Ben McGregor, the president of the Tasmanian branch of the Labor Party, has resigned as a state election candidate, following a complaint about "inappropriate" text messages he sent more than six years ago.
In an explosive public statement delivered in Hobart on Wednesday morning, Mr McGregor announced he was standing down as a Labor candidate for the Southern electorate of Clark, after party leader Rebecca White urged him to do so.
"Over the past couple of days, reactionary elements within the Tasmanian ALP have launched extraordinary attacks against progressive people in the party in an attempt to further their personal political agendas and undermine the Labor Party during this crucial election," he said.
"A complaint has been made to the Labor Party by a person in relation to two text messages I sent seven years ago. 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 at the treatment of women in this country for selfish, tawdry and political purposes.
"The incident surrounds two text messages sent over six years ago that were part of a broader text conversation between a group of then friends that included banter to and from the person involved. The whole conversation was full of dark humour and was within our conversations broadly.
"At the time, the person noted to myself during the conversation that she felt uncomfortable with a word I used. At that time I apologised via text and noted that I would not use that word again with her. I then subsequently apologised in person the next chance I got, and then again at a later time."
An emotional Mr McGregor did not take questions after providing his statement and did not comment further on the nature of the text messages. He acknowledged that what he'd said was "inappropriate", before taking an extraordinary swipe at Ms White, who he said had "failed in providing leadership here".
"The Labor Party has a policy and process to deal with complaints against members," he said. "This has not been followed."
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"There has been no investigation. Witnesses have not been interviewed. I have not been afforded the basic courtesy of providing my side of the story. I've had no recourse of action and no opportunity to defend myself. I've been accused internally. This information has then found its way into the media.
"This appears for all intents as a smear campaign to hurt me and my nomination and my opinion of this has been reinforced by the recent actions of our state leader."
But Ms White - who became aware of the complaint on Monday - said she took the right course of action, adding that, "As far as I'm concerned, the allegation that was raised was incredibly serious".
"I sat in the living room of a person who shared with me the allegation about the conduct that they had been the recipient of," she said. "I couldn't ignore that. And I had to take action."
"For me, and, I think, for many other women, it doesn't matter when it happened. Too many women have been told that they need to take a joke. The fact of the matter is that the allegation that was raised with me was clearly inappropriate and I took action immediately.
"The person who raised the complaint did so because they thought that it was a concern that this person might be seeking election. I asked Mr McGregor whether he could confirm those messages had been sent and he did not deny that that was the case. As far as I'm concerned, the matter has now been dealt with appropriately, which is that the candidate has withdrawn his candidacy."
Ms White refused to elaborate on what exactly Mr McGregor had said in the text messages.
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