White returns as Tasmanian Labor leader

·2-min read

Tasmania's embattled Labor opposition has re-appointed Rebecca White as leader, less than two months after she stood down from the role following state election defeat.

Ms White returns at the expense of David O'Byrne, who officially stepped aside on Wednesday following sexual harassment allegations dating back more than a decade.

Mr O'Byrne, who was elected to the leadership position last month, has been accused of kissing and sending inappropriate text messages to a junior female union employee.

He admitted to the conduct last week, saying he thought at the time the interactions were consensual.

Ms White was elected unopposed as leader at a party caucus meeting on Wednesday.

She pledged to put a "full stop" to internal divisions which have played out publicly in the lead-up to the May 1 poll and since.

"There is a very clear view around our table that we want to be able to work together now," she said.

"That the backgrounding in the media, the stories that we've been hearing have to end."

Ms White said Mr O'Byrne's decision to step down was "entirely appropriate". He remains a member of parliament but has refused to take on any shadow cabinet roles.

He is the subject of an investigation by Labor which Ms White said must be allowed to take its course.

"There's no doubt that David will be doing a lot of soul searching at this time," she said.

Labor's election campaign was marred by infighting over candidate selection and also damaged when state party president Ben McGregor withdrew his candidacy after being accused of sending inappropriate messages to a woman.

Ms White said the last few weeks in particular had been "completely unacceptable".

"It has been incredibly detrimental to the Labor movement and it has been incredibly detrimental to the Tasmanian community. They haven't had a good opposition."

Ms White, who has been at the helm at Labor's past two election defeats, will remain on maternity leave until August 16 following the birth of her second child.

"It's taken a few conversations, especially with my family, to consider whether this is the right thing to do. I feel there is unfinished business and I said that after the election."

Anita Dow, who has recently twice filled in as acting leader, will remain Labor deputy.

Ms White stepped down as leader on May 15, saying change was necessary to ensure the party could be competitive at the next election.

Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein described her re-appointment as a last resort and an indictment of Labor's "lack of talent, leadership, and vision".

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