Labor last night continued its bungled process of deciding a party leader with yet another contender pulling out of the race.
Chris Bowen said he would not stand as a contender after just 29 hours in the running because he realised he did not have the support of the estimated 60,000 rank-and-file members who would cast their vote.
And Jim Chalmers is today expected to announce he will run for the leadership after a meeting of the National Executive last night.
Many see Mr Chalmers, who is finance spokesman, as the party’s best shot to defeat the Coalition at the next election given he is from Queensland — a State that did not hold up for Labor on Saturday.
“I’m being encouraged to nominate for leader and I’ll now consider my options overnight,” Mr Chalmers tweeted yesterday. “@AustralianLabor needs to rebuild, refresh and renew and I want to play a prominent role in that. What role is to be determined.”
Anthony Albanese, who The West Australian yesterday revealed was making a direct pitch to WA MPs to secure their vote, said last night he was “confident, but not complacent” about securing a win.
He said people “know who I am” in a swipe at Mr Chalmers’ relatively unknown status.
In announcing he would step down from the leadership contest, Mr Bowen said: “Albo would win the rank and file for good reason: he’s a popular character. By a good margin. Hence I have reached the view that it would be unlikely for me to win the ballot.
“It wouldn’t be fair to put the party through the cost of the process and the delay for the start of a new leader.” Several Labor sources last night said Mr Chalmers had left his run too late.
“Leadership is about decisiveness and he hasn’t shown that,” a colleague from his own Right faction told The West last night.
Another said: “I think it has been a bit too late.”
Right-wing senator Anthony Chisholm said having a Queensland leader would be good for Labor’s support in the State.
“I’m certainly someone who has been talking to him,” he told the ABC. “I do know he’s been getting some strong support from the caucus. And I think interestingly, branch members as well.
“You start to get emails through to your office, people you know who get in touch with you. So I certainly know he is getting some encouragement to run.”
About 18 caucus members have so far come out in support of Mr Albanese, from across the Left and Right factions. Mr Albanese won the grassroots support but lost the caucus vote in the 2013 leadership battle with Mr Shorten under a process set up by Kevin Rudd to end the “revolving door” of leadership.
He reiterated he has no interest in making policy on the run, fending off a question about Adani’s proposed coal mine.
“I’ll be talking directly to party members about my views about a whole range of issues,” Mr Albanese said.
Labor’s leadership contest will last 20 days. Contenders must win the support of up to 60,000 party members who are eligible to vote and then face a vote of the parliamentary caucus. Each of the two voting blocs is weighted equally to determine the winner. The vote will be conducted via post.