WHO COULD FIT THE BILL?

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - PAUL TOOHEY ANAL­Y­SIS

AC­CEPTED wis­dom, es­pe­cially among La­bor types, is that Bill Shorten will never win an elec­tion against Tony Ab­bott. That was the view prior to his royal com­mis­sion ap­pear­ance, and it’s not get­ting bet­ter.

Mr Shorten has a sin­cer­ity prob­lem. He’s got so much of it that no one be­lieves him.

No mat­ter the lessons of the Rudd/ Gil­lard years about de­cap­i­tat­ing in­cum­bent lead­ers, La­bor is no doubt think­ing hard about who will re­place Mr Shorten in com­ing weeks and months, in or­der to give him or her a clear run at an ex­pected late 2016 elec­tion.

It will also be think­ing about how best to re­place Mr Shorten with­out more dam­ag­ing spill mo­tions ( that is, by ask­ing Bill to go qui­etly).

Mr Ab­bott’s own lead­er­ship prob­lems – the one- di­men­sional man hold­ing a moral mega­phone – are so sig­nif­i­cant he would wither un­der a for­mi­da­ble La­bor op­po­nent and could, him­self, face re­place­ment.

That is un­less Mr Ab­bott was to call a snap elec­tion this year, and use the power of his in­cum­bency to re­tain of­fice.

Who are the pos­si­ble La­bor re­place­ments for Mr Shorten? It’s not a long list ( and re­mem­ber, they don’t nec­es­sar­ily need to come from within sit­ting La­bor ranks).

Though a Shorten sup­porter, Greg Com­bet would be the ul­ti­mate La­bor choice, if a by- elec­tion op­por­tu­nity arose.

Com­bet has in­tegrity and steely pres­ence. He is per­sua­sive, in­tel­li­gent, has public recog­ni­tion and is con­sid­ered a no-

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bull­shit guy. He re­signed in 2013 af­ter com­ing into Par­lia­ment in 2007, for two rea­sons: his dis­gust at La­bor lead­er­ship in­fight­ing, and per­sonal health prob­lems. Were his health now man­age­able, Com­bet could beat Ab­bott.

Union guy Paul Howes is the big deal – if you’re a La­bor sup­porter. Young, smart, a sell­able tale of a dif­fi­cult per­sonal up­bring­ing, he’s seen in the party as “Shorten with balls”.

The for­mer na­tional sec­re­tary of the Aus­tralian Work­ers’ Union has strong re­spect and rea­son­able public recog­ni­tion. He also has youth ( he’s still only 34) that could prove highly ap­peal­ing across the elec­torate. Would need to en­ter Par­lia­ment at a by- elec­tion.

Jason Clare, the Op­po­si­tion spokesman on com­mu­ni­ca­tions, has a de­cent head and doesn’t get tied up in the man­u­fac­tured an­swers – of which Shorten has be­come the in­tol­er­a­ble master. Clare looks good and speaks well. But no one knows Clare, yet.

Tanya Plibersek is smart and well­spo­ken – and heav­ily en­cum­bered by the Left. You hear around the place that she’s got the goods.

But Plibersek needs to aban­don her uni- stu­dent in­stincts and find a voice that speaks to Mid­dle Aus­tralia. Plibersek has

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also been sti­fled as For­eign Af­fairs shadow, hav­ing been placed di­rectly op­po­site the hugely pop­u­lar Julie Bishop.

No one men­tioned above has more ap­ti­tude or tal­ent than for­mer trea­surer, Chris Bowen. But Bowen puts peo­ple off.

He can com­mu­ni­cate but is not a good lis­tener – he al­ways gives off a sense that he knows best. Ca­pa­ble, hon­est – but has a cer­tain shark cold­ness that does not yell of a PM- in- wait­ing.

An­thony Al­banese is a cross­fac­tional player and one of the few se­nior La­bor fig­ures to emerge from the Rud­dGil­lard wars with his in­tegrity in­tact. Has a “good” back­story of be­ing raised by a sin­gle mum.

He knows eco­nom­ics, can ne­go­ti­ate within his party and with his op­po­nents, and is among La­bor’s strong­est play­ers.

Al­banese doesn’t have great public ap­peal and is seen as more at home in Can­berra cor­ri­dors than the streets.

That could change were he given the job.

Mr Shorten has a sin­cer­ity prob­lem. He’s got so much of it that no one be­lieves him

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La­bor Leader Bill Shorten.

Greg Com­bet.

Paul Howes.

Jason Clare.

Tanya Plibersek.

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