‘We have a religion problem’: Chris Bowen
AUSTRALIANS of faith believe the Labor Party has abandoned them, Chris Bowen warned yesterday as he withdrew from the ALP leadership contest just 29 hours after announcing that he was a candidate.
Mr Bowen issued the broadside as he withdrew from the leadership race, saying he lacked support, just a day after declaring his candidacy while standing outside the fibro home formerly owned by his parents.
It came as young Queensland right wing MP Jim Chalmers was being urged on Wednesday night by his faction to step up and run against Anthony Albanese to lead the party, even though all factions concede the Sydney MP would win any rank and file ballot.
Mr Bowen's comments on religion were a clear swipe at Bill Shorten who sensationally attacked Prime Minister Scott Morrison over his faith in the final week of the election, which critics claimed backfired on Labor.
"People of faith no longer feel that progressive politics cares about them," Mr Bowen said. "These are people with a social conscience who want to be included in the progressive movement. We need to tackle this urgently. I think this is an issue from the federal election that we simply haven't yet focused on."
Mr Bowen's own seat of McMahon has one of the highest proportions of religious voters in the country and recorded an anti-Labor swing of 5.34 per cent. Swings away from Labor were also logged in similar western Sydney seats including Fowler (-2.64), Werriwa (-1.77), Blaxland (-3.89) and Chifley (-6.7)
The shadow treasurer's remarks were also seen by some MPs as an effort to distract from his role in the party's defeat, in particular his damaging retirees' tax which stirred a backlash at the ballot box.
Mr Bowen's decision came less than eight hours after he declaring during an interview "I think I'd get a majority of the vote in the Labor caucus" - a statement which appeared to prompt a conga line of MPs from both factions to announce their support for Mr Albanese, including his right-wing factional colleagues Tony Burke and Kristina Keneally.
After Mr Bowen's announcement, NSW right powerbroker Joel Fitzgibbon said he would not put his hand up after having flirted with the idea and also threw his support behind Mr Albanese.
Policy challenges are already looming for Labor, whoever wins the leadership with the Federal Party under pressure to explicitly back the Adani coal mine to win back Queensland Labor voters.
Asked on Wednesday if he supported Adani, Mr Albanese said he would not make policy on the run.
"If you can show me your party card I'll have a chat with you afterwards. I'll be talking directly to party members."
Mr Chalmers, who had been silent on his intentions despite widely named as a contender, revealed on Twitter that he was actively considering standing.
"I'm being encouraged to nominate for leader and I'll now consider my options overnight," he said.
The 41-year-old was first elected in 2013 and had been former treasurer Wayne Swan's chief of staff.
He said the ALP needed to "rebuild, refresh and renew" and that he wanted to play a "prominent role".
Queensland MPs have backed Mr Chalmers with key supporter Senator Anthony Chisholm saying branch members as well as the parliamentary teams were "interestingly" getting behind the young prospect.
Right-wing MP Milton Dick said there needed to be a Queenslander in the leadership group and that he would support Mr Chalmers.
Another senior member of the right from outside NSW likened Mr Chalmers to former UK prime minister Tony Blair saying he "speaks well and is photogenic".
Mr Fitzgibbon said he had spoken to Mr Albanese and felt the needs of regional Australia would be looked after.
"I've had a long discussion with Albo about my demands that the party strengthens its focus on regional Australia, provides it with a meaningful seat at the party's decision- making table and engages more on the issues which matter most to working people living in our great regions," he said.
Senator Penny Wong appeared to send a warning to Bill Shorten amid reports he was actively trying to prevent her left-wing colleague Mr Albanese from becoming leader.
"I would be surprised if that were occurring. It wouldn't be consistent with the role of a former leader or current interim leader and it would undermine the unity that Bill has been such an important part in rebuilding," she said.
Deputy leader Tanya Plibersek, also from the NSW left faction, ruled herself out on Monday.
If Mr Chalmers stands the leadership will be decided by a vote of grassroots members and the federal parliamentary caucus with each group given 50 per cent weight.
But if he chooses not to stand and Mr Albanese is unopposed there would be no ballot.
COMMENT: PARTY BASE MOTIVES THE TEST OF LEADERSHIP
Chris Bowen's short-lived bid to lead the party he'd just helped push to electoral defeat was never anything but deluded.
However, his willingness to declare on Wednesday, as he withdrew from the leadership race, that in fact he would have had a majority of caucus support was worse than deluded - it was damaging to a party already on its knees.
To tell Australia that the favourite to lead the Australian Labor Party, Anthony Albanese, won't really be the man the caucus wants is perfectly exemplary of Bowen's devastating lack of political nous.
It would be hard for regular voters to observe the past few days of the Labor three-ring circus without concluding that they made precisely the right call when they sent the party a hard no on the question of whether it was ready to govern.
Bowen's humiliating and no doubt painful about-face from an impassioned bid outside his parents' old fibro home to a backdown in less than 30 hours told a tale of a man with limited self-awareness.
It was as if he'd been stunned by the snark bouncing around over the idea of his leadership.
Almost every piece of journalism written about his bid reflected on the fact that it was marred by his economic policies on taxing retirees which helped push Labor over a cliff to electoral defeat.
Almost every piece also reflected on that moment of hubris when he declared if you don't like it don't vote for us.
Bowen thought he could explain all that away. To his credit, he (partly) admitted his mistakes. But the Australian people already told him on Saturday they wouldn't buy what he was selling.
The Albanese camp will push the message that he lost the leadership to Shorten at the last ballot because of factional power plays in the caucus and he will argue that the party must not let that happen again.
Labor was given the message on Saturday that it needs to do better reflecting its base.
This leadership contest will be the first test of whether it has taken any notice.
- Anna Caldwell
TURNCOAT BANKS ATTACK
Unsuccessful independent candidate and Liberal defector Julia Banks has taken a parting shot at her former party, lashing out at alleged "tribalism and toxic culture".
Ms Banks praised the "authentic and inspiring leadership" of Malcolm Turnbull and his deputy Julie Bishop.
"To those in the Liberal Party including some current and former members of parliament who engaged in this behaviour, I say this: You don't own me - you never did," she said.
"My hope is that the right wing conservative faction don't continue to drown out addressing climate change emergency nor the Australian ethos of equality for all and humanitarian spirit."
LABOR'S RECKONING ON ADANI MINE
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has made the astonishing claim she is "fed up" with her own government's delays on the Adani mine.
Ms Palaszczuk declared "enough is enough" on Wednesday, revealing she was calling in state co-ordinator-general Barry Broe to mediate between Adani and the Department of Environment and develop a clear deadline for a decision on the coal mine.
"I've been in tougher battles than this," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"I think that the community is fed up with the process.
"I know I am fed up with the process. I know my local members are fed up with it. I think everyone has had a gutful, quite frankly."
The Labor government had been accused of frustrating the mine's approval process to pander to environmentalists at the expense of Queensland jobs.
Ms Palaszczuk also apologised for the federal election result.
"I am really sorry that Labor let you down. I am really sorry that happened," she said.
- Steven Wardill