Tasmanian Labor candidate quits over texts

A Tasmanian Labor candidate has taken aim at Rebecca White while announcing he is standing down.
A Tasmanian Labor candidate has taken aim at Rebecca White while announcing he is standing down.

Tasmanian Labor's election campaign has hit another hurdle after a candidate quit over "inappropriate" text messages sent to a woman and accused party members of weaponising outrage for political gain.

State Labor president Ben McGregor attacked the credentials of party leader Rebecca White while announcing he would no longer run in the Hobart seat of Clark.

"A complaint has been made to the Labor party by a person in relation to two text messages I sent seven years ago," Mr McGregor told reporters on Wednesday.

"Though it does not allege sexual misconduct or sexual harassment, its purpose is appallingly clear.

"The complaint seeks to pervert and weaponise the current justified public outrage about the treatment of women in this country for selfish, tawdry and political purposes."

Mr McGregor did not deny sending the text messages to his one-time colleague and said they were part of a broader conversation and banter between friends.

"At the time the person noted to myself, during the the conversation, that she felt uncomfortable with a word I used," he said.

"At that time I apologised via text and noted that I would not use that word again with her."

Mr McGregor said he apologised twice after that and the woman did not complain about the message in the years following.

He said elements within Labor's state branch had launched "extraordinary attacks" on progressive members to further their political agendas.

Ms White said she was left with no choice but to disendorse Mr McGregor after sitting down and talking with the woman involved.

"Many women have been told that they need to take a joke," she told reporters in George Town.

"The fact of the matter is, the allegation that was raised with me was clearly inappropriate and I took action immediately."

It is the latest hit to Labor's quest to topple the Liberal government at the May 1 poll after a bitter internal preselection stoush came to a head on Tuesday.

Labor's national executive was forced to intervene at Ms White's request and endorse popular mayor Dean Winter as a candidate after he was snubbed during preselection.

Mr McGregor said internal complaints processes had not been properly followed and he was not able to put forward his side of the story.

"There has been no investigation. Witnesses have not been interviewed," he said.

"I've been accused internally, this information has then found its way into the media. This appears, for all intent, a smear campaign to hurt me and my nomination.

"Rebecca (White) has failed in providing leadership here. She has seen an opportunity to rid herself of factional challenge."

Mr McGregor said he was contacted about the text messages on March 28 in an "aggressive and threatening" Facebook message.

He said Ms White contacted him on Monday afternoon and told him he had to resign or she would disendorse him.

Mr McGregor's position as state president is a matter for Labor members, Ms White said.

Labor has run into trouble with another candidate, Fabiano Cangelosi, who spoke out against the party's poker machine and anti-protest policies.

"I have made it incredibly clear to him that the Labor policy is very different to his views," Ms White said.

Mr Cangelosi, who described pokies revenue as "blood money", said he intended to remain part of the Labor party and fully supported Ms White as leader.

It was recently revealed Labor, which pledged to ban pokies during the 2018 election campaign, signed a deal with the hospitality lobby to support the rights of venues to operate gaming machines.

Australian Associated Press