The Labor Party has a new leadership team after Bill Shorten was selected as the party’s new federal leader, with Sydney MP Tanya Plibersek announced as deputy and Penny Wong renamed as the Opposition’s Leader of the House in the Senate.
Shorten, from Labor’s Victorian Right faction and MP for Maribyrnong since 2007, was announced as the party’s new leader after he won 55 of the 86 votes in caucus (63.95 per cent) and 40.08 per cent of the 30,426 ballots cast by Labor members, the first leadership vote of its kind.
Shorten’s challenger, Grayndler MP and former Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, managed to attract 18,230 rank-and-file votes compared to 12,196 for Shorten, but lost on the 50-50 split when the caucus vote was taken into account.
Accepting the position, Shorten said the “democratic” leadership ballot represented a new beginning for Labor and promised the “true believers” that the party could defeat Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Coalition government at the next federal election.
“Together we can rebuild Labor into a force for change and become a great Labor Government that we can all be proud of,” Shorten told reporters.
“A movement for change that has deep connections in local communities, reflects the diversity of the Australian people, and a movement that pursues big ideas for this generation of Australians – and all the generations that are yet to come.”
As the country’s first openly lesbian member of Cabinet as well as its first Asian-born member during Labor’s term in power, Wong was again made the party’s Senate Leader, having held the position since June.
“Very honoured to be re-elected Labor’s Senate Leader,” Wong tweeted soon after the decision. “Warmest congrats to the fabulous @tanya_plibersek on being elected Deputy Leader.”
Plibersek, a former Health Minister and longtime advocate for the LGBTI community, became emotional when reflecting on the journey of her migrant parents from Slovenia and the position she had now been given responsibility for.
“I don’t think there are many countries in the world where someone whose parents came here with nothing but a suitcase each can end up being a member of Parliament, let alone taking up the responsibility which my colleagues have entrusted me with. Thank you all,” she said.
Plibersek said that claims by some female colleagues like former speaker Anna Burke and Senator Jacinta Collins that “a couple of blokes” from the Victorian Right faction had conspired to keep women away from the top jobs in the shadow ministry were incorrect as the front bench would feature 11 women, in sharp contrast to the Coalition which only features one woman – Foreign Minister Julie Bishop – in its Cabinet.
During the campaign for the leadership, Shorten had informed Rainbow Labor that he would consider extending Labor’s quota system for representation to also include people from LGBTI and indigenous communities, alongside the existing set-up to improve female participation in parliament.
Shorten had also promised to support moves to introduce marriage equality laws as well as “actively consider the creation” of a Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Equality position within the Opposition’s team.
Rainbow Labor national co-convenor Neil Pharaoh told the Star Observer that members of the party’s internal LGBTI advocacy group congratulated Shorten for his success and said they looked forward to meeting with Shorten to discuss how best he can advocate for equality as party leader.
“It’s probably still too early to see where things stand [on the LGBTI quota] but we do look forward to continuing those discussions,” Pharaoh said.
“With the Labor leadership change that we’ve had, we now have the most number of supportive members we’ve had in Shadow Cabinet and also in three of the most senior positions in the party now held by Bill, Tanya and Penny.”
Australian Marriage Equality deputy director Ivan Hinton said it was encouraging that both challengers for Labor’s top job were “ardent supporters” of marriage equality.
“We look forward to continuing our shared efforts in recognising the right of all Australians to marry the person they love in the country they love,” he said.
“We hope Bill Shorten will work in a multi-partisan way to progress marriage equality.”