Labor favourites play Mr Nice Guy

Bill Shorten is tipped to win Labor’s caucus ballot and Anthony Albanese the rank and file vote, but each is treading a fine line between contest and party unity.

Is there such a thing as campaign addiction? Or is it just the smell of the prize? Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten have segued from the general election trail to the Labor leadership one without missing a beat.

Albanese had the “launch” of his campaign in Sydney last night, with former minister Greg Combet there to spruik the credentials of the man who is formally deputy prime minister until the new government is sworn in tomorrow.

Albanese will stay on the road, campaigning in Brisbane today, then to Melbourne on Thursday.

Both contenders have websites promoting their cases. Shorten’s “Bill for Labor” site has his slogan “Party, Policy, People” and a picture of him with former prime minister Paul Keating.

There is a call to “Volunteer for Bill” saying: “During any campaign, there is much work to be done. Whether you can give one hour or more, it will all help to elect Bill Labor Leader.”

People are asked to tick boxes: “I’ll contact Labor members; I’ll organise or help organise an event; I’ll share the reasons I’m voting for Bill.”

He is also seeking pledges of support, with 30 signed up as of tonight.

The “Albo for Leader” site, with a big picture of Albanese introducing Kevin Rudd at that other Labor launch, calls for endorsements, specifying a target of 100. There were already more than 425 tonight.

Albanese’s campaign slogan is “Vision, Unity, Strength”.

He told an enthusiatic ALP crowd at the Sydney Trades Hall tonight: “If we win the same seats as in 2007 or Kim Beazley won in 1998, we will be back in government next term”.

In line with their mutual pledges to avoid attacks on each other, both Albanese and Combet stressed what a good candidate Shorten was. Albanese said Shorten would make “a very good leader”.

Albanese said that in opposition “we have the opportunity to come up with the next big idea”.

In arguing why he should be elected, Albanese said he had the capacity to work with people in an open way. “What you see is what you get.” He stressed he would be the best to lead in present circumstances.

Combet said Albanese was “unquestionably Labor’s best parliamentary performer”. “We’ve got to hit the ground running and take the ball up to Tony Abbott,” Combet said. “When the going is tough you’ve got to have the toughest fighters you’ve got.”

Earlier in a Sky interview Combet, who served as Climate Change minister, said he was sure Albanese would be very strong in fighting for Labor’s position of carbon, a major issue that will confront the opposition in the next few months as Abbott tries to get the carbon tax repealed.

While supporting the rank and file being given a 50 per cent say in choosing the leader Combet, who is now out of parliament, took issue with part of the new rules introduced by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – that a spill against a prime minister would require 75 per cent support (60 per cent for one against an opposition leader). He said he did not see the 75 per cent rule surviving. If a leader did not have support of a simple majority of caucus they were in trouble.

Tonight’s meeting was attended by leading members of Albanese’s left faction, including Tanya Plibersek, named by Shorten as his preferred deputy.

Albanese today received public support from left winger Penny Wong, leader of Labor in the Senate.

“Both of them would make outstanding Labor leaders,” she said but “I have decided to support Anthony. I think he has the experience; the runs on the board. He’s had some tough portfolios which he’s handled really well, and he’s also our best parliamentary performer.

“One of the primary reasons I’m also supporting Anthony is, really, there’s been no stronger, more passionate supporter of equality, particularly for women,” Wong said.

“He’s an incredibly strong supporter of women getting into parliament and progressing their careers in parliament, and I think he really lives his Labor values.” 

Shorten, who is outgoing education minister, was at a school today – just as he was often in the election campaign – talking about children with disabilities and condemning Abbott’s frontbench gender imbalance.

Asked when he was going to officially launch his campaign, he said: “I’ve got a majority of caucus members to sign the nomination.”

Shorten is being tipped to win the caucus ballot while Albanese is favourite for the rank and file one.

Pressed on whether he would agree to a national televised debate, Shorten said that “in the first instance we want to talk to our party members”.

But, rest assured, “there will be lots of debates and discussion”. Labor’s new leader will be announced on October 13.

As his colleagues campaign, Chris Bowen is making the most of his time as interim leader. Today he put out two joint statements with Labor spokespeople, did a news conference and was on radio.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The ConversationThis article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article here.

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