Australia

Anthony Albanese is set to lead Labor – but who is Albo?

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Anthony Albanese is taking a second tilt at the Labor leadership having come close to winning it in 2013.

Anthony Albanese - universally known as Albo - holds a unique position in the Labor hierarchy.

After Tony Abbott brought the coalition back to power in 2013, Mr Albanese and Bill Shorten faced off for the Labor leadership under a new voting system.

The left-wing Mr Albanese won the membership vote, but Shorten, from the right, won the caucus vote by a slightly greater proportion and became leader.

Now, with Jim Chalmers and Chris Bowen bowing out of the race, Albo is poised to become the next leader of the Labor party.

Anthony Albanese has put his hand up to be the next leader of the Labor Party.
Anthony Albanese has put his hand up to be the next leader of the Labor Party.
AAP

This left Mr Albanese as a shadow behind Shorten, with the authority of being the people's choice, ready should his leader stumble. Polls suggest he's also the wider people's choice.

With Shorten no longer in the running for alternative prime minister, Mr Albanese is energised and making a second tilt.

He is someone who's seen as somehow authentic, without Shorten's factional baggage.

But Mr Albanese is a great old factional warrior himself.

Mr Albanese, 56, was brought up by a single mother in working class Sydney and imbued with three verities - the Catholic Church, South Sydney rugby league club and the Labor Party. He's remained true to the latter two.

Anthony Albanese at a Balmain pub the day after the election.
Anthony Albanese at a Balmain pub the day after the election.
AAP

His father Carlo and his mother had a cruise ship romance which didn't last. Mr Albanese was brought up believing his father was killed in a car accident and only in his mid-teens was he told the truth. Years later he tracked his father down in Italy and had an emotional meeting with him and two half-siblings.

Mr Albanese did an economics degree at Sydney University. Like so many contemporary politicians, he honed his political skills there and started his rise in the left.

After graduating he worked for Tom Uren, the grand old man of the left, before becoming assistant general secretary of the NSW branch of Labor. He married Carmel Tebbutt, who became deputy premier of NSW.

In 1996 he went to Canberra as member for Grayndler and rose steadily through shadow ministry positions.

When Labor won in 2007, he became Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Regional Development and Local Government and government leader in the lower house.

Building Australia through roads, rail and ports was his passion. He set up Infrastructure Australia and used its work to get far greater funds out of cabinet.

At the same time he savaged the old government's "regional rorts" as National Party pork barrelling. He was that rare politician who could simultaneously scarify and be funny.

Albanese lost Labor's last leadership contest to Bill Shorten in 2013.
Albanese lost Labor's last leadership contest to Bill Shorten in 2013.
AAP

But he found nothing funny as Labor lurched from Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard and back again. He was emotionally distressed as his party plotted and squabbled.

"I like fighting Tories. That's what I do," he said.

In some ways he's an old-fashioned politician.

He speaks well from the stump. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He will confront his critics - like when several hundred demonstrators descended on his electorate office. He'd outraged them by dismissing a self-styled "convoy of no confidence" protesting fuel prices and carbon pricing as a "convoy of no consequence".

As a senior member of the opposition, Mr Albanese has been scrupulous in not directly criticising his leader.

However he has on occasion differed on policy, for example proposing a more consultative approach to big business.

Few doubt he's ready, willing and able to take over.

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