Labor aspirants play pass the poison chalice

Who’s up for a beating? L-R Anthony Albanese, Chris Bowen and Joel Fitzgibbon.

After a devastating election defeat, the role of opposition leader inevitably becomes a poison chalice, no matter how worthy the office-holder might be. Simon Crean was a decent Labor leader, but floundered against a triumphant John Howard. When Kevin Rudd swept into office, the hapless Brendon Nelson’s horror show turn was only exceeded by the hopeless Malcolm Turnbull’s abysmal leadership (something the Liberals inexplicably failed to learn from).

So you almost have to pity whoever has the crazy-bravery to put their hand up to Labor opposition leader after Scott Morrison’s electoral triumph. quote.

Anthony Albanese is set to declare that he will run for the Labor leadership and to promise to drop Bill Shorten’s controversial tax reforms end quote.

Well, I’ll certainly give Albo credit for bravery. When the “caravan of no-confidence” protest besieged his office in 2011, Albanese at least had the bottle to go out and try and engage with the angry crowd. It was a waste of time, of course, as he was roundly shouted down by the mob. Still, that show of bravery and decency went a long way to endearing Albo to me, at least. If nothing else, Albanese is the antidote to the poisonous personality of Bill Shorten.

The problem is that Albanese is almost certainly the wrong person to lead Labor, now. He is from the socialist left faction of the party, and while he may be publicly rejecting Shorten’s franking credits policy, he still supports the rest of the “progressive” agenda that went a long way to costing Labor this election. quote.

He didn’t shy away from Labor’s “redistributive agenda” of closing tax loopholes, properly funding schools and hospitals, taking action on climate change, advancing indigenous reconciliation and removing discrimination […]

“We seek to form government to change the country and we shouldn’t be shy about that.” end quote.


Sadly, Albanese doesn’t seem to get that the country didn’t want to change – at least, not in the direction that Labor’s left want to go.

One Labor figure who does get it is Joel Fitzgibbon. quote.

Joel Fitzgibbon has delivered an ultimatum to any potential Labor leadership candidate that he or she needs to provide a guarantee in writing of support for rural and regional Australia or he will contest the leadership ballot himself…after the ALP’s election defeat on Saturday which has sparked recriminations in the party that it was too consumed by an inner city elite agenda that was rejected by outer suburban and regional voters […]

Mr Fitzgibbon said if the ALP did not have someone from the bush at the decision making table “we will continue to make the same mistakes’’.

Mr Fitzgibbon said the ALP had to get back to the centre of politics. end quote.


Tanya Plibersek, meanwhile, has wisely withdrawn from the contest for the poison chalice.

Perhaps the best move Labor could make is to throw up a sacrificial lamb, to take the punishment that the party will inevitably endure when the triumphant Coalition resumes its place on the government benches. quote.

Opposition treasury spokesman Chris Bowen has launched his Labor leadership bid outside his childhood home in Western Sydney, saying he wants a “contest of ideas”.

“Anthony Albanese is a friend of mine, a good man….But I think that the party deserves contest. I think that the party deserves choice. It deserves to hear competing ideas. I think it would be wrong of me not to provide that choice to the party.” end quote.


While Bowen is correct that the left of the party needs to be challenged, he’s also the one figure beside Bill Shorten who did so much to damage Labor’s campaign. Bowen’s “then don’t vote for us” challenge (which he is now profusely apologising for) was the beginning of Labor’s downhill run from assured victory to defeat. Bowen was sent to Coventry for the rest of the campaign, only to emerge at the last minute with another spectacular gaffe: telling homeowners not to worry if their house values fell.

Bowen has his heart in the right place – dragging the party back to the centre – but he’ll almost certainly be another hapless opposition leader fed into the post-election grinder of oblivion.