Bill Shorten eyes disability portfolio as Kristina Keneally’s ambitions thwarted

But Senator Wong’s status as the party’s most senior woman and a close factional ally of Anthony Albanese means she will keep oversight of foreign affairs.

Several Labor MPs believe Mr Shorten still harbours leadership ambitions and wants to remain on the frontbench despite leading the party to two consecutive election losses.

The former Labor leader has made it clear he would be interested in serving as health spokesman, a portfolio currently held by Victorian MP Catherine King.

Another option being considered is to make him the spokesman for the national disability scheme, a less senior role than health, and a potential new frontbench position following the portfolio’s elevation to a standalone, cabinet-level position in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ministry at the weekend.

Were Mr Shorten to take on the disability portfolio it would bring his parliamentary career full circle. He was one of the scheme’s first backers when he came into parliament in 2007 and served as assistant minister for disabilities under then prime minister Kevin Rudd. Mr Rudd later revealed the ambitious MP felt the job was beneath him at the time.

Foreign affairs spokewoman Penny Wong is set to become the Opposition’s most senior woman.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Labor MPs will meet in Canberra on Thursday and are expected to vote for defence spokesman Mr Marles as deputy leader.

Before the caucus meeting the party’s Left and Right factions will each hold meetings to tick off on their candidates for the frontbench.

The Sydney Morning Herald/The Age has learned South Australian power broker Don Farrell is the frontrunner to win the deputy Senate leader position.

Sources have confirmed Senator Farrell, who is affectionately called “The Godfather” in South Australian circles, has the backing of the Right faction to take the position.

While touted as a star campaigner on the Bill Shorten’s campaign bus, NSW senator Kristina Keneally has failed to impress her factional colleagues in the powerful NSW Right who believe she spends more time promoting herself rather than the team.


They pointed to her swift change in her Twitter cover photograph last week, from an image of her campaigning with Bill Shorten, to one of her with Anthony Albanese, who was anointed as the party’s new leader on Monday.

Mr Albanese will allocate frontbench portfolios and is expected to name Queensland MP Jim Chalmers as shadow treasurer.

Mr Albanese said on Tuesday he was in no rush to unveil his frontbench lineup and promised Queenslanders would play a significant role in his shadow ministry.

Latika Bourke is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in London.

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