Opposition leader Bill Shorten during his address at the NSW Labor Annual State Conference at Sydney Town Hall on Sunday, July 1. Picture: Ben Rushton/AAP
Opposition leader Bill Shorten during his address at the NSW Labor Annual State Conference at Sydney Town Hall on Sunday, July 1. Picture: Ben Rushton/AAP

Truth behind Labor leadership tussle

THERE is no move against Bill Shorten's leadership and the growing batch of circumstantial evidence of one should be ignored.

That is one message from the weekend's NSW ALP conference which was turned into a Festival of Bill.

It was a response to the strengthening notion - fed by few facts - that Labor thinks it would be clever to change leader with an election to be held within the next 11 months.

It's as if the painful episodes of Rudd-Gillard-Rudd and Turnbull-Abbott-Turnbull taught no lessons. The rounds of musical leadership chairs saw Labor lose government and the Coalition win an election by a single seat.

Keeping Bill Shorten is no guarantee of a Labor general election victory, but removing him could increase the odds for a loss.

And for those devoted to the Delphic qualities of opinion polls: If Malcolm Turnbull can keep his job after losing 35 Newspolls in a row, presumably Bill Shorten can hang on after winning those surveys.

Further, an essential element of a leadership challenge is a challenger and bruised as he might be, Bill Shorten doesn't have one.

There are senior political figures urging one to step forward, as in this example:

"And Anthony Albanese, of course, is a person of consistency of approach and policy.

"And a lot of people are looking to him and thinking maybe he's going to be the answer because Bill Shorten has put us in a position where he wants to go to the next election giving 94,000 small businesses a motivation to campaign against Labor."

That was Liberal mischief-maker and Defence Industries Minister Christopher Pyne underlining on the Nine network last Friday the Turnbull government would like to see the back of Mr Shorten. And what Christopher Pyne wants, the Labor Party is hugely unlikely to grant.

Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne regularly appear together on the Today show. Picture: Channel 9
Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne regularly appear together on the Today show. Picture: Channel 9

His repeated warnings of an Albanese ascent is proof the Liberals want the type of instability and threat of insurrection they have endured from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and, more recently, former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

A June 22 speech by Mr Albanese laid out tracks he would follow should he become Labor leader, but it was nowhere near a call to arms. Certainly its audiences - at the event or those reading transcripts - were not particularly roused.

Those policy tracks were significant but not as the start of a campaign.

Should that mythical public transport failure come into play and Bill Shorten is hit by a bus, Anthony Albanese would seek to replace him. But as he has said over eight years of leadership turmoil, he would not challenge an incumbent.

But if the door was opened by other factors, he would walk in.

The next wave of warnings that Mr Shorten's position is in peril will come after the July 28 by-elections, five special ballots the Government is keen to label as plebiscites on tax policy and the Labor leadership.

If Labor candidates in Longman (Queensland) and Braddon (Tasmania) fail to win there will be one person loaded with the blame.