Open letter to Tasmanian Labor leadership candidates

The Tasmanian Labor Party is conducting a ballot of members to decide who will be the next Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania. RTBU Tasmania Secretary Ric Bean has sent the following open letter to the two candidate, David O'Byrne and Dr Shane Broad.


Congratulations on your re-election to the Tasmanian Parliament and for your nomination as the next Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union believes the election of the next parliamentary Leader is a critical moment for Tasmanian Labor.

Having lost three consecutive state elections, the Party is now at a crossroads, and it is clear that things must change. We therefore wish to engage with both leadership candidates to understand your respective plans. Most importantly, we wish to establish a constructive relationship with both leadership candidates, so that we can work together to reinvigorate Tasmanian Labor over the coming years.

To this end, we wish to invite you to provide a written summary of your ‘pitch’ for the leadership position, along with a response to the two key issues outlined below. Your response will be considered by our Branch Council, and distributed to our rank and file members – many of whom are also party members and therefore be voting in the leadership ballot. We would also like to offer you the opportunity to meet with members of our Branch Council in person.

The two specific issues that we wish to see addressed are:

1. Union engagement in policy development

We believe that Labor’s policy development processes need to be improved to ensure members and affiliate members are able to have more meaningful input into the party’s policy positions. For example, as an all-grades industry union, the RTBU has a deep interest in (and understanding of) policy issues relating to the rail freight and public transport sectors. Our members, however, were not consulted in the development of Labor’s transport policies. The failure to engage public transport workers was evident in the quality of the public transport policy that Labor took to the election. Most disappointing was Labor’s failure to allocate a single cent to expanding bus services – compared to the Liberals commitment of an additional $60 million.

It should be noted that our Union has had an excellent relationship with the Shadow Transport Minister (and now Deputy Leader) Anita Dow, who has our full support. Our issue is with the party processes and the engagement of members and unions. We therefore wish to know how you will reform policy development to ensure that relevant unions, including the RTBU, have a say in policies that affect their members.

2. Building a more inclusive party

It is undeniable that Labor’s state election campaign was hindered by unnecessary and damaging party infighting, most notably the controversy surrounding the non-preselection of Dean Winter in Franklin. Our members were disappointed by the conduct of party officials in this matter.

To put it simply, Labor will never attract more voters, let alone activists and quality candidates, when it appears to be a closed shop.

We therefore wish to understand your plan for reforming the culture of Tasmanian Labor, and ensuring the preselection dramas which undermined the 2021 election campaign will never happen again. This means ensuring that all Tasmanians with a commitment to Labor values are welcome in the party.

We look forward to your response, and to working with you in the future.