Dean Winter wants to be the next Tasmanian Labor leader. Can he fix the party’s problems?

Dean Winter wants to be the next Tasmanian Labor leader. Can he fix the party’s problems?
  • PublishedApril 5, 2024

Tasmanian Labor leader hopeful Dean Winter says he says he believes he has the support of his colleagues to take on the top job.

The party, which claimed just 10 seats out of 35 in this state election, is licking its wounds after its fourth consecutive election loss.

While on election night then Labor leader Rebecca White appeared to leave the door open to forming a minority government — given the Liberals would also fall well short of majority — the door was slammed shut the following day when the party’s administrative committee deemed the election lost.

That left the leadership vacant, with Ms White later confirming she would not be recontesting.

Mr Winter, from the party’s right faction, was quick to put his hand up, telling colleagues he would be seeking the leadership.

That news broke on March 25.

Until now, neither Mr Winter nor his colleagues have spoken publicly.

“I’ve taken a couple of weeks to reflect and speak to my colleagues about what the future of the Labor Party looks like and to commiserate,” he told ABC Radio Hobart today.

“Our result, it wasn’t good enough from us to only have 10 seats going into this parliament.

“We’re really disappointed with that result and we need to improve, we need to change, do better in the future.”

Mr Winter is the only person so far to throw their hat in the ring for the leadership, but he said he had his colleagues’ support.

“I’ve had those conversations over the last couple of weeks and feel like I’ve got that support,” he said.

The dominant left faction has yet to put up a candidate and it is unclear if it will.

While rumours have been swirling about incoming Clark MP Josh Willie, he has stayed silent.

The ABC understands former deputy leader Michelle O’Byrne is being encouraged to run.

Labor united again after turmoil, Winter says

The lack of public voices from the party’s left is in stark contrast to the battle Mr Winter had to fight to get preselected for the 2021 election.

Dean Winter and family in a basketball stadium crowd.
Dean Winter with wife Allison and children George and Harriet at a Tasmania JackJumpers basketball game in March.(X/Twitter: Dean Winter)

The former Kingborough mayor’s preselection was blocked by the state administrative committee and it was only after intervention from Labor’s national executive, and Ms White, that he was added as a candidate.

He went on to get the most votes for Labor in Franklin, just outperforming then-Labor stalwart David O’Byrne.

Despite the earlier division, Mr Winter credits Ms White for bringing the team together, paving the way for his leadership.

“It goes a lot to Rebecca White’s work over the last two years, and our whole team,” he said.

“You saw the 2021 election and it was a very untidy election — let’s put it that way.

“This election where you saw us, irrespective of the result not being what we wanted, we were together, there was no infighting, we had a clear plan and a clear direction.

“All that work has been really successful and now we’re in the point where I think we can bring the party together around those core ideas and Labor values.”

Rebecca White announces she will stand down as Labor leader

Mr Winter also stood by the Labor Party’s decision to deem the election a loss, ruling out future deals with the Greens.

“For 10 years, Tasmanian Labor has told Tasmanians that we will not do a deal with the Greens. For us to have done that would’ve lacked any integrity whatsoever,” she said.

“We said we wouldn’t do a deal with the Greens, we are not doing a deal with the Greens, and we won’t do a deal with the Greens, because they fundamentally don’t agree with the things that we believe in.”

Labor will not decide on a new leader until all of the parliamentary party has been officially elected and the caucus can meet.

A politician frustrated, resting his head on his hands in parliament.
In 2021, Dean Winter was almost passed over for preselection before intervention from Labor’s national executive and Rebecca White.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)


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