Another day in the election without end

Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese at the Labor debate on Tuesday. Photo: Rob HomerFull politics coverage
Nanjing Night Net

Only a party that has thrown away government through years of leadership inconstancy could get themselves into this position.

Going on for three weeks after exhausted Australian voters went to the polling booths and gave Labor the heave-ho, two would-be Labor leaders – one Right, one Left – are travelling the nation debating about who ought to assume the actual leadership.

One is likely to end up the people’s choice; the other, the elected MPs’ favourite. Potentially awkward.

Welcome to the election without apparent end.

While Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese go to it, feigning to be as loving to each other as Bib and Bub, a former Labor Premier who went to the federal parliament for the purpose of travelling the world and now, 18 months later, finds himself wearied by the prospect of opposition, is debating with himself the most suitable date for retirement and chatting merrily over salad with Rupert Murdoch’s lieutenant, Col Pot Allan.

Bob Carr hasn’t said anything publicly, mind. He’s leaving the rest of the party to settle the succession before abdicating. Murdoch’s Mr Allan, you’d imagine, would have been derelict if he hadn’t offered a regular post-politics column over pudding during his Rockpool lunch with Mr Carr, who was, after all, once a journalist.

Back at the ALP’s carving table, where there is little but a carcass to pick over, the Australian Workers Union’s Paul Howes has had a press conference to announce he’s not going to offer himself for Carr’s putative Senate vacancy; the vanquished MP for Eden-Monaro, the moustached Mike Kelly, is publicly musing about making a bid for the yet-to-be-vacated spot; and in the backrooms of the NSW Right, a deal has allegedly been struck to ensure the freshly defeated Labor MP for the NSW seat of Robertson, Deborah O’Neill, (you’ve probably seen her on TV, nodding enthusiastically over Julia Gillard’s shoulder in Parliament), gets the job.

Meanwhile, the Australian Electoral Commission struggles bravely on through the byzantine intricacies of a voting system strewn with micro-parties and corrupted by their preference flows to figure out who might gain the last Senate seats in Western Australia. The Sports Party, the Palmer United Party, the Greens and Labor are all still in anxious contention.

Labor tragics enthuse about the continuing leadership contest between Mr Shorten and Mr Albanese, of course. It’s all about a new participatory democracy, an opportunity for the membership to renew itself by granting a grassroots say in who is to lead the party out of its new wilderness.

Less discussed is that it is the shotgun child of Kevin Rudd who introduced it as part of a vain attempt to ensure he remained leader for life. A great believer in people power was Mr Rudd. He invoked it to try to persuade the party to overthrow Julia Gillard in his favour in February 2012. Unaccountably, it failed. He called on people power to save the Labor Party at last month’s election. Another fail. Now people power in the form of the ALP membership is being given its say in who should lead the party in its post-Kevin phase.

What remains to be seen is whether there is a dreadful clash between people power and elected MPs when all the votes are counted. The MPs vote in caucus on October 10. The people’s vote will be concluded by then, but not counted until the MPs have made their choice.

The final, combined count will be announced on October 13. The distinct possibility is that Mr Shorten’s elected colleagues will have chosen him and the branch members will have chosen Mr Albanese.

If that sounds awkward – and new Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his colleagues are already licking their lips at the prospect of further Labor division, though Abbott won his own leadership by just one vote in the party room – you might consider the timing of the second debate between Mr Shorten and Mr Albanese.

It’s on Friday. In Melbourne. At 1pm. On AFL Grand Final eve, just as the tens of thousands watching the city’s grand final parade wend their way to the pub. Kevin Rudd on his worst day during the actual federal election campaign could hardly have organised a less appropriate arrangement.

All part of the election without end.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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