Labor’s friendly leadership contest hits Perth

Anthony Albanese (left) and Bill Shorten after the Labor leadership debate in Sydney. They will face eachother in Perth on Monday night. Photo: Marco Del Grande MDGFederal politics full coverage

Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten have both hailed Labor’s forthcoming leadership ballot as a watershed moment in democracy.

Mr Albanese described the vote as “a great experiment in democracy”, while Mr Shorten said the ALP was “making history in this ballot”.

Speaking at a breakfast rally for ALP members in Perth’s Hyde Park, the two candidates were just as keen to talk up Labor’s new approach as they were to underline their own visions for the party.

Mr Albanese said it was crucial for Labor to continue to champion the new policies it had introduced while in power, including Disability Care, the Better Schools funding program, and the carbon pricing legislation.

He said Labor needed a different approach to the one it took when it was cast into opposition by John Howard.

“In 1996 we didn’t defend our legacy,” he said. “When we come up with a good idea we should be prepared to defend it.”

Mr Albanese also focused on Labor’s future, pointing out that for the first time, rank-and-file members will have a say in developing federal policy.

Both he and Mr Shorten shared a platform at the event, in another demonstration of both candidates’ determination to put the ALP’s acrimonious leadership squabbles in the past.

“If Bill is elected leader he will be a great leader and I’ll be happy to work with him, this is a great experiment in democracy,” Mr Albanese said.

In turn, Mr Shorten said he was “determined that ideas will run the Labor Party, not factions”, and spoke of “drawing a line under the past”.

Mr Shorten paid tribute to his opponent’s long parliamentary career, while adding that he was effectively working in opposition to the Howard government while working as a unionist.

He outlined a plan to win back the blue-collar vote, particularly in WA, where he said a mindset had developed that those who work in small business or industry should naturally gravitate towards the Liberal party.

There was a need to distinguish between policies designed to help industrial workers, rather than those that simply benefit their bosses, he said.

Mr Shorten said the ALP was “determined to renew and refresh democracy in this country”, before urging the party to regroup in time to repair what he described as the damage that would be done to Australia by the Abbott government.

“We can make history in one term by making Tony Abbott history,” he said.

Postal ballots were sent out to ALP members on Tuesday. Rank-and-file members have until October 9 to vote, ahead of the party caucus vote on October 10. The two votes will carry equal overall weight in electing the new leader.

Mr Albanese and Mr Shorten will debate each other on the ABC’s Q&A program in Perth on Monday evening. Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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