Albo to battle Shorten for leadership of the Labor Party

Thousands of party members now have a vote in who will lead the Australian Labor Party.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Anthony ‘Mr Carmel Tebbutt’ Albanese has announced that he will nominate for the leadership of the party, setting up a contest with former Education and Workplace Relations Minister Bill ‘Son-in-law of the Governor General’ Shorten. In previous contests the leadership of the party was determined by a vote of caucus, Labor party members of parliament, but this time the party membership also gets a say.

When Kevin Rudd was re-elected to the leadership he passed changes that mean that now the leader will be determined by both a Caucus ballot and a ballot of the Party’s rank-and-file members. The changes were meant to open up the process to supporters of the party and dilute the power of factions. Plus, Kevin probably thought it’d make his job a little more secure. 

It’s an intriguing contest. Bill Shorten was instrumental in the downfall of two Australian Labor Prime Ministers. In 2010 he was one of the so called ‘Faceless Men’ who encouraged Julia Gillard to challenge the elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, leading to the fall of a Prime Minister during his first time of parliament.  Earlier this year, Mr Shorten switched teams to support Kevin Rudd as he took back the leadership from Ms Gillard. Not a great look.

Anthony Albanese was one of the few members of the party who came out of the previous leadership jostling looking respectable. He was leader of the House under both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard and despite publicly supporting Kevin Rudd in an earlier, unsuccessful challenge to Julia Gillard she refused to accept his resignation when he offered it. He was then elevated to Deputy Prime Minister when Kevin Rudd returned to the lodge.

It is widely thought that Anthony Albanese enjoys broader support among the Labor rank-and file than Bill Shorten. However Bill Shorten comes from the dominate ‘Right’ faction of the ALP whereas Anthony Albanese is from the less numerically significant ‘Left’ which should give Shorten an edge in the Caucus vote. Will Caucus vote one-way and Labor party membership another? It’ll be intriguing to watch. 

Despite former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy suggesting that this would make Labor Party a ‘laughing stock’ using a primary style election to choose leaders is already used in the UK and the USA. Remember Obama's battle with Clinton? It seems logical to allow the membership to choose who their leader is. It gives people an incentive to join the party. 

Until a decision is made on the new leader, former Treasurer Chris Bowen will be acting in the role. He got the gig because he is the most senior member of the party who is not contesting the leadership.

He’d probably rather be dealing with Joe Hockey’s problems right now.

Image via SMH

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