Tasmanian Labor president Ben McGregor sacked by federal Labor executive, state conference delayed

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a person wearing a suit and tie: During the state election campaign in April, Ben McGregor stood down as a candidate for the lower house seat of Clark. (ABC News: Luke Bowden)

 During the state election campaign in April, Ben McGregor stood down as a candidate for the lower house seat of Clark.

The Labor Party's national executive has stepped in to sack the president of the Tasmanian branch, Ben McGregor, after months of internal brawling, and voted to delay the party's state conference.

Last month, Mr. McGregor said he had been cleared of wrongdoing by an internal party investigation into allegations he sent inappropriate text messages to a colleague seven years ago.   

But state secretary Stuart Benson said the complaint had been unable to be investigated as it did not fall within the party's policies, and the complainant had decided not to proceed.

The complaint derailed Mr. McGregor's attempts to secure the Lower House seat of Clark at the last state election and he stood down as a candidate.

He then threatened legal action against the complainant and Opposition Leader Rebecca White over comments the latter made that Mr. McGregor was not fit to stand for election.

Mr. Benson last month called for Mr. McGregor to resign as party president and yesterday the party's national branch took action.

In a statement last night, Mr. McGregor said his removal as president was "very distressing and disappointing", and he had not been given a chance to address the national executive before it made its decision. 

"I have worked hard for the party for many years, striving to give a voice to grassroots members," he said.

"I believe that this action is inconsistent with what most Australians, and most ALP members, would consider being a fair and just process.

"This action can only negatively affect Tasmanians' confidence in the ALP and undermines the rights of all members of the party to be treated fairly by internal party processes."

The complainant said Mr. McGregor sent her a lewd message when she declined his invitation to go to a pub.

Mr. McGregor at the time said he was sitting alongside his wife when he sent the texts, which he said were sent in jest.

He said he had apologised to the complainant after he was told he had caused offence.

Party sources yesterday said senator Anne Urquhart was expected to step in as acting president until a permanent replacement is elected.

State conference delayed until after the federal election
The party's national executive also voted to delay the annual meeting of party members, set to be held in Hobart later this month, until after the next federal election. 

In a letter to members, Mr. Benson said the federal election was "critically important", and the party needed to focus its efforts on retaining its seats in Lyons and Franklin, as well as regaining the northern electorates of Bass and Braddon.

"For this reason, the ALP national executive resolved to defer the Tasmanian ALP state conference until after the next federal election," the letter read.

The federal election is set to be held sometime next year, but no date has been set.

Months of scandals and infighting
Mr. McGregor's removal is the latest dispute to erupt inside the party, after months of scandals and infighting.

In June, David O'Byrne stepped down as opposition leader over allegations he had kissed a junior union employee without consent and sent her unwanted texts, more than a decade ago, when he was the state secretary of the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union.

Mr. O'Byrne said he believed the text and kiss exchanges were consensual at the time, but he now understood that was not the case. 

An internal investigation found while his conduct was wrong and inappropriate, Mr. O'Byrne did not breach Labor's sexual harassment policy.

In August, Mr. O'Byrne quit the state Labor caucus, after two former premiers and Ms. White called for him to resign from Parliament, but he said he would stay on as MP for Franklin, and a Labor member.

The Health and Community Services Union cut ties with the party last month, saying state Labor MPs had "failed workers over and over again".


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