Mr Shorten has decided against moving to the backbench and will serve on Labor’s frontbench in a move being widely interpreted by colleagues as a sign he still harbours leadership ambitions.
Several allies of Mr Shorten told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Thursday that the former union leader told them he has not abandoned the idea of regaining the Labor leadership despite being rejected by voters at the ballot box at two consecutive national elections.
A spokesman for Mr Shorten said the claim was “bullshit”.
“The only thing he’s up for is fighting for Labor values and uniting Labor to support the new leadership,” the spokesman said.
Mr Shorten used his speech to caucus to publicly endorse Mr Albanese as Labor’s 21st leader, despite the pair’s long-standing rivalry.
“I am ready to help you with uniting our party and carrying the case for Labor values to the Australian people,” Mr Shorten said. “Apart from [wife] Chloe and my family, this party, our collective cause, is my life. I love the Labor Party. I love the labour movement – always have and always will.”
Mr Albanese said Mr Shorten had a “significant role to play” over the next three years and defended his inclusion in shadow cabinet.
Mr Albanese will spend the next two days allocating frontbench portfolios but is unlikely to give his predecessor the prominent health portfolio, which the former leader has expressed interest in taking on. MPs also believe Mr Shorten has been angling for the prestigious foreign affairs role.
Under Labor’s rules, the Left and Right factions select who will form the frontbench but the leader allocates the portfolios. New entrants to the ministry include Katy Gallagher, Murray Watt, Matt Keogh, Madeleine King and Andrew Giles.
“Our team is a mix of new and emerging people coming through,” Mr Albanese said.
Mr Albanese is expected to overhaul his economics team and wants to send a more business-friendly signal to the private sector. Jim Chalmers is expected to replace Chris Bowen as shadow treasurer, with Mr Bowen possibly shifting to the industry portfolio. Clare O’Neil is tipped to be named finance spokesman while Canberra MP Andrew Leigh, who does not belong to any faction, was dumped from the frontbench altogether.
Victorian MP Richard Marles took the party’s deputy role unopposed while former NSW premier Kristina Keneally was elected Penny Wong’s deputy in the Senate after South Australian powerbroker Don Farrell stepped aside to make way for her fast-tracked promotion.
Mr Albanese denied the switch was a “captain’s call” but conceded Senator Farrell was “prepared to step aside as Labor’s deputy leader in the Senate on the basis that I had made it clear that my view was that there be gender balance in Labor’s leadership team”.
In a sign of her seniority in the party, Senator Wong is unlikely to be challenged for the foreign affairs portfolio, despite Mr Marles long coveting the role.
Labor is likely to hold 68 seats in the House of Representatives compared to the government’s 77.
The latest Australian Electoral Commission count shows Labor suffered a national swing against it of 1.34 per cent.
Latika Bourke is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in London.