Jim Chalmers (left) with Chris Bowen
Jim Chalmers (left) with Chris Bowen

Where next for Labor’s Queensland golden boy

LABOR is set for a drawn-out leadership contest after Chris Bowen confirmed he would challenge Anthony Albanese.

But potential Queensland contender Jim Chalmers is holding fire, despite being urged by some to run as a fresh face to lead the party.

Dr Chalmers, who holds the Logan-based seat of Rankin, is unlikely to run against Mr Bowen and could be a frontrunner for deputy leader.

The move means at least the two frontbenchers will vie for support in a ballot of all ALP members and another among their Caucus colleagues.

 

Anthony Albanese is considered the frontrunner. Picture: Bianca De Marchi/AAP
Anthony Albanese is considered the frontrunner. Picture: Bianca De Marchi/AAP

 

Mr Albanese won the rank and file vote when he stood against Bill Shorten after the 2013 election and is the clear favourite despite being from the party's minority Left faction.

Declaring his intention to stand for the role, Mr Bowen admitted he was not the front runner but said Labor's surprise election loss meant nothing should be assumed.

"I'm happy to concede that Albo probably goes in favourite," Mr Bowen said.

"The Labor Party went in on Saturday as favourite, too. I'm a bit over 'favourites'."

Mr Bowen announced his tilt for the party leadership in front of the humble fibro home where he grew up in Sydney, in a bid to cast himself as a man of the working class.

Both leaders will need to prove they can win back voter support in Queensland as well as outer suburban and regional areas across the country after a drubbing by voters on Saturday.

Despite being from one of the most left-wing seats in the country, Mr Albanese is talking up his ability to connect with voters Queensland.

Mr Albanese is highlighting the amount of time he has spent in Queensland, including during his time holding the infrastructure portfolio, and yesterday vowed to fight for coal jobs.

"The fact is that the coal industry is an important employer in places like the Hunter Valley," he said.

"The fact is also, when you look at the Queensland industry, the coal industry is largely coking coal which is used for steel and that's an important product as well."

Mr Albanese has also received an endorsement from maverick Kennedy MP Bob Katter, in a sign he can appeal to voters in the bush.

Member for Moreton Graham Perrett, who is helping corral support for Mr Albanese in the Sunshine State, said Queensland needed to be the focus of the party's plan to rebuild from its loss.

In a sign Dr Chalmers could be offered the deputy position if Mr Albanese is successful, Mr Perrett said the party leadership needed a "Queensland voice".

 

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"The seats we need for government are in Queensland," Mr Perrett said.

"A Queensland voice would be part of that."

Mr Bowen said he had the background to "lead the economic debate, which we must win". But he did not walk from unpopular policies he designed on franking credits and negative gearing and instead blamed a scare campaign on death taxes for Labor's loss.

"Franking credits was a controversial policy. A controversial policy, for which, no doubt, we lost some votes. But I don't accept that it is why we lost the election in its entirety," he said.

Mr Bowen faces another challenge because of his frosty relationship with NSW party chief Kaila Murnain, who could influence MPs to vote against him.

Mr Albanese is set receive a boost from left wing Senate leader Penny Wong, who will endorse him for the role.

But Mr Shorten is trying to stop his former leadership rival and is understood to be backing Mr Bowen after lobbying for Tanya Plibersek, who has withdrawn from the race.

 

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