NSW Labor has reserved a decision on the future of Upper Hunter candidate Martin Rush after his political opponent Michael Johnsen confirmed he referred an anonymous letter alleging an incident between Mr Rush and a female flatmate to police.
Mr Johnsen confirmed his involvement today as Labor’s candidate review committee, headed by party elder and former deputy premier John Watkins, met to finalise an investigation into the allegation after the anonymous letter was sent to Labor Leader Michael Daley and NSW Labor head office on December 21.
The committee met only hours after a Sun Herald report on the anonymous letter and the allegation appeared today, in which Mr Rush, a barrister, was described as a “star Labor candidate contesting one of the state’s most marginal seats”.
The anonymous letter alleged Mr Rush and a female flatmate were involved in a heated argument on September 8 at a Muswellbrook house he shared for several nights each week with the flatmate and her partner while conducting council business and campaigning. The letter alleged Mr Rush was intoxicated.
The Newcastle Herald has confirmed an incident occurred.
The Herald was advised the woman had no idea who wrote the anonymous letter or circulated it to people nearly three months after the incident, including to Mr Johnsen, who holds the seat with a margin of just 2.2 per cent.
“Somebody’s obviously decided, who thought they knew all the facts, and sent it off to Michael Johnsen,” said a person who had contact with the woman in the period after the incident.
Mr Johnsen confirmed he passed the anonymous letter to police but declined to say when he received it or whether he raised it with anyone else, including Nationals leader John Barilaro or other party members.
“I received a letter and passed it onto police that day, given the contents and my legal obligations,” Mr Johnsen said.
“The day I received it, I passed it to police. That’s it.”
A NSW Police spokesman said police were “made aware of an alleged incident between a man and a woman who are known to each other, believed to have occurred in September 2018”.
“Officers from Hunter Valley Police District conducted inquiries into the allegation, however no statement was provided to police. As a result, no further action is pending,” the spokesman said.
Mr Daley’s office said the anonymous letter was sent to his electorate office and staff passed it to his chief of staff, Kris Neill.
“As dealing with complaints about candidates is a matter for the administrative wing of the Labor Party, on the same day Ms Neill referred the letter to the governance director of NSW Labor for immediate investigation,” Mr Daley’s office said.
Mr Rush declined to comment while the matter is being considered by the committee.
NSW Labor and general secretary Kaila Murnain were contacted for comment.
The seat of Upper Hunter, a former Nationals safe seat held by the party since 1962, is listed along with Lismore, Tweed and Barwon as one of the four Nationals seats likely to be lost by the party in March, after Mr Rush’s strong performance in the 2015 election.