Former Australian education minister Bill Shorten yesterday announced his candidacy for the Australian Labor Party (ALP) leadership, vowing to rebuild the party after years of infighting saw it toppled from power in recent national elections.
Shorten, a powerful and highly ambitious right-wing factional leader, said the ALP could take back the government “if we are the party of ideas, not just personalities.”
Even as he announced his bid to lead the party forward, a senior party figure claimed former ALP leader Kevin Rudd, who was toppled as prime minister on Saturday and is facing pressure to quit politics entirely, is planning a comeback.
Former trade minister Craig Emerson, a staunch supporter of Rudd’s predecessor, Julia Gillard, said he had been told the 55-year-old wants to be prime minister again.
“Historians will note that Andrew Fisher served as a Labor prime minister on three separate occasions [1908 to 1909, 1910 to 1913, and 1914 to 1915],” he said yesterday in a column for the Australian newspaper titled: “Rudd wants to be leader again.”
“Rudd has told three journalists at this newspaper that he wants to emulate Fisher and become a three-time Labor prime minister. He has described himself as a ‘determined bastard,’” Emerson wrote.
Rudd’s popularity with the Australian public came crashing down on Saturday when he was soundly defeated in national elections by conservative Tony Abbott, as voters punished the ALP at the ballot box for years of infighting.
He announced his resignation as ALP chief and pressure has been building on him to quit politics altogether amid concerns he would be a destabilizing influence on the party and whoever takes over the top job.
Former deputy prime minister Anthony Albanese is considered to be the only other serious candidate for the leadership, and is yet to publicly say whether he wants the job.
While having plenty of allies, some in the party will be wary over Shorten’s backroom role in toppling Rudd as prime minister in 2010, and his part in the downfall of Gillard earlier this year.
Shorten admitted he had “some responsibility” for the ALP infighting, but said he always had the party’s best interests at heart.
Nominations for the leadership are expected to be called at a Labor caucus meeting today.