Progressive Albanese to heal and rebuild

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If the ALP want to heal the divisions of the past four years and rebuild both their party and the progressive side of politics, then they must choose Anthony Albanese, says Lionel Grant.

Albanese 4
From Gee's recent tribute to Albanese. Click on image to see the full spread.

WITH THOSE on the progressive side of politics shuddering at the thought of enduring at least three years of Abbott rule, an early distraction has come with the new mechanism for choosing the Labor Party leader.

Following in largely similar footsteps of fellow Laborites in the United Kingdom, about 40 000 grassroots ALP members will step up to place a vote which, overall, is to be given equal weighting to the votes placed by those in federal caucus.

Two intelligent, respected and seemingly formidable politicians vie for the leadership roleAnthony Albanese and Bill Shorten ‒ and are likely to renew interest and maybe even trust in national politics in the coming weeks as this month long process unfolds.

However, only one of the two seems likely to be  able to restore the trust required to propel Labor out of the deep, dark valleys of division voters were exposed to over four years. Shorten’s key role in replacing both Rudd with Gillard and Gillard with Rudd may have some Australian’s scratching their heads as they consider the future integrity of progressive politics. Albanese, however, never left anyone is any doubt he was sticking by his man — the originally elected Mr Rudd. As leader of the House of Representatives, Albanese may have used his incisive public speaking skills and argument articulation ability with powerful precision to defend the Gillard government at almost every step in recent years, but has never wavered in matters of personal integrity.

Raised by a single mother in state housing in Sydney, the last deputy prime minister has inspired many of his colleagues to stay strong to core centre-left values rather than lunging to the right. Social issues and civil liberties, such as euthanasia and same-sex marriage, are matters Albanese has been outspoken about.

In his maiden speech to Parliament in 1996, Albanese voiced his support for multiculturalism, native title, social wage and childcare. Throughout his first year in the house, he backed the Northern Territories’ then controversial euthanasia legislation.

Albanese was committed to marriage law reform so intently that in 2011 he actively campaigned on the subject despite Julia Gillard’s opposition to same-sex marriage. Albanese told reporters:

Elton John had a message for delegates of the ALP conference, which is we need to be open about the fact that people exist in terms of different relationships and love is real."

He was so influential within the party that he managed to change to party’s platform on it at the 2011 national conference, despite the ensuing conscience vote falling short — largely due to Gillard’s position.

An economics graduate with left faction leanings, Albanese will likely bring forward market friendly, fair and socially responsible policy ideas. The coming month will tell us a great deal more about his policy ambitions should he win the leadership. This is where Albanese could likely reunite a divided party base in the wake of its heavy defeat. An opportunity lies before him to remind the Labor faithful they didn’t join the party of the centre to veer rightward, but to fight for an economically free, yet socially compassionate, Australia. These elements indicate that Albanese would be more willing to work with minor parties and independents than many of the leaders before him.

This half-Italian, half-Irish, Aussie dad ‒ obsessed with Triple J music and the Rabbitohs ‒ seems to have the fire to take on Tony Abbott. With appeal to the left and right, he is sharp and witty with potential to fast run rings around a Prime Minister elected merely by default. Sudden outbreaks of political humour, such as calling the 2011 truck rally to Canberra protest the "convoy of no consequence" must give even his greatest opponents a giggle.

Endorsed by Russell Crowe over the weekend and promising a polite and ideas driven debate for Labour’s top job, expect honesty, articulation and inspiration from the man could one day be the Prime Minister.

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