Article by Andrew Clennell appeared in The Australian.
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley faces a leadership challenge by the end of the year, according to informed Labor sources, if his polling numbers do not improve when the party conducts statewide research next month.
The key to a seamless transition from Mr Foley to rival Michael Daley would be that with six months to go before the NSW election on March 23, there would be no requirement for a ballot of all lay party members as well as the caucus to determine a leader — the system introduced by former prime minister Kevin Rudd.
With six months to go, according to the caucus rules, 60 per cent of the members of the caucus would be able to vote for a caucus ballot.
Opponents of Mr Foley are confident the Sussex Street rules committee would allow that result through.
Ordinarily, a vote of thousands of party members — which can take up to three months — is required under the Rudd rules for a change of leader.
On Wednesday in state parliament, Innovation and Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean taunted Labor members with the September 23 date, saying this was “the day when Kevin Rudd’s protection racket for the Leader of the Opposition officially ends”.
The possible deposing of Mr Foley has become the talk of the NSW parliament; Labor sources yesterday confirmed it was a live option. “They’re doing polling next month and that will determine his future,” a source said.
“There’s a strong feeling that we’re going to (struggle) to win any seats and potentially lose a couple because he’s not resonating in the electorate.”
Alternatives to Mr Foley are seen as deputy leader Mr Daley, transport spokeswoman Jodi McKay and Treasury spokesman Ryan Park, with Mr Daley the overwhelming favourite because he has more caucus support than the others. Labor needs to win seven seats to force Premier Gladys Berejiklian into minority government and 14 to win government in its own right.
The key to Mr Foley’s potential survival, other than the polling, could be the Wagga Wagga by-election on September 8. A strong showing by Labor’s candidate, Wagga councillor Dan Hayes, could help save Mr Foley.
Labor sources have said they have no hope in the by-election, but a run by independent Joe McGirr, who won 37 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote at the 2015 election, could mean a poor vote for Labor and pose a bigger challenge for the Coalition in holding the seat.
Mr Kean taunted Labor members in question time on Wednesday by suggesting that September 23 was “the day when the rank and file of the Labor Party no longer have a say in who their leader is”.
“They are all lining up — not just the member for Strathfield (Ms McKay). The member for Keira (Mr Park) has bought a new suit. He has divested himself of his property empire, which surely shows ambition. There is the member for Kogarah (Chris Minns), once the messiah.
“No one has promised so much yet delivered so little. Luke Foley is a liability. The opposition knows it. We know it. The people of NSW know it. The sooner he takes flight, the better.”