Former Labor leader Bill Shorten has taken to social media to refute claims he still wants the party’s top job.
“I have and will work hard every day to keep our party united and make the case for Labor under Albo’s leadership at the next election,” he said on Twitter on Friday.
Mr Shorten’s denial followed stories in Nine newspapers on Friday that claimed he had told allies he wants to return as Labor leader, despite standing down after the party’s shock defeat at the May 18 election.
The report in the SMH and the Age today is just wrong.
As I said yesterday, I have and will work hard every day to keep our party united and make the case for Labor under Albo’s leadership at the next election.
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) May 30, 2019
New leader Anthony Albanese also rubbished the claims on Friday, saying his unanimous election to the Labor leadership would deliver unity to the opposition.
Mr Albanese is putting the final touches to his shadow cabinet, which will be announced on Sunday and will include his predecessor.
He said on Friday that Mr Shorten harboured a “passion to get into government”.
“The entire team know that we must be united if that is going to be achieved,” he said in Canberra.
The new Labor leader was also quizzed about the issue on Channel Nine’s Today show on Friday morning, with co-host Deborah Knight warning Mr Albanese to “watch your back”.
“How can you lead effectively with the ghosts of leaders past haunting you like this?” she said.
But Mr Albanese said Mr Shorten knew “as every member of the team does, their responsibility to work for the team”.
“We also have to accept our responsibility. That some of the policies that we put forward clearly didn’t connect with enough people…we have to do better next time.” – @AlboMP #9Today pic.twitter.com/KK5UUyDgoI
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) May 30, 2019
But the repeated denials did not stop the government making hay with the rumours. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said he would be surprised if Mr Shorten was not still ambitious for the leadership.
“Do you think that a fish stuck on land wants to get back into water?” he told Sky News.
“I think that everyone in the parliament knows that if there was an opportunity for Bill Shorten to get the leadership back he would go for it.
“I don’t even think that is particularly remarkable.”
Mr Albanese was the only contender for the Labor’s leadership after Mr Shorten stood down on election night. Having a sole contender avoided the need for a ballot involving the ALP’s grassroots and caucus members.
“My colleagues are absolutely committed, and we saw that unity yesterday [at a caucus meeting],” he said.
“The fact that I’ve been elected unopposed as leader of the Labor Party, the fact that our entire leadership team were elected unopposed, that people put the needs of Labor before individual needs.”
The shadow cabinet will meet in Brisbane on Tuesday, as Mr Albanese and colleagues engage in a post-election “listening tour” of the country.
One of those set for a frontbench role, Catherine King, said the party should take its time with the election post-mortem examination.
“We scared people, basically, I think,” she told ABC radio on Friday.
“Particularly we scared people in our working class and lower-income areas and we have to understand what that was and … why we weren’t getting our message through.”
Mr Albanese said the party’s policies “didn’t connect with enough people”.
The latest election figures show Labor faced a 4.2 per cent swing against it in Queensland and a 4.3 per cent swing in Tasmania.
Nearly a fortnight after the federal election, only two seats remain close to call: Tasmania’s Bass, and Macquarie in NSW. The Liberals are ahead in Bass, which was previously held by Labor, while the ALP is narrowly in front in Macquarie.
Once counting is finalised, Labor is expected to have 68 seats, down one on the previous election. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who was sworn in on Wednesday along with his ministry, is on track to hold 77 lower house seats in the new parliament.
There will also be six crossbenchers in the 151-member House of Representatives.