Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese.
Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese.

Clue that Albo’s time might be up

Just weeks after surviving a horror car smash, speculation is once again swirling that Anthony Albanese could be dumped as the Labor leader before the next election.

His most likely replacement? The woman who ruled out a run for the top job after the last election: Tanya Plibersek.

Still recovering from his car accident that he was lucky to survive after a P-plater in a Range Rover left his car a "write off", Mr Albanese has been on a media blitz on radio in recent days discussing his near death experience.

But the leadership speculation has continued to swirl. The most recent chatter followed a comments from a woman most voters have never heard of - CFMEU national political organiser Elizabeth Doidge.

She said that Ms Plibersek would be a better chance to lead Labor to a victory.

"We definitely want a change of leadership. I'm not necessarily saying it needs to be Plibersek, but it definitely needs to be someone other than Anthony Albanese," she told The Australian.

Mr Albanese was quick to dismiss the story as "payback" over his fight with CFMEU leader John Setka.

"Well, I think people will see through that. I think it says more about them than it does about me,'' he told 3AW on Monday morning.

"I took a stance about John Setka and bringing the Labor into disrepute. I've never heard of the official, frankly, and I've never heard of the company that did the alleged poll. I just had a bit of a chuckle by myself frankly, and don't take it all that seriously."

But there's no doubt if Mr Albanese's performance doesn't improve that more well-known figures may emerge to call time on his leadership.

Nearly two years ago, Ms Plibersek considered a run for the top job but mysteriously bowed out just 24 hours later citing family responsibilities.

"Now is not my time,'' she said.

 

Tanya Plibersek.
Tanya Plibersek.

 

"I know some people will be disappointed with this decision.

"I will serve in whatever capacity my colleagues best think can help Labor return to government."

Some people misunderstood what happened in those days after the 2019 election to assume Ms Plibersek was ruling out ever running for the leadership. But that would be a mistake.

The iron law of Australian politics is that if you have the numbers you use them.

Many in the party believe that Ms Plibersek realised winning would be a tough ask with much of the Left faction backing Mr Albanese.

But even after she decided to pull the pin on that Monday after the election, she waited until former Prime Minister Julia Gillard endorsed her candidacy, perhaps a sign that her declaration that it was "not her time" did not mean she had given up on realising an ambition to lead the Labor Party later.

In fact, her career is full of moments where she's stepped back, sometimes for family reasons, only to emerge in bigger and better jobs down the track.

During the Gillard years when her children were younger, she announced she wouldn't be putting her hand up for a cabinet job.

However, she later re-emerged in more senior roles and ultimately was elected as deputy leader along with Bill Shorten after the 2013 election.

Her decision not to stand paved the way for Mr Albanese to be elevated to the leadership unopposed and she also had to stand down as deputy leader for the little-known Victorian MP Richard Marles from the Right faction.

Another potential candidate, Labor frontbencher Jim Chalmers also ruled out a run at the time taking on the shadow treasury portfolio. If Ms Plibersek did take on the leadership, he's the man most likely to emerge her deputy.

Since the election she's held onto the education portfolio but also made some eyebrow raising forays into other areas including calling for an oath of allegiance for Australia that will have appealed to some Labor conservatives.

Indeed, there is a path way for Ms Plibersek to secure the leadership and it involves becoming a de facto candidate for the Right faction.

This is the tried and true method adopted by Julia Gillard when she rolled Kevin Rudd as leader with the help of the NSW Right in 2010.

While Ms Plibersek is a long-time member of Mr Albanese's Left faction and holds a neighbouring inner Sydney seats, the pair have never been personally close.

To date, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has focused his attacks on the Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers as the man most likely to succeed as the next leader.

But recent machinations in the Labor Party suggest that the leader he could face at the next election is the woman staring him in the face during question time.

Originally published as Clue that Albo's time might be up


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