Labor unity key concern 

BILL Shorten has indicated he would give deputy leader Anthony Albanese a free shot at the federal Labor leadership in a bid to express party unity and avoid further destabilisation.

RULED OUT: Chris Bowen says he will not be standing for the ALP leadership. Picture: Andrew Meares

Party sources said that if Mr Albanese announced his bid to replace Kevin Rudd first, Mr Shorten would not want to create a contest by nominating himself for the top job.

It is understood the former education minister favours a single candidate for the Labor leadership as an expression of unity, to avoid the division and destabilisation of the past three years.

On Sunday, the former Australian Workers Union boss said his two criteria were his family and the need to get Labor’s rebuilding process right “from day one . . . [with] no rancour, no external discussions, no divisions”.

Another potential contender, Chris Bowen, ruled himself out of the race yesterday.

“I have decided I will not be a candidate for the leadership of the Labor party,” Mr Bowen said.

The NSW MP said he did not believe he was the best candidate, but he would fill any role the new leader asked of him, including shadow treasurer or deputy leader.

If there is only one candidate, only the Labor caucus will be involved in endorsing the new leader.

If there are two or more, under a new party rule the leadership would be decided in a ballot weighted 50 per cent to the caucus and 50 per cent to ALP grassroots members.

Mr Albanese would be likely to win the grassroots vote currently dominated by the Left.

Mr Bowen declined to endorse any contender.

He said Labor needed a period of reflection, but should not jettison its legacy of six years in government.

“We need to acknowledge and build on our strong record of economic growth in difficult circumstances.”

Labor strategist Bruce Hawker said he took his fair share of the blame for the government’s loss, but he believed Kevin Rudd’s comeback had prevented a worse defeat. “We saved the furniture,” he said.

Former Labor frontbencher and Julia Gillard supporter Craig Emerson has called on Kevin Rudd to quit parliament, warning he would “recklessly destabilise Labor leaders” if he stayed on.

Mr Rudd was re-elected in his Brisbane seat of Griffith on Saturday, but announced that he would stand down as Labor leader after the party’s election defeat. AAP

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