Agitation is growing in Labor ranks over how women will fare in the carve-up of leadership and frontbench positions, as factions begin jockeying for power in the wake of last week’s shock election defeat.
The network Emily’s List Australia, which supports women entering politics, has warned Labor not to slip backwards in its goal of achieving gender parity.
“As we turn towards a new generation of leaders, we must not take a backward step on the path to equality,” Emily’s List national co-convenor, Tanja Kovac, said in a statement published on social media.
“We have an extraordinary talent pool of women in the federal parliamentary caucus. And we have multiple leadership positions – leader, deputy leader and treasurer in the House of Representatives and leader and deputy leader in the Senate.
“It’s essential that women – who have delivered for Labor in key seats – are also represented in the new leadership team.”
The public statement has been widely seen as a warning shot to Labor’s warring factions not to use the bloodletting in the wake of the election to keep women out of leadership roles. The Victorian right faction member Richard Marles is shaping as the most likely deputy in an opposition led by Anthony Albanese.
Clare O’Neil, another member of the Victorian right, acknowledged on Twitter on Thursday she had been approached “particularly [by] Labor women” about running for the position of deputy, which has thrown open a secondary battle in the Senate.
Penny Wong, a left faction member, has already stated her desire to remain as Labor’s Senate leader, with her NSW right colleague Kristina Keneally widely tipped to act as her deputy.
But with O’Neil considering a deputy leadership run, some ALP right faction leaders are seeking to install a male colleague, potentially Don Farrell, who is aligned with the shopworkers’ union SDA. Queenslander Jim Chalmers will not seek the deputy position.
“If they think having three men is OK, then why not three women,” one Labor source said. “There have been plenty of times in ALP history where men held all four leadership positions.”
Labor’s poor electoral showing in Queensland has also caused waves, with the SDA-aligned senator Chris Ketter unlikely to be re-elected.
The loss of Ketter, as well as the lower house seats of Longman and Herbert, would normally imply a smaller number of Queensland MPs in the shadow cabinet, but the Queenslanders are buffered by the party’s need to reconnect with the sunshine state after seeing its primary vote drop below 30%.
Shayne Neumann, who has only just held on to his electorate of Blair in Brisbane’s south-west after an almost 7% swing against him, reminded colleagues he was now the “only Labor member who holds a seat in regional and rural Queensland” in a statement designed to bolster his position on the shadow frontbench.
“It is clear from this election that Labor needs to listen to Queenslanders,” he said on Friday.
“Queensland is the state that delivers government for Labor. When Labor doesn’t listen to Queenslanders, we fall short. Unless Labor does better in Queensland, we will not form government.
“I am a proud Queenslander and I am ambitious for Queensland. I am Ipswich born and bred. I grew up in a working class family and we faced many challenges.
“Ipswich is where Pauline Hanson began her political career – I have been standing up against Hansonism and One Nation since 1996.
“Labor must listen to and speak with the hard-working and honourable people of Queensland about what is best for their families and their communities. We need to better reconnect with working class and middle Australia.”
The Victorian senator Kim Carr has made the decisions slightly easier by announcing he would cede his shadow ministry position, having recognised the mood across the party for generational change.
“The new Labor team has my full support, and I look forward to serving in any capacity which my experience and abilities can advance the cause of the Labour movement,” he said.
Nominations for the Labor leadership close on Monday. Albanese is expected to be elected unopposed, with the remaining positions to be decided as early as Wednesday.