Son of Tyneside union official becomes leader of Australia’s opposition

 

Sydney

Five weeks after the Australian Labor Party suffered a humiliating defeat in the federal elections, the son of a former British waterside worker was elected its new leader last night.

Bill Shorten, a former union leader, took the post after beating Anthony Albanese in a leadership ballot which, for the first time, allowed the rank-and-file membership to vote, as well as the parliamentary caucus.

Melbourne-born Mr Shorten, whose father, William, was a union official on Tyneside, was himself head of the powerful Australian Workers’ Union before winning a seat in parliament in 2007.

He won the leadership ballot with 52 per cent of the combined vote, although Mr Albanese received more support from the local branches.

Mr Shorten is Labor’s third leader in four months, taking over from Kevin Rudd, who was defeated in last month’s general election. Mr Rudd had earlier wrested control of the party from Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister.

Critics argue that the new 46-year-old leader played a key role in much of Labor’s instability over the past few years, and yesterday he admitted that his party had been through difficult times. “But what people have with me is someone who will always try and work out what is the best interests of the nation first, and then the best interests of Labor, and that’s how I approach my decisions,” Mr Shorten said.

Hinting that carbon price legislation would remain at the top of Labor’s agenda, Mr Shorten pledged to maintain its strong stance on climate change policy.

“Failing to put a price on carbon pollution merely delays problems for tomorrow’s generation,” he said.

Intriguingly the Labor leader’s election, which is not seen as a an immediate threat to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s new conservative administration, has exposed a possible conflict of interest with the Queen’s official representative in Australia.

Governor-General Quentin Bryce, also happens to be Mr Shorten’s mother-in-law. Chloe Shorten, the Governor-Generals daughter, is the Labor leader’s second wife. Theoretically this could mean Mr Shorten having an audience with his mother-in-law at Government House in Canberra, in the unlikely event he becomes prime minister before next March when the Governor-General is due to retire.

As the Queen’s official representative, technically Ms Bryce has the ultimate say on legislation and is responsible for dissolving parliament if an election is called.

Yesterday, she offered to resign her office to avoid any perception of bias now that her son-in-law is opposition leader.

But Mr Abbott, who spoke to Ms Bryce in anticipation of a Shorten victory, said that would not be necessary. “The Governor-General offered to leave office early to avoid any perception of bias but due to the fact that she will retire in March next year and that the government commands the House of Representatives with a significant margin, I have thanked her for her magnanimity but declined to accept, instead asking that she conclude her full term,” the Prime Minister said. “I am grateful that she has kindly agreed to my request.”

But some political observers were suggesting last night that Quentin Bryce had no alternative but to stand down. Canberra Times columnist Nicholas Stuart said it would be impossible for her to develop a good and proper relationship with Mr Abbott.

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?