Shadow cabinet split over NSW Labor's next leader

Opposition transport spokeswoman Jodi McKay is firming as the front-runner in the contest for the NSW Labor leadership, with almost half the shadow cabinet publicly backing her.

However, supporters of water spokesman and Kogarah MP Chris Minns, who is also contesting the leadership, are quick to point out that the month-long campaign is still in its infancy.

"It's very early days," Summer Hill MP Jo Haylen, who is backing Mr Minns, said.

"There are a lot of MPs who haven't publicly declared how they will vote and the branch members are only just starting to get engaged."


Mr Minns and Ms McKay, who were the only two MPs to nominate for the leadership last week, will juggle their first full week of campaigning around parliamentary sittings, with NSW Parliament convening on Tuesday after a fortnight hiatus.

With Labor wounded by the consecutive losses at the NSW and federal election, both candidates pitched themselves as an antidote to the party's electoral misfortunes as they went head-to-head on Sky News on Sunday in their first joint televised appearance.

Ms McKay, the member for Strathfield, said Labor needed to reconnect with multicultural and regional communities.

"We need to have relevance for people right across NSW, and I think right now we don't," she said.

Mr Minns, who is styling himself as a new generation of leadership, said Labor would only be competitive against the Berejiklian government if it presented a "bold, positive policy agenda".

"We should go to the next election, and over the next four years, prosecuting a case for Labor. If we do that, we have to have faith that our ideas are popular and will work," he said.

Eight of the 20 members of the shadow cabinet, not including Ms McKay and Mr Minns, have confirmed they will support Ms McKay in the ballot.

They are: upper house MLC Adam Searle, Auburn MP Lynda Voltz, Port Stephens MP Kate Washington,  Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison, Wyong MP David Harris,  Swansea MP Yasmin Catley, Londonderry MP Prue Car, and Liverpool MP Paul Lynch.

However, the leadership ballot will split the shadow cabinet, with Lakemba MP Jihad Dib, Bankstown MP Tania Mihailuk, and upper house MP Walt Secord supporting Mr Minns.


Each of the 50 MPs in Labor's parliamentary caucus will have a vote in the ballot, which will take place at a special meeting on June 29. Their verdict will be weighted against the votes of thousands of rank-and-file members who will have a 50 per cent say in the outcome.

The successful candidate will be declared on June 30.

Ms McKay's frontrunner status is reinforced by the fact that she is the preferred candidate of NSW Labor's Sussex Street headquarters, with party sources saying she has the "strong backing" of general secretary Kaila Murnain.

Ms McKay's supporters also claim she has the support of the majority of the caucus, but add that the numbers could shift as the campaign unfolds.

"It's very fluid. A lot will depend on getting out the vote," one MP, who is supporting Ms McKay, said.

It is the first time branch members will have a direct say in the NSW Labor leadership, with more than 15,000 ballot papers to be posted.

Unions are also expected to play a role, with many party members also members of trade unions.

Mr Minns' backers were eager to highlight that Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes and Australian Workers Union secretary Dan Walton were among the crowd of several hundred supporters who attended his campaign launch on Saturday.

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