Labor leader-elect Anthony Albanese has asserted his authority in the party, naming former NSW premier Kristina Keneally to his front bench ahead of his first caucus meeting.
Mr Albanese had been insisting Senator Keneally would be part of his shadow ministry following her prominent role in the election campaign.
However, Senator Keneally’s Right factional colleagues were reportedly pushing back on the idea.
On Wednesday, Mr Albanese got his way when NSW MP Ed Husic announced he had decided to stand aside from the shadow ministry. That leaves a gap for Senator Keneally.
Labor has rules about senior positions being shared between states and the left and right factions of the party.
Earlier, Mr Albanese said he had made it clear to caucus he wanted Senator Keneally as part of his team.
“Kristina Keneally will be a part of my team as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “I’ve made that clear. And I’ll continue to talk to that.”
He said he was talking to colleagues “not with hats on”.
“I’m talking to them about the Labor interest – not any factional interest, not any state interest, the Labor interest.”
While I’ve loved being a Shadow Minister, I won’t be running for re-election to that role today. Instead I’ll be…
On Thursday in Canberra, the Labor caucus will have its first meeting since the May 18 election loss. The caucus will determine who gets a shadow ministry gig, but Mr Albanese will pick portfolios.
He plans to convene a meeting of the shadow ministry next week, after announcing the portfolios on Sunday or Monday.
Mr Husic announced his decision on social media, saying that while he had loved being a shadow minister he would not be running for the role.
“Instead I’ll be backing my great friend Kristina Keneally for that spot. We need to ensure someone of Kristina’s enormous talents has the opportunity to make a powerful contribution on the frontline, in the Senate,” Mr Husic said.
I thank my good friend Ed Husic for his gracious and strong support for me to stand for the front bench. Ed is talented, he enjoys wide support in the NSW Right & across the ALP. I am certain he will play a big role in an Albanese Labor Government. pic.twitter.com/JFSRD8ZAxj
— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) May 29, 2019
Speaking just minutes after Scott Morrison’s ministers were sworn in on Thursday, Mr Albanese said his Labor team would be “much better than the team on the other side”.
“I have no doubt that the team that we assemble will be balanced … I expect balance in terms of gender, in terms of state representation and I expect that it will be a very good team who will hold the government to account,” he said.
Asked about the future of former Labor leader Bill Shorten, Mr Albanese said he would be respected as a former leader.
“I will treat him with the appropriate respect,” he said.
Mr Shorten, who led the party for six years and opposed Mr Albanese’s elevation to the role, is understood to be seeking the disabilities portfolio.
Meanwhile, Labor appears set to welcome another MP, with the party edging ahead in counting for the NSW seat of Macquarie.
Mr Albanese said he had been told Labor candidate Susan Templeman was now 196 votes ahead of her Liberal rival Sarah Richards.
“As people will be aware, she was behind on election night,” Mr Albanese said.
“She has now pulled ahead by 196 votes on the latest count. That’s very promising for Susan.”
He said Ms Templeman had contested the seat three times and was a “fantastic advocate for people of the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury”.
“I very much hope that she’s able to join the caucus in coming days.”
Bass is the only other close seat as counting continues from the May 18 election. On Wednesday afternoon, the Liberals’ Bridget Archer was 593 votes ahead of Labor MP Ross Hart in the Tasmanian seat.
The likely results on Bass and Macquarie mean the Coalition is leading in 77 seats, with Labor ahead in 68.
Six crossbenchers are also set to win seats in the 151-seat lower house.