WHO COULD FIT THE BILL?
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-
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
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
Labor Leader Bill Shorten.