Washington steps up

DAY AT THE BEACH: Luke Foley and Kate Washington speaking at Horseshoe Beach on Tuesday. Ms Washington has been promoted to shadow cabinet. Picture: Simone De Peak

JODIE Harrison has stepped down as shadow minister for the Hunterand Port Stephens MP Kate Washington has been promoted to the shadow cabinetin a Hunter-centricreshuffle 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 atNewcastle 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 memberand she’s asked for some time out and of course I was going to grant her that.”

Ms Harrison became the Charlestown MP ataby-election in October 2014 followingthe resignation of former memberAndrew 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 asshadow minister for the Hunter, Ms Washington also assumes responsibilityforearly childhood education and theprevention 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 resignover the allegation that in June he tried to kiss stafferStefanie Jones in the Parliament House office of Campbelltown MP Greg Warren, Ms Washington said “the changes needed to occur”.

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