alp, sydney-2000, nsw

First posted March 24, 2019 16:20:36

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