Frontrunner keeps Labor guessing about leadership ambitions

Interim NSW Labor leader Penny Sharpe has called an executive caucus meeting for Tuesday to vote on opening nominations. They will close on Friday.

MPs are eager to resolve the leadership issue quickly, after putting it on hold during the federal election campaign so it would not be a distraction.

But one senior MP said they could not delay it any longer because they needed a new leader to restore stability to the team.

NSW Labor MP Chris Minns will contest the ballot for leader.

NSW Labor MP Chris Minns will contest the ballot for leader. Credit:Janie Barrett

Some MPs are already anxious that they will not have decided on a leader before next month’s budget. It is expected Mr Park, acting leader in the lower house, will give the budget reply speech.

It is now likely that Labor’s national head office will need to run two ballots concurrently, after federal Labor’s shock loss on the weekend which ended Bill Shorten’s leadership.

«It will be messy and confusing for members but there’s not much we can do,» an MP said.

Under the new party rules, which saw Mr Shorten elected federal leader in 2013, the parliamentary party and rank-and-file members vote for the leadership position.

It is likely to take at least one month to be finalised.

Mr Minns, the water spokesman, ran for the leadership last year after former leader Luke Foley was forced to resign.

He secured 12 votes, but was beaten by Michael Daley. Mr Daley stood down as leader after the party’s poor result in the state poll, which saw them pick up just two seats from the Coalition.

Mr Daley had initially said he would re-contest the position but has since ruled that out.

A stumbling block for Mr Minns is his troubled relationship with the party’s NSW general secretary, Kaila Murnain, which colleagues say would be «unworkable» if Mr Minns won the ballot.

«You cannot have a general secretary and a leader who cannot talk to each other,» an MP said.

But after an election loss in NSW and a poor result in the federal election, some MPs have questioned whether Ms Murnain can continue in the role.

One Labor operative said that Ms McKay would have more caucus support at this stage and would be the frontrunner if she chose to run. Ms McKay is understood to have Ms Murnain’s support.

A senior Labor source said: «Chris is the only party apparatchik in the race. Kate is from the rank-and-file and even though Jodi is an outsider, she didn’t come through the party machine.»

Mr Foley was also a former party official, holding an assistant general secretary position before entering NSW Parliament.

Alexandra Smith is the State Political Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.

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