After Bill Shorten’s dismal failure in the unlosable election, however, this could be Anthony Albanese’s moment.
The 56-year-old MP for Grayndler in Sydney’s west has declared his intention to run for the leadership, and looks set to run unopposed after Tanya Plibersek declined to compete and Chris Bowen pulled out.
Last night, he vowed a Labor Party he leads would have a “different emphasis” on how it would “create wealth” for Australians to the one Mr Shorten created.
“I think that one of the things we need to explain more clearly is how we will not only share wealth, but how we’ll create wealth,” he told The Project. “I have a long history of involvement particularly in the infrastructure side. I see investment in infrastructure as being critical.
“We do need to stand up for the environment when it comes to climate change and I don’t think there’s a contradiction … Good policy in terms of sustainability creates jobs.
“We need to have a plan and explain the role of government working with the private sector to improve people’s security and living standards.”
He has support not only from Labor’s leader in the Upper House, Penny Wong, but from Kristina Keneally and Tony Burke on the New South Wales right.
Mr Albanese could be the man who succeeds where Mr Shorten fell short, providing a real challenge to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Coalition government.
WHAT’S HIS PERSONAL BACKGROUND?
Growing up with a single mother in public housing in inner Sydney’s Camperdown, Mr Albanese faced tough times from the start. His Irish mother Maryanne Ellery met his Italian father Carlo Albanese on a cruise ship, but the couple did not pursue a relationship and the young Anthony was told his dad had died in a car crash.
In 2009, he tracked down his father in Italy, and discovered he had two half-siblings.
He attended a Catholic school and started working full-time at the Commonwealth Bank just weeks after finishing his HSC, then taking an evening and weekend job stacking shelves at Grace Bros department store, before he took by far his best-paid job at Pancakes on the Rocks, where he earned triple time for the Saturday night 11pm to 7am shift. The worst job was hosing pigeon droppings from a warehouse wall for $50 a day.
He continued working while studying economics at Sydney University, where he met young people from privileged backgrounds for the first time, and discovered a world of possibility.
“I was the first person in my family to finish school, let alone go to university,” he told news.com.au at his Marrickville office after publishing his book Albanese: Telling it Straight. “I’d never met anyone from the North Shore before.”
In 2000, he married Carmel Tebbutt, former Deputy Premier of New South Wales, and the couple have a son. They announced their separation in January.
WHAT’S HIS POLITICAL EXPERIENCE?
Albo started out as research officer to then Minister for Local Government and Administrative Services Tom Uren, became Assistant General Secretary of NSW Labor in 1989, and senior adviser to NSW Premier Bob Carr in 1995.
He won the seat of Grayndler the following year, telling parliament in his maiden speech: “I will be satisfied if I can be remembered as someone who will stand up for the interests of my electorate, for working class people, for the labour movement, and for our progressive advancement as a nation into the next century.”
From 2001 he served as Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors, Employment Services and Training and Environment and Heritage.
He was Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Minister for Regional Development and Local Government and Leader of the House of Representatives in the Rudd government in 2007 — described as the PM’s “headkicker”.
He told news.com.au of that time: “Keeping together the minority government, where we had 70 votes on the floor of the House out of 150, that was tough. It was enjoyable, it was fascinating, it was exhilarating, but it was tough.”
He offered his resignation to Julia Gillard when she took over as PM, but she refused to accept it. When Kevin Rudd returned to power in 2013 with Mr Albanese’s support, the Grayndler MP became Deputy Prime Minister, but after Labor crashed out of government, he narrowly lost the leadership race to Mr Shorten. He served as Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Shadow Minister for Tourism and Shadow Minister for Cities in Mr Shorten’s cabinet.
WHAT DOES HE CARE ABOUT?
“Albo is the outstanding parliamentarian of our generation,” Senator Wong told reporters in Adelaide this week, “Anthony Albanese knows who he is and he knows what he stands for. He’s a man of authenticity and integrity.
“He’s got a capacity to speak to people across this great country, to speak to people in the regions and in the outer suburbs, as well as in our cities.”
The Labor leadership candidate is progressive and supports social care, childcare provisions, native title and diversity. He campaigned for the rights of same-sex couples to superannuation from early in his career, and supported marriage equality. He fought against nuclear power during John Howard’s tenure as prime minister, but caused controversy when he labelled a group of protesters against carbon pricing and rising fuel costs “the convoy of no consequence”.
Like his mother, Mr Albanese is a lifelong supporter of the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Unlike her, he does not practice Catholicism.
He’s also an ardent indie music lover, who adores The Smith, Joy Division and The Pixies.
Most of all, he loves activism.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT?
“What you see is what you get with me,” he told the ABC’s 7.30 on Monday. “And I think I’m in the best position to take Labor forward into government.”
He has previously accused the government of being “complacent”, but is not afraid to fraternise with the enemy, even sharing a few drinks in Christopher Pyne’s office.
“I’m pragmatic,” he told news.com.au. “I want to make a difference, not just make a noise.”
Speaking about an electorate battle with the Greens in 2016, he told news.com.au: “I’m in the Labor Party because I want to be in a party of government, not a party that protests government decisions after they’ve been made. I want to make those decisions.”
Discussing Labor’s failed election campaign, he told The Australian that he wanted to drop the “terrible” anti-business language. “Unions and businesses have a common interest,” he said. “Successful businesses are a precondition for employing more workers, and that is obvious … if elected, I would look for solutions, not arguments.
“We need to be able to explain how government can ensure change is in the interest of working people.”
He told news.com.au he believes many in government are “complacent” and think they have a right to be in charge. “Too many of them have come from a born to rule mentality and they think government’s easy — it’s not.
“I had to fight for things, and I think if you’re about change then it’s more likely that you’ll have to fight for it than if you’re about the status quo.”