NSW Labor’s leadership aspirant Michael Daley has called for Luke Foley to reconsider his political future and decision to pursue legal action amid allegations he harassed an ABC journalist.
Maroubra MP and party deputy leader Michael Daley is believed to be a favourite to become opposition leader as the party prepares for a caucus meeting on Saturday afternoon.
Mr Foley resigned on Thursday as Labor leader and denied an incident at a Christmas party in 2016 involving ABC reporter Ashleigh Raper, who released a statement saying he had put his hands down her dress and inside her underpants.
Mr Daley today said it had been “a very sad and ugly time for all concerned”.
He said he was “very unhappy” with Mr Foley’s press conference in which he declared he would continue to sit as a Labor MP on the backbench and signalled he would pursue defamation proceedings.
“No-one will win from that,” Mr Daley said.
“Every citizen has a right to be heard in court if they so wish, but I think Luke should reconsider not only his political future, but also those legal actions as well.”
Mr Daley said Mr Foley’s continued party membership and candidacy had been referred to a review committee.
The allegation was first raised publicly by Liberal Government minister David Elliot under parliamentary privilege in NSW Parliament last month, during a fiery debate in which he attacked Mr Foley’s character.
Mr Daley said politics was at “a low ebb”.
“There needs to be a reset button and I’m calling on [Premier] Gladys Berejiklian to join me now in saying that we need the Parliament to come to a higher standard.”
‘Never my intent’: Elliott issues statement
In her statement, Ms Raper said Mr Elliot had raised the issue in Parliament without her involvement or consent.
Liberal senator Eric Abetz also raised the matter during a Senate estimates hearing.
Mr Elliot issued a three-line statement on Friday after initially refusing to comment.
“This has clearly been a difficult time for the journalist,” he said.
“I have long held concerns over the character of the alternate Premier.”
“To that end, it was never my intent to cause distress for the journalist.”
Labor MP Jodie McKay said Ms Raper had been let down by both Mr Foley and Mr Elliot.
“I don’t want to politically point score here, because I want to respect Ashleigh,” she said.
“But I do believe David Elliot has a lot to answer for.
“He took that into the Parliament. She did not want that, yet he did that because he wanted to score politically.”
Damage done to Labor
The state’s shadow treasurer, Ryan Park, also condemned the way parliamentary privilege had been used in the matter.
“That’s not something that should ever happen again under any circumstances,” he said.
Mr Park said both the allegations and the way the issue had been handled were damaging to the Labor Party.
Both Mr Park and Ms McKay said they would back Mr Daley to fill the vacant leadership position.
During an appearance on Channel Nine on Friday morning, Federal Government frontbencher Christopher Pyne called on Mr Elliot “to answer for this own decision”.
He said he was not aware of whether Mr Elliot had planned the comment or said it in the heat of the moment, but it did not matter.
“I think it’s very unfortunate this is all going to be replayed over and over again in a defamation case,” Mr Pyne said.
In Ms Raper’s statement she said Mr Foley called her on Sunday to apologise and said he would resign as Labor leader on Monday or Wednesday.
Ms Raper said Mr Foley told her he knew he did something to offend her that night, but was drunk and could not remember all of the details.
She said he then called her again on Tuesday, repeated his apology, and said he wouldn’t be resigning after receiving legal advice.