Is there any truth to the Albo leadership rumours?


RUMOURS of an Albo ascendancy to the Labor leadership are the product of Government mischief making and a decent dose of wishful thinking.

And the only people giving them credence are outside the Labor Party.

But there also is a smattering of circumstantial evidence said to point to Anthony Albanese, the opposition transport and infrastructure spokesman, taking aim at Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

A speech Mr Albanese gave in Fremantle yesterday is being interpreted as a deliberate attack on Mr Shorten's response to the Government's Budget.

It is either the most subtle declaration of war on a leader or not as defiant as it is being depicted. The speech was seen by Mr Shorten's office in advance and caused no bother then, and still doesn't.

Mr Albanese told a Transport Workers' Union conference the Budget had embraced Labor values in education, health and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

This was seen as conflicting with Mr Shorten's view the Budget didn't match Labor values on fairness

Mr Albanese later told reporters: "I think what I said was perfectly consistent with what Bill Shorten did in his Budget Reply. This is a government led by Malcolm Turnbull that says now that it supports universal health care through Medicare."

Labor front bencher Andrew Leigh today dismissed the claims of clashing positions: "I think this is a distinction without a difference."

Opposition leader Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese this month.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese this month. News Corp Australia

There is another element of supposed evidence which has more to do with Mr Albanese's boarding passes than his Budget comments.

He has covered most of the continent in recent months and his political foes claim the packed travel schedule is a sign he's promoting his leadership chances.

Certainly he's one of the hardest working figures in politics and so far in May has been to Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Launceston.

Mr Albanese has in that time and travel given at least 22 interviews and speeches, and issued 18 press releases. And he has kept up his strategically important semi-permanent gigs with a national TV breakfast show and with a popular Adelaide radio station.

Only a party leader - or, it's said, a wanna be leader - has that type of work rate, and the Liberals use the Albo activity record as evidence he is hunting for the job held by Mr Shorten.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is among the Coalition front benchers who toss the taunt at Mr Albanese and Mr Shorten in Question Time.

There have been individual incidents exploited in the name of leadership rumours.

When Mr Albanese was outraged by the Labor advertisement with an all white cast - including Mr Shorten - it was portrayed by Liberals as a shot at his leader.

Anthony Albanese’s response to the Labor ad was seen by some as a dig at Bill Shorten.
Anthony Albanese’s response to the Labor ad was seen by some as a dig at Bill Shorten. Supplied

It wasn't. It was a gut reaction to the lack of diversity and the fact the advertisement had not been run past the ALP national executive, of which Mr Albanese is a member.

Countering all the rumours is Mr Albanese's declared principles include one which roughly says, "I will not bring down a Labor leader."

He stood by that principle when Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were removed as Prime Ministers. And he has stood by Bill Shorten.

"We are a team," he said yesterday when the leadership speculation surfaced again.

Mr Albanese consults with the leader's office frequently, and forwards his speeches in advance.

But have no doubt: He thinks he could be the leader.

Mr Shorten won the leadership narrowly in October 2013, in the first ballot involving rank-and-file members and Caucus members. The final breakdown was roughly 52 per cent to 48 per cent.

Mr Albanese won 60 per cent of the party membership vote but just 36 per cent of support from parliamentary colleagues.

Immediately afterwards he was somewhat grumpy over the result but then re-committed himself to the work of Opposition under Mr Shorten.

In the first three months of this year he talked with rank and file members around the country to see how he rated, in part to help him decide whether to stand again in his inner-city seat of Grayndler.

But the only way Mr Albanese would stand for the leadership would be if there was a vacancy, and not one from a coup he had generated.

There are other obstacles. It would be a big ask to plead for the removal of a leader who took the Opposition so close to government last year. If there is one thing Mr Albanese does well it's the numbers.

Further, the reformed leadership ballot rules, with both member and Caucus votes, complicate the process.

And it would be hard to claim the job while the Opposition has for so long been ahead of the Government in opinion polls.

So why all the travel? As one of his advisers puts simply: Man does job.

News Corp Australia

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