It’s on. Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten are running under the Rudd rules to be elected by the Caucus and ALP membership as ALP Leader. That is, the faceless men and women will decide the next Leader of the Opposition.
There have been 32 Leaders of the Opposition from the Free Trade Party’s George Reid to Tony Abbott. One served three separate terms (Cook), while Reid, Deakin, Fisher, Scullin, Whitlam, Peacock, Howard and Beazley all served two separate terms.
For the vast majority, the transition from one Leader of the Opposition to the next occurred on the same day, or the day after. But on seven occasions the transition was extended, the longest being from Fisher to Deakin which took 63 days (29 April 1910 to 1 July 1910). The most recent three examples are from Evatt to Calwell (27 days), from Howard to Beazley (8 days) and from Latham to Beazley (10 days).
The present transition from Abbott to either Albanese or Shorten will probably rival the gap between Evatt and Calwell.
While it is not good for democracy and our Parliament to be long without a Leader of the Opposition, we have managed in the past and it will be amusing to watch Labor debate among itself rather than taking the traditional role as an Opposition.
I think Albanese will win. But it doesn’t really matter – Kevin Rudd will be plotting on the backbench. No doubt Rudd will be the Leader of the Opposition in 2016 and be defeated yet again by Tony Abbott.