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White ponders path to party recovery

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Ms White admitted this year had been far from smooth sailing.“This year hasn’t been easy for Labor and it’s been critically hard for many of our members,” she said.“What I do know is people want to focus on next year and rebuilding the party.”GREENS: O’Connor confident in future of her partyAn early election campaign made for interesting timing while Ms White was pregnant.“When we fell pregnant with Hudson, I never imagined I’d be campaigning in my third trimester to try and win an election,” Ms White said.“While I argue every single day that women deserve to be treated just the same as everybody else, it certainly made it a bit more of a challenge.”Ms White said she wasn’t surprised by Labor’s election loss in May.“When the Premier called the election 10 months early, he robbed us of the time we’d normally have to do the campaign that comes with normal election cycles,” she said.“I think the result on election night was not surprising given that fact and given the way the government had handled the Covid pandemic until that time.”Labor secured nine seats, welcoming fresh faces Dean Winter and Janie Finlay, while Alison Standen and Jennifer Houston lost their seats.Ms White described Labor’s start to the election as “rocky”, with a factional divide leading to Dean Winter initially being snubbed for preselection and an allegation against Clark candidate Ben McGregor, which led to him being disendorsed.With Mr McGregor currently pursuing legal action, Ms White could not comment on the matter.When the election was lost, Ms White stood aside as leader, which made way for David O’Byrne to take the reins after a leadership tussle with Shane Broad.“There’s no doubt the Labor Party needed some change, whether it be at an organisational level, or at a parliamentary level, which was why I decided to step down,” Ms White said.But the party was marred by yet another scandal when allegations surfaced that Mr O’Byrne sexually harassed a former co-worker 10 years ago.It led to Ms White regaining the leadership.“To have a second chance, to come back into the leadership, is not something I take for granted,” she said.Ms White said despite the turbulent year, the party is united.She said Labor would make a comeback in 2022 by pushing the key issues of health, housing and education.“I know that the Tasmanian community deserves better,” she said.“We’ll continue to do our job, holding the government to account, we’ll work very hard to lay our vision for this state.”Meanwhile, she has her hands full juggling her new baby, Hudson.“I’m very lucky to have good family. He’s not the greatest sleeper in the world, but is getting better and I’m also fortunate to have a very flexible workplace which allows me to take my baby to work,” she said.FULL Q&A WITH REBECCA WHITEObviously we had an election this year, how did you feel when you realised it hadn’t worked out in your favour?When the Premier called the election 10 months early, he robbed us of the time we’d normally have to do the campaign that comes with normal election cycles.I think the result on election night was not surprising given that fact and given the way the government had handled the Covid pandemic until that time.You were pregnant during the election, what was that timing like for you?When we fell pregnant with Hudson, I never imagined I’d be campaigning in my third trimester to try and win an election. Now the premier will have his reasons but it certainly did impact on my ability to campaign as intensely as I would have liked. And while I argue every single day that women deserve to be treated just the same as everybody else, it certainly made it a bit more of a challengeIn terms of the campaign, is there much you would have done differently?I think the campaign we ran was really good, I think the messages we were presenting to the community about what a Labor government would deliver were the right ones.There’s also no doubt those first couple of weeks for the campaign were very rocky. We didn’t get off to the greatest of starts but the results demonstrates the government didn’t achieve the landslide victory they probably anticipated, because the parliament now looks remarkably similar.Whose decision was it for you to stand down after the election?It was my decision.You had flagged, ahead of that, that you would have liked to have stayed on and then later you stood down, what happened?There’s no doubt the Labor Party needed some change, whether it be at an organisational level, or at a parliamentary level, which was why I decided to step down. Of course we’ve all seen that a week is a long time in politics and as a result of things that happened, I have returned to the leadership. To have a second chance, to come back into the leadership, is not something I take for granted.There’s a lot of talk about a factional divide in Labor, do you think that hindered Labor’s chances at the election?The public could see the problems with the Labor Party at the last election. Sadly it was very obvious. There’s no doubt that caused enormous challenges for us. No doubt the events this year have been incredibly difficult for the Labor Party, but I also know from speaking to many rank and file members across the state that people want to focus on the future.That divide initially resulted in Dean Winter being snubbed for preselection, how important was it for you to have Dean Winter on your team?Dean’s made a great contribution to our party, over many years and to the parliament since he’s been elected. I’d always made it very clear that I supported people putting their hand up to run for preselection to represent the Labor Party and I still encourage that.Another big saga during the election – Ben McGregor. How much of a distraction was that from the campaign?Given that matter is currently before the courts, I’m not inclined to speak about that.Obviously another big distraction, the accusations against David O’Byrne, what has your relationship been like with him since?I made my view very clear at the time in terms of what I expected in terms of the standard of behaviour all members of parliament should adhere to.David’s future is a matter for him though.How much of a hit was this saga for labour?Like I said, this year hasn’t been easy for Labor and it’s been critically hard for many of our members. What I do know is people want to focus on next year and rebuilding the party.Bastian Seidel resigned amid that, do you think there was anything you could have said or done to get him to stay?Bastian and I had conversations about that but at the end of the day he made his decision and I respect that decision.I wish him all the best for the future.He said there was a toxic environment in Labor, do you agree with that?There’s no doubt at the time Bastian made the decision, to resign that the party was in a bad state. I’m sorry he left the parliament as a consequence.Since then, there’s been stability returned to the party, there’s been a renewed effort and energy.Do you think all of these incidents this year have hurt Labor’s reputation?I don’t think the Liberal Party has covered itself in glory this year either. There’ve been scandals, whether it be Adam Brooks, or other matters relating to the handling of portfolio areas like heath, housing or education. People have been disappointed. We all need to do better.After an eventful year, how does Labor make a comeback?Things change very quickly in politics, I know that the Tasmanian community deserves better. We’ll continue to do our job, holding the government to account, we’ll work very hard to lay our vision for this state.It’s been a big job. I’m very lucky to have good family. He’s not the greatest sleeper in the world, but is getting better and I’m also fortunate to have a very flexible workplace which allows me to take my baby to work.I think Hudson was the most well-behaved person in the chamber – when he was there he slept the whole time.judy.augustine@news.com.au



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