by MICHELLE GRATTAN
Bill Shorten has become opposition leader, with a strong win among Labor MPs comfortably overcoming his defeat in the party’s rank and file vote.
After a month long process in which nearly three-quarters of the party membership voted and the ALP gained thousands of new members, Shorten, from the right, beat Anthony Albanese, from the left, with 52.02% of the combined vote.
In caucus Shorten gained several more votes than expected, 55 to Albanese’s 31, which represented nearly 64% of the parliamentary party. The rank and file voted 59.9% in favour of Albanese compared with 40.1% for Shorten.
Shorten declared this “a brand new day” for the ALP – and promised to be a less “relentlessly negative” opposition leader than Tony Abbott had been.
“I believe it is important to hold the Coalition to account,” he told a news conference. “But what I also believe is that the Labor Party needs to be able to explain to people what it stands for, and I think we can.
“I am sufficiently ambitious for Labor and for Australia that at the next election people will seek the Labor how-to-vote card because we do have the best policies on science, research, innovation and higher education, because people do see our policies as speaking up for those who don’t have a voice in society.”
Governor-General Quentin Bryce, who is Shorten’s mother-in-law, offered her resignation to Prime Minister Tony Abbott to avoid any perception of bias.
But Abbott declined to accept it, indicating there was not a problem – she would end her term anyway in March and the government commanded a significant majority in the House of Representatives. Abbott said he had thanked her for her magnanimity, but believed it was “only fit and proper that she be permitted to conclude her term and be accorded the appropriate farewell that her exemplary service merits.” Bryce made the approach and she and Abbott spoke on Saturday.