Anthony Albanese has survived the December ‘killing season’ but making it to the next election as Labor leader could be a different story, writes CHARLIE MOORE
- Labor leader Anthony Albanese under pressure after revolt from Joel Fitzgibbon
- Some right-faction MPs are concerned they will lose their seats at election
- Insiders say that if there is a leadership spill it will happen early next year
- Jim Chalmers, Chris Bowen, Richard Marles and Tanya Plibersek could run
In his end-of-year speech in parliament on Thursday, an emotional Anthony Albanese told colleagues how much he has enjoyed leading the Labor Party.
The 57-year-old, who grew up on a Sydney council estate, admitted he never expected to be in charge, adding: ‘You won’t find any school yearbooks from me saying ”I am going to be the leader”.
‘It is just an incredible honour that I cherish and I’m humbled… I’m very proud that you’ve given me the honour of leading you,’ he said.
Anthony Albanese buys a round of beers after announcing he would run for leadership in May 2019
They were the sort of sentimental words you might expect in a valedictory resignation speech – and may be a sign that Mr Albanese suspects his days could be numbered as he struggles to compete with Scott Morrison.
Alternatively, they could be interpreted as a warning to his leadership rivals that he won’t go down without a fight.
Last month Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon, from the right faction of the party, resigned from the front bench and threatened to topple the left-wing leader if he doesn’t move Labor to the centre and focus on the economy instead of climate change.
‘I’ve given him a big warning and another chance and we’ll see whether he can grasp that opportunity or if we’ll have to go to the next step,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
Mr Fitzgibbon said he has ‘significant support’ for his point of view among colleagues although no-one else so far has publicly opposed Mr Albanese.
The concern is that the leader, who represents the inner-Sydney seat of Grayndler, is failing to appeal to mainstream Aussies and blue-collar workers, particularly in regional areas such as the NSW Hunter Valley and central Queensland.
The Liberals sense this and believe Mr Albanese will be easier to beat than a more centrist contender such as Jim Chalmers, Chris Bowen or Richard Marles.
One Liberal MP told Daily Mail Australia: ‘We’ve got to keep Albo alive. With Marles or Chalmers the quiet Australians may have a sniff at Labor – but they’re not with Albo.’
Mr Albanese has struggled to land a significant blow on the government despite its various scandals including approving sports grants in Coalition seats and overpaying for land at Western Sydney Airport.
Leadership race: Chris Bowen (left) and Jim Chalmers (right) are future contenders for the top job
The latest Newspoll on 29 November put Mr Morrison 32 points ahead of Mr Albanese as preferred prime minister, although the parties were close with the Coalition leading 51-49.
Labor insiders say that ultimately there will be a leadership spill in the first five months of next year if enough MPs fear they will lose their seats at the next election.
Mr Morrison has said he will last a ‘full term’ – which ends in May 2022 – but those close to him say he is pragmatic and could call an election towards the end of next year to capitalise on his success at dealing with Covid-19.
Labor politicians believe that is likely and, as such, any spill would have to occur soon to give a new leader enough time to have a chance at overthrowing the prime minister.
Something that may hold challengers back is fear they’ll forfeit any future leadership ambitions if they lose to Mr Morrison who will be hot favourite to claim another three years in power.
Those close to Mr Chalmers, for example, believe the shadow treasurer is more likely to wait for a vacancy than challenge Mr Albanese.
‘He believes the leadership should be handed to him,’ one Labor politician told Daily Mail Australia.
Supporters say Tanya Plibersek (left) would have more ‘cut through’ with voters than Mr Albanese
Defence spokesman Richard Marles and health spokesman Chris Bowen are also being talked about as contenders, as well as education spokesman Tanya Plibersek.
Mr Fitzgibbon could run himself but insiders say he knows not enough colleagues would back him.
Ms Plibersek, the member for Sydney, is from the left faction of the party but supporters say she would have more ‘cut through’ with voters than Mr Albanese.
If none put their hats in the ring then Bill Shorten – who lost the ‘unlosable’ election in 2019 – could re-take the top job, but sources say that scenario seems less likely.
Despite a turbulent finish to the year, Mr Albanese survived the December ‘killing season’ that saw Paul Keating overthrow Bob Hawke in 1991 and Kevin Rudd knife Kim Beazley in 2006.
But whether he can cling on until the next election remains to be seen.
Defence spokesman Richard Marles (centre with a green tie) is also in the mix for leadership