NSW opposition leader Luke Foley made an “appropriate” decision to resign in the face of “powerful” allegations, according to Wagga Labor candidate Dan Hayes.
Mr Foley resigned late on Thursday afternoon following claims by ABC journalist Ashleigh Raper that Mr Foley sexually harassed her at a Sydney bar in late November 2016.
Mr Foley said the allegations were “false” but he could not fight to clear his name while serving as opposition leader at the same time.
Mr Hayes, who will be Labor’s candidate to take on Joe McGirr for the seat of Wagga in the March state election, said politics and society needed to do better.
“Luke Foley has appropriately resigned as Labor leader and in due course a new leader will be elected,” Mr Hayes said in a statement.
“The events that led to the resignation have been well publicised and I cannot add anything further to the discussion except to say that Ms Raper’s statement was indeed powerful and once again highlighted how much further we still need to go as a community to achieve a very simple outcome, that women are free from objectification and mistreatment.
“It is also highlighted that we as a community also have a long way to go where women can bring their claims forward, or not, safely and by their own choice without being made political pawns in the process.
“We need a better politic and a better society than this.”
Ms Raper claimed Mr Foley touched her inappropriately two years ago and had not intended to make the issue public.
“Later in the evening, Luke Foley approached a group of people, including me, to say goodnight. He stood next to me,” Ms Raper’s statement said.
“He put his hand through a gap in the back of my dress and inside my underpants. He rested his hand on my buttocks. I completely froze.”
Ms Raper said Sean Nicholls, who was then the state political editor at The Sydney Morning Herald, witnessed the incident.
Mr Foley said on Thursday he had retained legal counsel to launch defamation proceedings in the Federal Court but he did not specify which person or entity he would sue.
Ms Raper’s statement was first published by ABC management on the national broadcaster’s website.
Michael Daley, who will likely replace Mr Foley as NSW Labor leader, said Ms Raper “did the right thing” by coming forward.
Ms Raper has also criticised Corrections Minister and Liberal MP David Elliott for making references to her allegations in Parliament.
“David Elliot raised the matter in the NSW Parliament last month, putting the incident in the public domain,” Ms Raper said in her statement.
“The matter then became a state and federal political issue and resulted in intense media attention.
“This occurred without my involvement or consent...situations like mine should not be discussed in parliament for the sake of political point scoring.”
Mr Elliot declined to comment on Thursday but on Friday he issued a statement.
“This has clearly been a difficult time for the journalist,” the statement said.
“I have long held concerns over the character of the alternate premier.
“To that end, it was never my intent to cause distress for the journalist.”
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