Anthony Albanese appears likely to be elected unopposed as Labor leader with Queenslander Jim Chalmers as his deputy following the withdrawal of Chris Bowen on Wednesday afternoon.
Whether Mr Albanese wins at a canter in a one-horse race will depend on Mr Chalmers deciding to contest the leadership, a decision he has said he will on Thursday.
Mr Bowen confirmed at a media conference that he did not think he would have won the leadership contest against Mr Albanese.
“I’ve been on the phone to colleagues. I’ve been very pleased with the response – it’s clear to me that I would have majority support in the actual caucus ballot,” he said.
“But it’s also clear to me – I’m a realist – that Albo would win the rank and file, for good reason – he’s a popular character … Hence I have reached the view that it would be unlikely for me to win the ballot.”
Mr Bowen’s decision means that unless another challenger comes forward a ballot can be avoided and the new leadership team put in place swiftly.
Mr Albanese is not running on a ticket with Mr Chalmers, and there is no deal for who will be his deputy.
Mr Chalmers said on Wednesday he would announce whether he would run for leader or deputy leader on Thursday.
I feel for Chris & I know it would’ve been hard for him to pull out. I’m being encouraged to nominate for leader & I’ll now consider my options overnight. @AustralianLabor needs to rebuild, refresh & renew & I want to play a prominent role in that. What role is to be determined.
— Jim Chalmers MP (@JEChalmers) May 22, 2019
If another candidate emerges for the leadership, there will be ballots of the ALP membership and caucus. The position of deputy is decided solely by the ALP caucus.
On Wednesday, Labor insiders also rubbished claims that Bill Shorten, the interim leader, had pushed Mr Bowen to run to stop his former rival, Mr Albanese.
While Mr Shorten had encouraged him to run, Mr Bowen had also decided to run to give himself a chance to respond to attacks over his role in the policy decisions being blamed for the election shock loss.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Bowen said while he took full responsibility for the economic agenda that Labor took to the election, a scare campaign over death taxes was also to blame.
“We paid a price for some of our policies. I will never be part of an opposition which lies about its plans and hides its plans: Whether I’m leader or in any other capacity, I will argue against that,” Mr Bowen said.
“We paid a price for things which weren’t our policy, like the death tax.
“About 10 times more people raised the death tax with me during the election campaign than franking credits. And the death tax, of course, was an invention of the Liberal Party.”
Nominations for the leadership close on Friday. If it pans out as expected, the leadership team – elected unopposed – will then consist of Mr Albanese, Mr Chalmers and Penny Wong, who would remain as Senate leader.
Former NSW premier Kristina Keneally will take the job of deputy Senate leader from the Right faction’s Don Farrell, a South Australian.
The decision means that while the party has no women as leader or deputy leader, they do hold both positions in the Senate.
Earlier, Senator Wong urged Labor to get behind Mr Albanese’s leadership.
“Anthony Albanese knows who he is and he knows what he stands for. He’s a man of authenticity and integrity. He’s got a capacity to speak to people across this great country, to speak to people in the regions and in the outer suburbs as well as in our cities,” Senator Wong said.
“Albo is the outstanding parliamentarian of our generation. He’s shown that in his previous capacity as Leader in the House and he’s shown that he can work with people across the Parliament to achieve the outcomes that benefit working people.
“I think he is the best person to lead us and he is the best person to take up the fight to Scott Morrison and the Coalition. He’s also the best person to unify our party, which is so important after this.”
Senator Wong said she doubted that Mr Shorten had involved himself in meddling over the leadership to stop Mr Albanese.
“I would be surprised if that were occurring. I’d be surprised because it’s not consistent with the role he now has and I’d be surprised because it would potentially undermine the very unity he has been part of developing and building in opposition,” she said.
“Obviously Labor just suffered a disappointing loss on Saturday night. I want to open by saying thank you to Bill Shorten. We thank him for unifying the party. Bill led a united and stable team for six years, rebuilt our party after the 2013 loss; and for that he deserves our thanks and respect.”
— Joel Fitzgibbon (@fitzhunter) May 22, 2019