Luke Foley resigns

Less than five months out from a state election, Luke Foley’s leadership implodes in more than usually spectacular fashion.

Luke Foley has resigned as Labor leader in New South Wales in rather extraordinary circumstances, after ABC journalist Ashleigh Raper issued a statement concerning an incident between the two at a Christmas party in 2016, which was raised in parliament last month by Liberal MP David Elliott. Foley denied the claims and announced he would pursue defamation action, while also saying the distraction made it untenable for him to remain as leader. Reports suggest he is all but certain to be succeeded by the current deputy, Michael Daley.

Foley came to the leadership in the first week of 2015, a little less than three months before the election the following March. He was at least successful in restoring electoral normality after the extraordinary scale of Labor’s defeat in 2011, gaining a 9.9% swing but still losing the two-party vote by 54.3-46.7. However, his personal ratings were never strong, his highest approval in Newspoll being 38% on the eve of the election. Both his approval and disapproval tracked in the thirties throughout his leadership, with the residual uncommitted rating remaining unusually high at around 30%.

Polling has been thin on the ground in New South Wales over the last year, despite the proximity of the state election to be held in March. Over the fold below is a trend measure derived from 40 opinion polls published since the last election, of which only three are from this year, the most recent being a 50-50 result from ReachTEL in September. Results from Morgan’s SMS series have been heavily bid adjusted, explaining the misalignment between some of the data points and the trendline.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

24 comments on “Luke Foley resigns”

  1. Contrary to the rules on leadership contests not requiring a membership ballot 6 months before the election because it is too disruptive, a leadership ballot if the membership is exactly what NSW Labor needs right now to win the election.

    Think about it – a few candidates, different styles and wings of the party proposing policy in the public sphere, trying to win over the membership. This would be covered constantly by the media as they love a competition. The winner would have a head start going into the election.

    I’m convinced that the Federal Labor membership contest gave the party a post defeat boost which has directly contributed to the position they are in now.

  2. My guess is Foley didn’t have much of a personal vote to lose. Christmas parties are an absolute disaster. Every year someone at ours stuffs up and has to be sent home early or disciplined after.

  3. No suprises here. He must’ve had this in mind for the past two years. That he knew it would become public knowledge eventually does him no credit, his colleagues forced to pick up the pieces. I do not think, however, that this will be fatal to Labor’s chances in the election.

  4. Jim:

    I agree.

    Additionally, with fixed terms, there’s no risk of Gladys calling an early election to capitalize on Labor not having a leader. The contest would be over months before the writs are even issued.

  5. Diogenes:

    Although I’ve never assaulted anything besides my own reputation while hammered, my tendency to completely lose the plot after one too many is precisely why I’ve never attended a work Christmas party.

  6. Dio: Never happens at ours. Well I can’t recall it happening… I just have to see HR in January every year some unknown reason 🙂

  7. Timing could have been worse, it could have been during the election. This will allow at least a few weeks to build a profile. At worst they can make the election solely about the unpopular premier.

  8. Plenty of time until the election. I expect this to have little or no influence in the outcome. Most of the time state opposition leaders have a low profile to begin with.

  9. I think the information was made available to the Liberal Party because Foley wouldn’t jump. I think Daley is a mistake. He’s as accident prone as Foley with plenty of skeletons in his closet for the media to unearth. Hint. Try picking someone who isn’t on the record for being drunk in parliament or voting against abortion rights. With Robertson, Foley and likely Daley, New South Wales Labor really wants to punish the voters.

  10. Does the NSW ALP have a leadership partially members ballot, such as that which the Commonwealth ALP have?

    It would probably be useful to them, if they have anyone with any appeal and someone to run against them.

  11. If Foley knew about this enough to threaten relative action if his misconduct became known, then that makes this whole situation worse. He knew what he had done and covered it up, and clearly NSW Labor knew enough to let him continue as the best course of action.

    Disgraceful behaviour from people we expect better from, and I’m ashamed they’re associated with our Labor party and brand.

  12. Foley, whom I have never heard of anyway, is best gone. Being NSW they will pick another accident-in-waiting for leader.

    The whole state is a frickin basket case. I blame the over-emphasis on its convict beginnings as a colony.

    I went to school there for a while. They never shut up about it. They were very keen on re-enactments of convict floggings.

  13. Putting all this to one side, it looked from the outside that perhaps NSW Labor could do better somehow.

    Luke has overseen a really important recovery in NSW from being a national embarrassment, to being seriously competitive at state and federal level, but from afar he didnt look to have the charisma, or *something* to take it to the next level.

    Dont know much about Daley either, hopefully NSW choose someone with vision who can inspire and encourage, the right choice could win the state election there.

    Disclaimer: Im a Victorian

  14. Puffytmd says:
    Friday, November 9, 2018 at 1:53 am
    Foley, whom I have never heard of anyway, is best gone. Being NSW they will pick another accident-in-waiting for leader.

    The whole state is a frickin basket case. I blame the over-emphasis on its convict beginnings as a colony.

    I went to school there for a while. They never shut up about it. They were very keen on re-enactments of convict floggings.

    We had a whole theme park about “our convict past”: Old Sydney Town, just south of Gosford. That was where we all went on school bus trips to watch the flogging re-enactments. They tried to jazz it up in the 1990’s by selling it as an exercise in “live street theatre”. It closed, though. I guess our fascination with “our convict past” had a use-by date after all.

    Nice trip down memory lane you’ve sent me on there!

  15. Working out along the Darling River ‘catchment’ – ie half of NSW!

    I have found that water management of the Darling River and the Menindee Lakes is the issue out here. Last Saturday down at Broken Hill there was a protest march on the issue. I wasn’t down there, but one of the speakers was Chris Lamey a Queenslander who runs a farm on the McIntyre River west of Goondiwindi :

    Mr Lamey joined the battle after the property next to his bulldozed the land and dug channels to divert water from 30km of floodplain into its dams. It also built a bridge over the river on Crown land. In 2016, when a modest flood arrived, all the illegal work caused his farm to become flooded and he lost a $1.4 million crop of chick peas..

    He reported this to the Queensland Government and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. No-one has been prosecuted and he has not been compensated. “I am dealing with the NSW Government as well. I have found they are exactly the same. It’s just a culture of holding water for irrigation. Everyone is building dams, even on the side of hill, and holding more water than ever. The whole catchment has been captured.”

    “Now we are just taken for granted by politicians who think they’re in a safe seat. People have to be pro-active with their vote, rather than do what grandad did. Look what happened in Wentworth. Who’s to say Parkes or Barwon will not be next?”
    Barrier Daily Truth

    And today Owen Whyman, a Barkindji man from Wilcannia, has declared as an independent candidate for the NSW seat of Barwon, to fight on the issue of water for the Darling River and the Menindee Lakes System.

    A station owner near Wilcannia told me that Lake Menindee is totally dry, Lake Tandou which has been dry for years but used for cropping and pasture is “stuffed”, and the Government now wants to substantially reduce the water in Lake Cawndilla (the deepest lake in the system). He said the Darling between Bourke and Wilcannia has been reduced to a series of waterholes, and he thinks the lower Anabranch is totally dry. As a result of the Government Menindee Lakes “Plan” the amount of agriculture in the area has fallen dramatically, and with it the number of employees and seasonal pickers resulting in further economic damage to an already disadvantaged region.

    At public hearings in Adelaide last week for the Royal Commission onto the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Richrad Beasley, counsel assisting the Commisioner, was damning in his assessments.

    “The Basin Plan was a fraud from the start because it ignored the advice from the CSIRO that almost 5000 gigalitres had to be returned to the environment. Instead, CSIRO scientists told the commission they were ordered to make the figure “start with a 2″ or they would not be paid.

    This is not a careless error or a misinterpretation of the Water Act. It involves the knowing or reckless disobedience of the law in implementing the plan, which itself involves expenditure of billions of dollars of public funds.

    However, neither the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, or any Commonwealth government agency has provided any answer to anything I have just said or to the evidence before the Commission. They have no answer. The States also have no answer.”

    His basic conclusion was that the Menindee Lakes Project was illegal, as it contravened elements of statute law in the Water Act.

    In the 2015 election for Barwon which covers most of the NSW catchment of the Darling River, the primaries were – Nat 49%, Labor 24%, Ind 17%, Green 6%. TPP – Nat 63% v Labor 37%.

    If this new Independent could get ahead of Labor, and if the National vote falls below 45 which I think it will, the Coalition could lose another safe seat.

  16. I agree, shortening the 6 month exception for leadership ballots in a fixed term environment would be very worthwhile, at least when the election is scheduled early enough in the next year.

    Although many Labor people care little for Foley, he had alot of name recognition state-wide and imo respect from Liberal voters compared to four years ago. This definitely hurts Labor’s chances in what was looking on track to be a minority government of some persuasion. Michael Daley is no Kevin 07 and you bet we’ll see the same recycled L plate attack ads from 2015, just with DA substituted for FO.

    Let’s hope all those country independents pull through to save the day…

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