Tasmanian Labor Leader Resigns After Accusations of Sexual Harassment

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
July 5, 2021 Updated: July 5, 2021

Tasmania’s State Labor opposition leader has resigned after allegations he sexually harassed a woman over a decade ago.

David O’Byrne’s resignation comes just weeks after his ascension to the party’s leadership in the island state.

O’Byrne is awaiting the results of an internal investigation by the Labor Party into the matter.

He has been accused of sending inappropriate text messages to a junior employee and kissing her twice without her consent.

The incidents allegedly occurred in 2007-08 when O’Byrne worked for the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union.

He previously issued a public apology for the incident, saying he was under the interpretation that the interactions were consensual.

On Sunday, O’Byrne released a statement saying, “The focus of the party needs to be on holding the (governing) Gutwein government to account, and the current debate is a distraction from this central task.”

“I have a life-long commitment to the cause of Labor, and my decision to resign from the leadership reflects this,” he added.

“I intend to remain in the Tasmanian House of Assembly as the member for Franklin.”

The Tasmanian Labor Party will now seek to elect a new opposition leader.

O’Byrne became leader of the Party in mid-June following the resignation of Rebecca White after Labor endured its third successive election loss in May. He came to power with the backing of left-leaning union factions, the Health and Community Services Union and United Workers Union.

Last week, O’Byrne’s made headlines with his decision to appoint former, long-time education unionist Grahame McCulloch as his chief of staff.

Hours later, a photo of O’Byrne emerged with him holding his left fist in the air and wearing a t-shirt with the following words printed on it: “You don’t become a good Communist by going to meetings or memorizing the Manifesto. You do it with your fists.”

There have been concerns that Tasmanian Labor’s recent election loss, where its primary vote dropped 4.43 percent, was due to its adoption of left-leaning or progressive policies.

A similar issue has played out in the federal Australian Labor Party with party leaders struggling to balance the interests of traditional working-class or middle-class voters against its newer inner-city, left-leaning base, that support issues such as climate change but are unpopular with regional voters or those involved in the mining and resource industries.

This dynamic played out in the recent by-election in the state New South Wales Hunter electorate, where the state Labor Party saw its primary vote drop by seven percent.

Prior to the election, the New South Wales Labor Party attempted to assuage voters by selecting a former coal miner as its candidate in the region. However, this did not result in greater voter turnout.

Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng