Anthony Albanese for Labor Leader

alboI watched the first of three televised “debates” between Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten the other night. They will meet again in Melbourne tomorrow night and appear together on Q&A on Monday night.

One of the interesting things about this exercise in democracy (which I won’t call an experiment, because I hope and trust it will be permanent) is that we don’t have a lot of experience in formulating yardsticks by which to judge the candidates.

Some are asking both to take positions on particular policy issues. I respect those initiatives, but I’m not sure that’s what the process should be about. It’s not a general election, and in a democratised Labor party, the membership should have ongoing avenues to contribute to policy (as should caucus). It’s not just about what each candidate thinks. Nor am I certain that the contest need be about “big ideas”. I’d be happy with basic communication of principle and direction, and a judgement of character and capacity.

Obviously, the desire of the media to stage a fight where there isn’t one (and Jon Faine was particularly obnoxious and wrongheaded in his interview of Albanese) should be resisted. Probably that’s exacerbated by The Great Disappearance Of Tony Abbott. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t maturely assess the actual points of distinction between the two candidates.

I hope Chris Bowen is right and the Right faction isn’t rigidly imposing its will on caucus members (and maybe Wayne Swan’s Facebook update on Sunday is a positive sign). I am also thinking that there should be disclosure of funding for the two campaigns – there are a lot of reports of expensive mailouts of glossy pamphlets from the Shorten camp. Obviously that’s not cheap. Transparency would be good.

It would also be good if unions were upfront about who they are supporting, and the degree of internal democracy that has factored into such decisions. This has been a big issue in UK Labour, and I think – if anything – I am more convinced by reports of AWU and SDA financial support for Bill Shorten that Kevin Rudd made the right decision in leaving their block votes out of the process. Again, we need transparency.

(Incidentally, I doubt that Joe De Bruyn’s homophobic and hamfisted endorsement of Shorten helps him any. Nor will Mark Latham’s “Anyone but Albo” push.)

Back to the debate! While Bill Shorten certainly sounded many convincing notes, for me they jar with his record. (I make an exception for his views on disability, which I am sure are sincere). There is, of course, nothing wrong with a genuine change of heart, but it needs to be signalled as such. Too often, Shorten, whose presentation I also found rather odd (alternating between somewhat overcooked intensity and soft spokenness), seemed to me to be trying to “out-Left the Left” as someone else has put it.

Since Labor is well placed to win the next election, presentation and sincerity in presentation also matters. I think it would be helpful for Shorten to address openly his role in two Labor leadership changes, and also to justify his support for party democratisation in light of his history as an AWU “powerbroker”. Perhaps he can. But I do think he really does need to. Just saying “I’m drawing a line” is not good enough when your own level of personal involvement, and thus credibility, is so quick to everyone’s memory.

Obviously, I am much more sympathetic to the Labor Left than Labor Right, and that’s been the case for a very long time. But I think there is a genuine case to be made for consistency in principle being one of Anthony Albanese’s strengths. I can also readily believe him when he says he didn’t enter Parliament in order to scheme to be PM. His life experience, and his clear compassion and care for others, speak well of him and of the authenticity of his Labor values.

I also think that he would be a most effective opposition leader.

But the Labor party first needs to redeem itself. For mine, Albanese is the candidate who is most committed to broader engagement, to further democratisation, and to leading a movement rather than leading a shell of cabals. That engagement is already happening via social media. Bill Shorten, by contrast, seems to be running a campaign led from above. That matters.

I am supporting Anthony Albanese for Labor Leader.


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73 responses to “Anthony Albanese for Labor Leader”

  1. Sam

    It’s not much of a choice. Albo is a policy and intellectual light weight. Shorten will ditch the carbon tax one nano second after he is elected leader.

    Both went to Catholic schools, Albo to the local parish school; Shorten to the uber-elite Xavier College. Shorten is more polished but appears as trustworthy as a funnel web spider. (Ask Rudd andGillard.)

    On balance, if I had a vote, it would go to Albo, but I can’t see either of them beating Abbott.

  2. Lee

    Are you an ALP member Mark?
    As to unions and their democratic involvement in the process. The only union I know of who has attempted to engage their membership on this is united voice (the missos). They’ve had both candidates answer a series of questions voted on by their membership, which is available online… doesn’t seem to be a commitment to actually take the answers into account in their support however.

  3. wilful

    I think Albo will be a better opposition leader, taking the fight up to the Tories, and trashing whatever Abbott tries to sell, but I think Shorten appeals more broadly to the people whose votes need to change at the next election, and would be a smoother, more credible PM.

    But I’m not a member so I don’t get a vote. BTW, if people making statements about their preferences here could identify whether they have an actual vote in this poll, I think that would be good.

  4. Sam

    The missos were controlled for a long time by the Ferguson family who, for reasons lost in the mist of time, hate Albanese.

  5. wilful

    Cheers Mark I noted that once I’d posted.

    The first debate was pretty amateur. I’m sure the ALP doesn’t want to spend a penny on this process, and it’s only the political tragics that watch this, and being the first time they’re still working out a lot of things, but it was a bit cringe-inducing. At least they could have worked out some graceful way of finishing things up. And put some proper ALP placards up as a backdrop. Also, I think they have a way to go to work out how to differentiate their “product” from each other without cutting each other’s throats. A full US Democrats Primary is not what I’m after, but a sense of how they are actually individuals and what their personal priorities are would have been nice.

  6. Liam

    ALP member, voting enthusiastically for Albanese (though I won’t be disappointed if Shorten wins).

  7. Sam

    How is this ballot being conducted, BTW? Online? Postal?

  8. Judith Downey

    I do see this as an experiment. Not because I do not want it to be a permanent feature if Australian politics, as I do. But because it is new to our political system, and so we have no experience or evidence base. There is potential for Shorten or Albanese to be very different kinds of leaders from the ones they would be have been under old Labor processes as long as they are not beholden to specific power groups within the Party. On that basis, the choice between the candidates should be guided by their characters and values.
    It is good at least that the media is ensuring this process is presented to Labor members and more generally the Australian community. it is not surprising that they are falling back on old ways of representing it although one could hope for something better over time.

  9. Ronson Dalby

    I hope to be a member next time voting comes around. If I was voting now it would be for Albanese.

  10. Peter Murphy

    I’m not a member of the party, but I prefer Albanese for many reasons, not the least for the ability to make bad puns out of his nickname.

  11. Mark Bahnisch

    Postal ballot, Sam.

  12. Helen

    So he’s on the other side to the Shoppies, the Fergusons and Latho? He’s starting to look better and better.

  13. Liz

    A friend who’s a Labor member is supporting Shorten because he thinks he has more appeal to swinging voters. Whoever wins, and I don’t much care who it is because I can see strengths and weaknesses in both, could Labor stick with them until at least the next election?

  14. Helen

    +1 Liz!
    One of our more right leaning commenters remarked on a vid that’s doing the rounds of Shorten tearing strips off a shopkeeper. Now before y’all start, I am completely aware that that doesn’t detract from his political and policy skills, however, there’s a stick for the other side to beat Labor with right there. And it matters, however unfair it might be, how people treat people in lowlier positions than themselves. It really does. Sorry.
    But more importantly, the shoppies.. Ugh!
    (Actually, if the shoppies were actually doing their job they might be backing up the pie seller against Shorten. Now that would be awkward.)

  15. Sam
  16. Russell

    I agree with Wilful’s comment “Shorten appeals more broadly to the people whose votes need to change at the next election, and would be a smoother, more credible PM.”

  17. Liz

    Mark, I think what people might mean is that Albo might be seen as a throwback to an older working class sort of Laborism. I don’t have a problem with this myself.

  18. Liz

    I’m just surprised Shorten was so keen on eating a Boscastle pie. C’mon Bill, keep a snack in your car.

  19. Sam

    Albo might be seen as a throwback to an older working class sort of Laborism.

    Yes and no. Albo is working class, but he’s never actually been employed doing any of the work that working class people do. He has been a ministerial staffer, a Labor Party official and a politician.

  20. jungney

    Liz @ 23: I don’t agree with you.

    He is not some sort of comfortable armchair Uncle Labor figure at all. If you read his profile, even wiki will be sufficient, you see that he has a solid track record as a left labour member. That means as a potential PM he is a different type of candidate to the usual right wing hand puppet foisted on us by Sussex St every election.

    I reckon people are paying a bit of attention to this development because of its novelty. And potential. For many reasons not the least of which is the stink coming from NSW Labor (Inc) of whom Albo has experience but with whom he is not factionally aligned.

  21. Jacques de Molay

    I think this democratising of Labor is great, a positive experience for the party that hopefully remains. No one gives a shit if it takes a month to install a new opposition leader.

    I much prefer Albo but hope Shorten gets it so they can burn through him until Labor next become electable under a new young leader ala Mark Butler or Jason Clare.

  22. Russell

    “Is it his accent?”

    Is it an accent? Something one doesn’t like to mention in case it’s a speech impediment of some kind – anyway it doesn’t help. He comes across to me as unintelligent – it’s always cliches and slogans. He looks like he’s in it for the tribal game, rather than a considered, national view about our future. I also didn’t like the snivelling we saw at the time of the last leadership challenge.

    Shorten, who I like less and less, looks like someone who can stand between labour and capital and act in the national interest – he looks like a polished negotiator. The NDIS has given him some credentials as someone who actually delivers on Labor principles. Despite the odd man-child look, he presents better than Albanese

  23. Casey

    I also didn’t like the snivelling we saw at the time of the last leadership challenge.

    Oh come on, snivelling? He’s the only one that came out of it with any honour.

  24. Jacques de Molay

    I’ve never had much time for Shorten and people should keep in mind Shorten was the best man at John Roskam’s wedding. Yes, the head of the far-right IPA.

  25. Russell

    Casey, he may be honourable, but do you want snivelling with that?

    Mark, I didn’t record all the bits of Albanese I’ve heard on the radio or TV over the years – I’ve just formed the view that it’s always predictable, unintelligent, one-eyed, party-speak. It would be hard for many people to see him as Prime Ministerial.

  26. Sam

    He looks like he’s in it for the tribal game

    There is some truth to that. Recall that Albanese went to a lot of trouble in 2009 to make sure that John Howard was not appointed to a high position in the administration of the National Rugby League. You’d think a cabinet minister might have more important things to do, but not Albo.

    Shorten was the best man at John Roskam’s wedding

    So what? There are good reasons not to want Shorten as leader. That is not one of them.

  27. Casey

    Casey, he may be honourable, but do you want snivelling with that?

    Wait a minute, are you talking about when he teared up?

  28. Katz

    The 60% rule magnifies the probability that the leader will be a dead duck long before her detractors assemble enough votes to pack her off to the guillotine. That won’t be a good look.

    So the punters and the caucus should think very carefully about whom they elevate to the leadership. And the timing of any challenge needs to take into consideration this long drawn out process of membership suffrage. The Libs will have a field day during this process.

  29. Russell

    “teared up” – yes, snivelling, it seemed to me.

    Mark, most of what I know of him, I’ve heard: on the radio or listening to parliament. I don’t like the presentation, but I’m also listening to content.

    I’ve said the same of Gillard – cliches, an unfortunate accent … (perhaps less snivelling)

    Whereas Shorten more often speaks clearly and to the point. (Someone may now post a link to that totally dreadful video where Shorten agrees with his leader, whatever his leader has said).

  30. Liz

    Mark @ 25. I think it’s the accent, the bad teeth and the combative attitude; ‘fighting Tories’ and all that. Jungney, I didn’t say that’s what I think. I said I thought that was a perception.

    I agree that he’s someone that came out of the leadership wars well. He seems to have a strong capacity for negotiation. Remember, he was crucial for wrangling the last Parliament.

  31. Casey

    “teared up” – yes, snivelling, it seemed to me.

    I’m pretty perturbed by the fact you think a man showing a bit of pretty honest emotion (remember that Gillard refused to accept his resignation if you think it wasn’t real) over the fact his loyalty to Rudd is in conflict with his loyalty to the sitting Prime Minister is the thing you consider “snivelling”.

    So, do you have anything REAL to complain about or are you going to move onto his clothes next?

  32. Russell

    Casey – we perhaps just draw the line in a different place – you wouldn’t like to see him throw himself to the floor and howl, I didn’t like to see snivelling.

    I have said what my main objections to him are, but presentation is part of the job of PM. Luckily for them, and us, what male politicians wear isn’t usually an issue – it’s all pretty much the same other than red tie or blue.

  33. Casey

    presentation is part of the job of PM

    Look, I have only one thing to point out to you: Tony Abbott got in. Now consider his accent, my personal abhorrence of the way he starts his sentences (I can’t describe it just watch what he does with his tongue), his compulsion to pash every woman in sight with that thing he does with his lips, his excessively egregious aggression which is palpable (wasn’t he known as the junkyard dog?), his narcissistic predilection for stripping down to skimpy swimmers every time a camera was in sight and you get to understand that voters will suffer a lot

  34. Russell

    Albo may have done a lot of “wrangling” in the last parliament, but a) hardly noticed by the public, and b) if it was, would have been seen as just more political gamesmanship. So to get back to the point Wilful made – not something that would qualify him to win over voters who didn’t vote for the ALP last time.

  35. Russell

    Casey, true – a lot of what I’ve said of Albo is true of Abbott. Abbott got in because the ALP threw government away, the LNP will surely learn from that.

  36. jungney

    Liz @ 44. ok.

  37. jules

    Sam @ 38 – keeping Howard away from the NRL might not be a party political move in itself. Possibly its more in the interests of the game. Tho personally i don’t see how he could have made it any worse …

    Snivelling is an odd term Russell. Expressing emotion outside the usual boundaries is not a bad thing.

    Personally i don’t care who wins. Because the next election needs to be about policies not personalities, or about policies vs Abbott’s personality.

  38. Russell

    Mark – the logic is thus: I said that Shorten looks the better negotiator and Liz said that Albo was a key negotiator in the last Parliament and I said that being a negotiator within parliament will only be seen as political deal doing and thus not likely to win over voters who didn’t vote ALP in the last election.

    Snivelling is not an odd term, Jules. It’s not archaic English. But there will be a difference (perhaps generational) in the community about expression vs self-control, when it comes to men, and snivelling.

  39. Jewell

    I do have a vote in this ballot.

    I don’t really mind which one of them we get, provided that we get what Shorten promised in an email today: more we and less I.
    I want a Labor group, with a focus on policies. I am sick of leaders and individualism.

  40. jules

    Russell in the circumstances it is an odd term. Imo anyway, cos it implies alot about Albanese that doesn’t seem reasonable.

    One of the definitions is this:

    “used to describe someone you do not like because they are weak and unpleasant”

    There are other definitions that just refer to the act of crying or sniffling, but the only time the word is used is in the context I put up first.

    Perhaps “odd” is the wrong word. Its certainly a biased and loaded term tho.

  41. wilful

    Mark, you’re attacking Russell on a rational, evidence and research level. For the unconnected voters rhat matter, that’s irrelevant, it’s *all* about the vibe of it. I just don’t think Albo presents as well, and is probably too left wing. They have to aim for disconnected centre and my perception is that Shorten can do that better (though he doesn’t appeal to me). If I had a vote I’m not sure what I would do, I prefer Albo but prefer Labor in power.

  42. Geoff Henderson

    I don’t vote, but if I did have the privilege I would vote for neither aspirant at this time. My wish was/is for an interim leader who would generate the structure and policies of the next Labor government. Carp and moan about the new government if you will, but there remains a shit-load of re-building for Labor, and that should be the constructive effort now.
    When that has been achieved the leadership candidates would then try to convince voters of their ability to best manage the task. At the moment, the task is somewhat undefined apart from the relentless spitting in Abbotts general direction by LP’ers.
    And I would be pleased to see Tanya fill that initial role and to bid for leadership.

  43. Russell

    I just had to look this up to confirm that Albanese is married to a NSW ALP MP, and he is. I think this also feeds into an image of being unhealthily consumed by politics and some sort of ALP cronyism at work. Not normal people.

  44. Kevin Rennie

    As someone who went to the same school as Shorten, I can’t help the observation that it would be extremely odd for the PM and Opposition leader to be Jesuit educated (Riverview & Xavier respectively). Pope Francis rounds out the rise and rise of the once suppressed Society of Jesus.

    There is a kind of precedent as Premiers John Brumby and Ted Baillieu both went to Melbourne Grammar.

    Bill wants to be “brave”. He must have been to join the ALP at 17. Wonder if he was still at the school where the DLP was formed.

    PS I’m a life member who is inclined to vote to Anthony Albanese.

  45. GabrielleH

    I will be voting for Anthony Albanese as he is a much more honest person and more skilled politically than Shorten. I could never bring myself to vote for an AWU person, like Shorten, who comes across as a show pony. Also we have received some campaigning material endorsing Shorten from third parties who are of highly dubious reputation from the AWU faction, which is really annoying. We have had nothing like that from Albo, just straightforward letters from him personally.

  46. Su

    Emerson and Combet are for Albanese. Is it true to say that Labor’s worst result was in Tasmania? I suppose one argument in Shorten’s favour could be that there may be some residual good will for him personally down in Tasmania which could help regain the three lost seats. A long shot, he may not have any particular following outside of Lyons. He’s only been in Parliament since 2007, and people have grumbled about his unseemly rush up the ladder and far too obvious ambition pretty much from day one. Too much baggage and too little time in parliament.

  47. Charlie

    How could you trust anyone who has been directly involved in the overthrow of 2 sitting Labor PMs and as a result who bears direct responsibility for Abbott being current PM ….. and at same time most likely postulates that anything he has done was with the best interests of the ALP at heart.

  48. Paul Norton

    Sam @26:

    Yes and no. Albo is working class, but he’s never actually been employed doing any of the work that working class people do.

    1. Albo was employed as a bank clerk before he went to university.

    2. The working class doesn’t just work. Working class people experience the consequences of their class position and lack of political and economic power under capitalism in multiple facets of their lives (in Albo’s case, this included among other things arguing with bureaucracies as a teenager on behalf of his ailing mother).

  49. Sam


    1. Bank clerk is a lower middle class occupation.

    2. Sure, which is why I said yes and no.

    As the great Nevile Wran said, “That’s what being in the working class is all about – how to get out of it!” Thanks to his education and general smarts, Albo has gotten out of it. I’ll bet he’s not sorry he did.

  50. jungney

    Agreed PN. The idea that people have to conform to some sort of blue collar prole stereotype as the marker of their class location isn’t just outdated, t,is deader than a wombat in a roadside culvert.

  51. Kevin Rennie

    What about Bill Shorten as working class?

  52. Sam

    That would be Bill “Xavier Old Boy” Shorten?

  53. jungney

    Kevin Rennie: Shorten’s class credentials are irrelevant. He’s from the right of the ALP and the union movement. That’s the dominant ALP and union right who’ve had political and ideological leadership of the ALP since Hawke/Keating.

    Shorton will never drive a program of reform within the ALP. Albanese will. That’s what matters most, right now.

  54. Salient Green

    I’ve written quite a few emails to politicians and amongst the replies, Albo’s when he was shadow environment minister way back when, has been the most memorable for his honest engagement with my concerns, completely devoid of spin. I was convinced that he had genuine concerns for the environment.

  55. Nickws

    Too often, Shorten, whose presentation I also found rather odd (alternating between somewhat overcooked intensity and soft spokenness), seemed to me to be trying to “out-Left the Left” as someone else has put it.

    This is essentially what he did on quanda tonight, and more power to him.

    What perplexed me was Albo’s small ‘c’ conservative response to Shorto’s proposals for a bigger migrant intake and ALP minority quotas. Oh, great, so he’s the one in this race suffering from a hint of Sydney Labor hedging disease. I’d naturally assumed it’d be the Vic AWU man following in Hawke and Beazley’s steps down the yellow brick road…

    But eloquent, longform Albanese has been a bit of revelation to me.

    Can he translate that into stoopid media grabs if elected leader?

  56. Paul Norton

    Nickws @72, it’s significant that Rainbow Labor has supported Shorten’s proposal for quotas for LGBTI candidates.

    That said, I have experience as a returning officer for an organisation that provided for queer representatives on its governing body. Obviously, in order to be able to nominate for and vote for such a position, a person needed to be recognised as an LGBTI person. However, in most cases (and recognising that the acronym ‘LGBTI’ covers several categories of people) the only criteria for establishing this is the person’s own overt identification as queer. Further, there is no appropriate way by which such a claim can be subjected to a credentialling process.

    What I observed in the elections I ran, and what other ROs in similar circumstances have observed, is that people with no history of involvement with LGBTI communities or their concerns, who as far as anyone knew were heterosexual, and who in some cases had quite conservative (including religious conservative) associations, were nominating for and voting for reserved queer positions. Needless to say the people most concerned about this were members of LGBTI communities, but there was nothing that could be done about it under the rules. Where there is a seat in parliament at stake the incentives for such (probable) abuses will be much stronger, and any proposal for LGBTI quotas for Labor preselections will need to include some proposal to address this.