June 15th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Anthony Albanese: NSW left factional warlord takes charge

EDITORIAL Religious freedom: the political and legislative challenges

CANBERRA OBSERVED Will Bill Shorten emerge from the shadows again?

FEDERAL ELECTION Queensland voted for jobs, life and country

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Keating's 'nutters': Don't blame the messenger

ECONOMICS AND SOCIETY Health policy is not immune from neoliberal infection

HUMAN RIGHTS Canada accepts Asia Bibi and family as refugees

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Families keeping the faith: the Benedict and other options

IDEOLOGY Feminist claims for equality, Part 1: The context

HISTORY OF SCIENCE Faith and reason and Father Stanley Jaki, Part 3: More on science and ancient cultures

LIFE ISSUES Families, youth boost crowd at WA Rally for Life

MUSIC Muse of delight: The laugh ascending

CINEMA Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion

BOOK REVIEW Pioneering aviator's flights and fancies

BOOK REVIEW Catholic resistance in a forgotten war

BOOK REVIEW AFA patron's long life of public service


NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell's appeal, June 5-6, 2019: An account from the live streaming

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COVER STORY Anthony Albanese: NSW left factional warlord takes charge

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, June 15, 2019


  • All other contenders for the ALP leadership inexplicably pulled out of the race against Albo shortly after announcing their intention
  • Tanya Plibersek did not even contest for the deputy leadership, which should have been hers for the taking

The unchallenged accession of Anthony (Albo) Albanese to the leadership of the federal parliamentary Labor Party can only be understood in light of his long history of leadership of the left in the New South Wales ALP. This background can already be seen to inform his actions as leader of the ALP.

Albo’s accession to the leadership was extraordinary. Despite the fact that he was not the deputy leader of the parliamentary party, he was elected unopposed to the top position.

Curiously, several well-placed candidates who publicly announced that they intended to run, suddenly (and unconvincingly) announced their withdrawal.

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, from the NSW right wing of the party, announced his candidature on May 22, four days after the election defeat. He told the media: “Over the last 48 hours I’ve been on the phone to colleagues. I’ve been very pleased with the response.

“It’s clear to me that I would have majority support in the actual caucus ballot.

“Not a big majority, but majority support with some support from the left faction as well as support from the right faction, and people that aren’t in any faction. But it’s also clear to me, I’m a realist, that Albo would win the rank and file for good reason. He’s a popular character. By a good margin.” (ABC News, May 22, 2019)

A day later, Bowen unexpectedly withdrew his nomination for the leadership. One possible reason is that he was promised a top job on Labor’s front bench, in exchange for his withdrawal.

Religious freedom

When announcing his withdrawal, Bowen said: “I have noticed as I have been around during the election campaign, and even in the days since, how often it has been raised with me that people of faith no longer feel that ‘progressive’ politics cares about them.”

There could be little doubt that his comments were directed to the green-left secularists who are attempting to remove existing protections for believers and religious organisations that have exemptions under anti-discrimination laws.

Another senior Labor MP, Jim Chalmers, the shadow finance minister, also threw his hat in the ring, telling a national audience on the ABC’s Q&A program that he was considering running for leader of the party.

He said: “I’m considering it. I’m talking to my colleagues about it. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that a few of us take some time to work out what we want to do.”

No sooner had he said this, than Albanese’s supporters pounced on him.

The Sydney Morning Herald wrote: “Many senior Labor figures are ‘fuming’ at his conduct this week after he floated himself as a leadership contender on the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night.

“An MP in the NSW right said Mr Chalmers had ‘massively overestimated the level of support he has’ and the powerful faction would actively campaign against him if he nominated for the leadership position.” (May 22, 2019)

A left-wing union leader, Paddy Crumlin, said Mr Chalmers lacked the profile to become Labor leader.

“No one knows Chalmers, who is he? He’s another blow-in,” Crumlin said.

Facing threats of reprisals, Chalmers withdrew from the contest.

Most interesting was the action of Labor’s former deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek, who also announced that she was considering standing for leader, following Labor’s defeat. Plibersek, a long-time factional ally of Albanese, suddenly announced that she was not able to stand for leader “for family reasons”.

Not only did she abandon her quest for leadership, but she also announced that she would not recontest the deputy leadership, despite being reported, in the week before the election, as the prospective deputy prime minister in a Shorten government. (The Sydney Morning Herald, May 15, 2019)

She knew that her place as deputy leader would be taken by a man.

Plibersek, a champion of the feminist network in the ALP and long-time proponent of quotas for women in public life, apparently abandoned this principle to give Anthony Albanese a clean run at the leadership.

Interestingly, the defeated Labor leader, Bill Shorten, called many of his parliamentary colleagues after Labor’s loss, initially to back Tanya Plibersek for leader, and, when she withdrew, to warn against Albanese’s accession to the leadership.

Shorten was then publicly criticised for “interference” in the leadership battle, although as a sitting MP, he participates in the selection process.

The withdrawal of Bowen, Plibersek and Chalmers points to the fact that Albanese employed his skill in factional warfare to secure the leadership of the ALP unopposed.

We will find out how he uses his new power soon enough. The early signs are not at all promising.

Before visiting Queensland, where Labor lost the “unloseable” election on the issue of expanding the thermal coal industry, Albo said that Labor questioned the economics of coalmining, and reaffirmed Labor’s commitment to stop climate change.

The fact that the economics of coalmining is a question for the mine operator, not the ALP, and that cuts to Australian carbon-dioxide emissions have no impact on global warming, did not occur to him.

Peter Westmore is the publisher of News Weekly.

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