31 May 2021



MONDAY, 31 MAY 2021

SUBJECT/S: NSW Labor leadership

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining us live is Michelle Rowland, the Shadow Minister for Communications. Michelle, good to see you and thanks for your time this morning. We just had an update from our reporter in Sydney talking about the fact that Michael Daley and Chris Minns are going to be duking it out for the State leadership of the NSW Labor Party. What concerns do you have from a Federal point of view?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well, the reality is that if NSW Labor is talking about itself for the next three months non-stop, I guarantee you it will go nowhere to winning us the next State election, nor will it assist us in upcoming elections that are scheduled or on the cards, including local government elections and potentially a Federal election. My message to NSW Labor really is three words: sort it out.

This needs to come to a conclusion. It needs to come to a conclusion quickly. Sometimes, leadership is demonstrated by stepping aside and giving it away. I have no malice for either candidate who has either nominated or indicated they will do so. I come at this from the position of someone who was the most marginal seat holder during that term, 2010-2013. At that time, I was watching what was going on around with respect to the Labor leadership and sincerely wishing that someone would be a voice of reason and stand up and say what everyone else in marginal seat land was thinking, that this needed to be sorted out.

That is the position I come from and I think that coming from a corporate background as well, I have seen different forms of leadership. It’s not always being the person at the front. It’s being the person who is ready to make a difficult decision. In this case, it would be for the good of the Party, for the good of the rank-and-file, and whilst I respect that it has taken a long time to put democratic processes into the Labor Party, we need to look at where we are now. We need to be practical and pragmatic, and that will require a decision from what looks like one of these two gentlemen to decide that they will step aside and enable this to get sorted quickly.

STEFANOVIC: Have you got a preference on who you think it should be?

ROWLAND: No, I don’t. The reality is too that I respect each of them would probably have certain ambitions and certain visions they would like to articulate for the people of NSW Labor and for the people of NSW generally. I guarantee you this: it would be a pyrrhic victory for whoever came out on top on the leadership ballot because it would mean we would be spending the next three months, as I said, going into possibly a Federal election just talking about ourselves. I guarantee you that does not win us government.

STEFANOVIC: Can you just elaborate on that? I was going to ask you about that, and just explain to our viewers how does this hurt you, how does this hurt you from a Federal perspective?

ROWLAND: As long as people are talking about themselves in politics, they clearly are demonstrating that they are not listening to people and they’re not responding to their needs. I have never met a punter who has come up to me and said ‘Oh, I’m really glad you’re all talking about yourselves and having these contests within your Party’. The Australian people are smart, they understand when they’ve been let down, but they also understand when they’re not being listened to. I think it is incumbent on NSW Labor to sort this out quickly so we can actually get back to the prospect of representing the people of NSW with a Labor Government. May I just say, I talked about 2010-2013, we came out of 2013 absolutely decimated. Three years later, Federal Labor was back. There is no reason why NSW Labor, coming through with a single leader, with someone who can take up the fights to the Liberals and Nationals – a hopeless Government in NSW – there is no reason why we wouldn’t be able to get the show back together, get on the right track, and demonstrate to the people of NSW that we’re ready to govern.

STEFANOVIC: Do you think the Rudd rules should apply to oppositions, particularly in State rules when you need 60% of support within the Party?

ROWLAND: I certainly think that’s something that should be examined, but I’m not here to articulate a position on that. We are where we are, Pete. We need to assess and also be really self-aware about what we’re going into here. I think that message should be heeded by the people putting themselves forward.

STEFANOVIC: Do you fear Michelle you could lose your seat because of this?

ROWLAND: I think that as long as we’re talking about ourselves and not listening, it’s a distraction. I can also say that I know every marginal seat holder in my area, at a State and Federal level, are all doing their utmost to ensure that we are doing our jobs; getting out in our communities, representing them in the Parliament, responding to their needs, advocating for them. The frustration that this causes is absolutely palpable. I can appreciate that there would be scores of marginal seat MPs at a State level on Labor’s side who are equally very frustrated. But there is a way through it, and the way through it for someone to be the bigger person and decide that this needs to be sorted quickly.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, Michelle Rowland, thanks for your time.

ROWLAND: Pleasure.