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Rebecca White Resigns as Labor Leader

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Transcript of media conference with Labor Leader Rebecca White, Richmond, 15 May 2021. Rebecca White I’m announcing today that I won’t be contesting the leadership for the Labor Party. It’s been such an honour over the last four years to lead the Labor Party. And I hope through that time, I’ve done it with integrity […]

Transcript of media conference with Labor Leader Rebecca White, Richmond, 15 May 2021.

Rebecca White

I’m announcing today that I won’t be contesting the leadership for the Labor Party. It’s been such an honour over the last four years to lead the Labor Party. And I hope through that time, I’ve done it with integrity and purpose. I felt so well supported by the community. And I’d like to thank everybody for their engagement with me over the last four years and the constructive contributions that our community has made to support me both in the leadership role and the Tasmanian Labor Party. There’s no doubt that after the election last week, I needed to reflect on what had occurred. And I see the change in leadership for the state parliamentary Labor Party as a part of the change that’s necessary now for the Labor Party, so we can become more competitive to win the next election.

Changing the leader of the parliamentary Labor Party is just one part of the change that needs to occur now, which is necessary to improve the decision making and governance of the parliamentary party and the broader party to ensure that we are reflective of the community and we can build a strong Labor Party to take to the next election. I’d just like to reflect on the fact that when I took on the leadership in 2017, my daughter – Rod’s daughter and I – Mia was just shy of four months old, and at no time did my age or my gender or our young family impact the decision of whether or not I should be leader. And I think that’s testament to the culture of the Labor Party. And I’d also like to make it really clear now that I’m not standing aside as the leader because of my pregnancy. I want young girls and women everywhere to know that they can achieve anything. And they should walk through doors when they open or they should kick the door down if they have to. So I want it to be very clear that the decision I’m making today is because I think that this change is necessary to improve the chances for the Labor Party at the next election. It’s about changing a range of things that we do as a Labor Party right across the state.

Journalist – Sue

After four years, how does it feel about stepping down?

Rebecca White

I have mixed emotions today. I’m very privileged and grateful to all of the support I’ve had as the leader of the Labor Party. But I’m also very sad that I can’t take the party forward. Because there is so much that we have to do together. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to build a strong team, we’ve got a great caucus. There’s no doubt there’s a lot to do this term, and the government needs to be held accountable for its promises and its failures. I’ll continue to stay on as a member of parliament and I’ll contribute the best I can because I believe, absolutely, that only a Labor government can deliver better lives to Tasmanians and make the improvements that we need to see to our economy and society, to lift people up and make sure people aren’t left behind.

Journalist – Adam Langenberg

You said in the aftermath of the election that you were keen to stay on as leader. What’s changed since then?

Rebecca White

On reflection, I think one of the things we’ve all come to understand is there needs to be change in the Labor Party. Now changing the leader of the Labor Party is one part of that change. Yesterday, the Administrative Committee at the party made some decisions around the review that will now occur post election. Part of that review will include looking at what happened in the election, but also the governance and decision making of the party; National Executive of the Labor Party will play a role in appointing those reviewers and implementing the findings of those reviews. Because it is important that we make sure we get this right. We need to ensure we have a strong Labor Party so we can deliver good outcomes for the community.

Journalist – Sue

You said that you’re not contesting because the Labor Party needs to change. Why do you think there needs to be a change?

Rebecca White

I am grateful for the support I’ve had over the last four years. It’s been such an honour. But I do recognise that I’ve taken the party to two elections and we’ve been defeated. It’s important that we have change to make sure we renew the parliamentary Labor Party but to also renew the Labor Party more broadly, to be more reflective of our community, to change the way that we engage with the branch members across the state, to enfranchise our members so they feel part of that decision-making process. This is where the review of the federal election becomes really important. And that’s something that I’ve been really supportive of personally because it’s necessary that we make changes right across the party now that we have to listen to what the community’s told us. They didn’t like what they saw the first two weeks of this campaign, it did have a damaging impact on our election prospects. We can’t see that happen again. And these changes are necessary to prevent that from occurring in the future.

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Journalist – Sue

Are you supporting someone to fill your spot?

Rebecca White

The only names that we’ve heard so far are of course David and Shane, great colleagues of mine, and I think they’re both outstanding parliamentary contributors and terrific local members. I’ve made it clear to David that I’ll provide him my support. And I know that as a caucus, we’ll come together next week, and we’ll have this conversation. It’s unclear yet whether there will be any ballot.

Journalist – Sue

The Mercury reported that Shane might challenge David, do you see that happening? And what do you think will happen when that plays out?

Rebecca White

I’m not sure whether that will happen or not. My focus now is on making sure that we build the Labor Party back stronger that we listen to the community and the feedback they’ve told us. And I’ll play my role constructively in the parliamentary Labor Party to hold the government to account and to represent the people of Lyons.

Journalist – Sue

You’ve endorsed David, so does that mean you’d try to persuade Dr Broad not to contest the leadership then?

Rebecca White

One of the things that I said last week is that my hope is that we can build a unified parliamentary Labor Party to take into the parliament when we return, that remains my hope. I know that there are many talented people in the Labor caucus who are all for the right reasons trying to make improvements that they see necessary to build a strong Labor Party so we can can contest the next election and be competitive, we will continue to talk with one another. There’s no doubt that there are different views about what needs to happen next. But at the end of the day, what we all agree with is that we need to work together, that only a Labor government can deliver the improvements that people need to see in their lives. And we will all work together to achieve that.

Journalist – Adam Langenberg

Was not standing for the leadership entirely your decision, or it was one that was dictated to you?

Rebecca White

No no, my decision.

Journalist – Sue

How damaging was the Dean Winter fiasco and did that cost you government do you think?

Rebecca White

Look, who knows whether it did or not, but there’s no doubt it was damaging. And I think that the events of the first two weeks of the campaign made it very difficult for us to communicate the positive plan we had for Tasmania. We were able to effectively communicate that narrative in the last three weeks of the campaign, the momentum was clearly with the Labor Party, because people do care about what’s happening in our health system, and they want better outcomes for people who are seeking affordable housing. They want to know that young people in our community can get employment here. These are the things Tasmanians were telling us they wanted us to talk about. So when we weren’t doing that, in the first couple of weeks of the campaign, of course people switched off us. But that’s also one of the reasons that I think the change that I spoken about is so necessary, the Labor Party has to learn from that. We can’t keep doing things the same way and expecting a different outcome. We have to make the changes now to prepare ourselves to contest the next election competitively.

Journalist – Sue

Is there a time frame for how long you remain as Labor Leader?

Rebecca White

Well, I understand there’ll be a caucus meeting on Monday. So we’ll come together then as a group, and at that point, things will change.

Journalist – Adam Langenberg

How does that work? There’ll be an interim leader? And then the process takes effect during that?

Rebecca White

That entirely depends on whether there’s a ballot.

Journalist – Adam Langenberg

Okay. And in the case where there is a ballot, how long will the process take?

Rebecca White

The State Secretary will determine that process in accordance with the rules and the state returning officer and that will be made public if it’s necessary. At this stage is not clear if a ballot will be required.

Journalist – Sue

And what is the atmosphere like within the Labor Party post election?

Rebecca White

You can understand people are disappointed having lost the election. There are incredibly committed, dedicated people in the labour movement who wanted to see a change in government, to change people’s lives, to give people hope that they could get a job here, that they can have access to the health care they need, or put a roof over their heads. So the disappointment is on behalf of all Tasmanians, who deserve better than what this government delivered for the last seven years. But there’s also a very firm resolve to work together to make sure that we address the challenges the party saw, particularly at the start of the campaign to make sure that we can build a strong Labor Party that is diverse, that reflects our community, and can be competitive at the next election.

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Journalist – Adam Langenberg

As you said the early election was sort of marred by internal controversy and conflict. And I suppose a perception that one faction was controlling the party. If there’s no contest, do you think that sends a message that more of the same is continuing?

Rebecca White

No, not at all. What happens in the state parliamentary Labor Party will be determined by the members of that caucus and I have confidence that they will be able to make the right decision. But the broader party itself does need to change and I think that’s self evident and also hopefully evident through the comments I’ve made today. Changing the leader is one thing but we actually have to change the party. And the review that will be undertaken into the state election will hopefully provide recommendations to be implemented that will help drive that change to make a stronger Labor Party so that we can not only hold the government to account but present ourselves as a credible alternative government to win the next election.

Journalist – Adam Langenberg

Do you think it’s appropriate for Ben McGregor to remain as president of the Labor Party?

Rebecca White

That’s not a matter I’m going to comment on.

Journalist – Adam Langenberg

Have you talked to David O’Byrne as to whether he thinks it’s appropriate?

Rebecca White

You’d have to ask David that question.

Journalist – Adam Langenberg

Okay. And has the party given you any assurances that it will change as part of the part of you stepping down?

Rebecca White

Well, yesterday, the Administrative Committee approved a decision that there will be a review into the state election, that will be broad ranging, it will require the National Executive to appoint reviewers, it will empower the National Executive to implement the recommendations from those reviews. So that will be important, and people across the party, candidates, elected officials, will be invited to participate in that process. And through that, my very clear hope is that we can have change in the party that reflects our community, that improves the governance and decision making processes, and hopefully re-balances some of the aspects of the party which we’ve seen play out, unfortunately, through the media that have detracted our ability to run a strong campaign.

Journalist – Adam Langenberg

Just one mor, sorry. And in terms of reflecting on your last four years as Leader, what do you think your greatest achievement has been?

Rebecca White

Well, I’m really proud of the team that we built. I’m proud of the new members of parliament that have been elected for Labor both in the Lower and the Upper House, I think we’ve got an incredible team. And I’m very confident that they’ll be able to take it up to Peter Gutwein and his Liberal team. Because Peter has failed to renew his team, they’re stuck with the same old faces. I’m very proud of the way that we’ve been able to work across the community listening to their voices to feed into the development of policy. I’ve always had the ambition to build a stronger community. That remains my ambition. And that hasn’t changed one bit. And I think through the work we’ve been able to do over the course of the last four years, we’ve just, we’ve been able to build good connections with people across Tasmania, as well as build a very strong parliamentary Labor Party. Each of them would be great ministers in government.

Journalist – Sue

So now to Mr. Brooks, were you surprised that he decided not to take his seat?

Rebecca White

When it comes to Mr. Brooks, I think there are more questions than answers at this stage and particularly in relation to what Peter Gutwein knew, and when he knew those things. It seems incredibly convenient that on the same day that polls were declared, just a couple of hours later, Peter Gutwein received a phone call from Adam Brooks saying that he was going to step aside as a member of parliament. The timing of that is incredibly convenient for the Premier. It means that there’ll be a recount now and somebody will come in on the back of this, presumably to shore up the majority that Peter Gutwein has been so desperate to see. But the fact is that the concerns around Mr. Brooks were known well before the declaration of the polls. The concerns around Mr. Brooks were wide reaching, not just in relation to whether or not he used a fake identity to deceive multiple women, but also in relation to firearms charges, and the summons to court on those charges that were known to the Premier well in advance of the the nominations closing. So these are all things that really reflect poorly, I think, on Peter Gutwein, on his integrity, on his acceptance of a candidate who is very questionable and has now proven to be that. And whether or not he was so desperate to have Mr. Brooks on his team that he was willing to overlook those things, either calls into question his judgement or his competence as leader that he either wilfully overlooked those things, or he didn’t do enough to assure himself that Mr. Brooks was the appropriate candidate for the Liberal Party in Braddon.

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Journalist – Sue

So you think Peter Gutwein probably used Adam Brooks just to get votes in Braddon?

Rebecca White

It seems that Mr. Brooks’s candidacy was a critical part of Peter Gutwein’s strategy to win the three seats in Braddon, and he was willing to overlook whatever claims were made about Mr. Brooks in his desperation to keep those seats. Now, Mr. Brooks has obviously resigned from the parliament, probably the shortest parliamentary career on record. And unfortunately, Peter Gutwein has been a key player in all of that. He’s enabled that to occur and whether or not he took advantage of Mr. Brooks and Mr. Brooks’ mental ill health, or the fact that Mr. Brooks is a donor to the Liberal Party, the fact that Mr. Brooks was a big vote getter for the party in order to secure that third seat in Braddon will come out I have no doubt about that. Because this is an issue that has really disgusted so many Tasmanians, who feel they’ve been deceived, not just through Mr. Brooks’ actions but by Peter Gutwein’s actions.

Journalist – Adam Langenberg

The Greens have said they’ll try and send this matter to the Integrity Commission. Do you think that’s an appropriate step?

Rebecca White

It does call into question the integrity of the Premier. So I can understand why the Greens would seek to refer this matter to the Integrity Commission. There’s no doubt that there are more questions here than answers. And whether it’s through that process or another process through the parliament, we’ll be trying to find out those answers on behalf of the voters who cast their vote in good faith and now have seen a member resign and in what would probably be the shortest time on record.


Media statement – Rebecca White MP, 15 May 2021

Today I am announcing that I am standing aside as Leader of the Labor Party.

I have said since the days after the election that it was important to me that the unity that has been forged by our caucus not be fractured. We cannot afford to be distracted from the important work we have ahead of us.

I am standing aside because there needs to be change in the Labor Party. Not just in the Leadership of the Parliamentary Labor Party but right across the organisation. Now is the time to make that change.

My ambition has always been to make our community stronger. However, it has become evident that Labor can only effectively do that if we also make our party stronger.

There will be an extensive review into this state election that will give members, candidates and elected officials the opportunity to provide their views to a review panel appointed by the National Executive, with the recommendations of that review to be implemented by the National Executive. This way we can improve the governance and decision making of the party and give Labor the best chance to contest the next election competitively.

I value the principle of solidarity with my colleagues and will give the new leadership team my full support. I will remain a Member of Parliament because I am as committed today as I was the day I was elected to serve my community and help improve people’s lives.

I want to thank everyone across Tasmania who has worked constructively with me throughout my time as Leader of the Labor Party.

It has been an incredible honour and a role I have worked hard each day to undertake with integrity and purpose.

I am proud of the team we have built, of the impressive new Members we have welcomed to the Parliament and our clear commitment to make Tasmania a better and a fairer place.

I will always do what I can to support the election of a Labor Government because I firmly believe only Labor can offer hope and opportunity to all Tasmanians and ensure people get a fair go.

When I became Leader in 2017, Mia was just shy of four months old. I think it’s testament to the culture of the Labor Party that at no stage was my age, gender or young family considered a factor in whether or not I could also be the Leader.

As Rod and I prepare to welcome our second child into our family I want to make it clear that my decision to stand aside has nothing to do with my pregnancy. I want girls and women everywhere to know that they are capable of anything and they should back themselves to walk through doors when they open – and be prepared to kick them down if they have to.

And to the wonderful people of Lyons who have placed your trust in me, I look forward to continuing to serve as your local member. I love Tasmania and will always strive to do my best in the interest of our state and its future.

Source: Tasmanian Times https://www.tasmaniantimes.com/2021/05/rebecca-white-resigns-as-labor-leader/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rebecca-white-resigns-as-labor-leader

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