JODIE Harrison has stepped down as shadow minister for the Hunter and Port Stephens MP Kate Washington has been promoted to the shadow cabinet in a Hunter-centric reshuffle of the opposition benches.
Labor opposition leader Luke Foley confirmed the move, first revealed by the Newcastle Herald, at a press conference at Horseshoe Beach at Newcastle on Tuesday morning, citing a request from Ms Harrison to leave the shadow cabinet
“She contacted me yesterday to say that she’s dealing with some serious matters concerning the health and well-being of a close member of her family and she’s asked for some time out from her front bench responsibilities,” Mr Foley said.
“She has a very busy life as a mayor of a large council, a regional MP, a wife and mother and also as a shadow minister, she’s dealing with … some health issues concerning [a] family member and she’s asked for some time out and of course I was going to grant her that.”
Ms Harrison became the Charlestown MP at a by-election in October 2014 following the resignation of former member Andrew Cornwell.
She will stay on as the state member for Charlestown and the mayor of Lake Macquarie
Ms Washington said that while she was “honoured” to be promoted, she was “devastated that it is coming on the back of very difficult circumstances for a colleague of mine”.
“I’m absolutely excited by the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the Hunter region as a whole,” she said.
As well as taking over as shadow minister for the Hunter, Ms Washington also assumes responsibility for early childhood education and the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault. Asked what her specific focuses would be in shadow cabinet, she said unemployment in the region was at “unacceptable levels” and that domestic violence is at “alarming rates”.
She said she would “absolutely” stand up for victims of domestic violence.
“There is no question that that is unacceptable in any form,” she said.
Asked about the saga that saw NSW Labor general-secretary Jamie Clements resign over the allegation that in June he tried to kiss staffer Stefanie Jones in the Parliament House office of Campbelltown MP Greg Warren, Ms Washington said “the changes needed to occur”.