Sam Dastyari: It's No Bad Thing If Bill Shorten Still Wants To Be PM

Bill Shorten still wants to be Prime Minister. 

Anthony Albanese also wants the role. As do Tanya Plibersek, Peter Dutton, Josh Frydenberg... In fact, despite the current occupant, Scott Morrison, being a pretty big fan of holding onto it, basically everyone in the House of Representatives wants to be Prime Minister.


It’s what we should want as a nation: a group of people jostling to win over the public -- and their colleagues -- with the ambition of leading us. The alternative would be far worse.

It’s a stupid question journalists ask politicians: "Do you harbour ambitions to be leader?" You may as well ask a footballer if they want to win the Premiership. The answer is always ‘yes’ -- they just aren’t allowed to say it.

Peter Dutton (left), Tanya Plibersek (centre) and Josh Frydenberg harbour secret PM ambitions -- and if they do, is it a bad thing? (Images: AAP)

Most politicians won’t make it. Only a few achieve the Prime Ministership (perhaps a few too many in recent years).  But ‘harbour ambition’? Of course they do.

And that’s why the recent hoo-ha about Bill Shorten’s inclusion in Anthony Albanese’s shadow cabinet is so ridiculous. Less than a month ago, Bill Shorten was on his way to achieving the Prime Ministership of Australia -- and, what, now he is meant to never want to play a role? There is no conflict in supporting a leader honestly and harbouring personal ambition. Every occupant of that high office has done it at some point.

Also, what exactly is the crime that makes Bill Shorten ineligible to ever being Prime Minster of Australia in a post Albanese/Morrison era? He lost an election, that’s all. Well... two, to be exact. Hardly a high crime.

No one doubts that Anthony Albanese will lead Labor to the next election. I also think he will win it (I thought Bill Shorten would win, too, so that says a few things about my predictive powers). But to win, Albo (we live in the world of political nicknames now) will need to stay true to himself and not get pushed around by a frightened party.

Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese (left) and former Australian Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. (Image: AAP)

The Labor party is still in a panic. Having assumed wrongly (and perhaps arrogantly) that it was on the path to running the country, it still hasn’t come to terms with the shock of the election defeat.

So there will be those telling Anthony Albanese right now to 'shift to the right'. That he shouldn’t be ambitious. That he needs to backtrack on Adani and the environmental agenda of Bill Shorten.

Rushing into that would be a mistake -- and he knows it.

Anthony Albanese should do exactly what he is doing. Just listen. Time is on his side.

The Conservatives are in no rush to hold another election, and Albanese’s ascendancy in the party means he faces no challenges. Rather than try to prescribe the solution from Canberra (or Sydney), he should be listening to those who decided not to stick with Labor -- and their reasons for that choice.

The current listening tour he has engaged in is the first step in a much longer process.

The jobs-versus-environment prism is a false choice. The ‘support Adani’ or be ‘anti-Queensland’ framework is ridiculous. It’s a churlish argument. You can do both. You can support the environment and support jobs. If Labor gives up that argument then it will send itself into a decade of wilderness.

So far, so good. Albanese has made it clear he is prepared to listen. That he is prepared to change direction. But also that he won’t be rushed.

That’s the right call. Get the policy settings correct and the rest can be managed through sharp politics.

READ MORE: Barnaby Joyce Wants To Be Deputy PM But Just Got Roasted By His Replacement

READ MORE: The REAL Reason Labor Lost The Election

Albanese is playing the long game. It’s his biggest advantage. And in the meantime, political junkies like myself will fill our days reading tea leaves.  Waiting for the misstep. Preparing and speculating on internal tensions within both Labor and the Coalition.

We will wait for the next politician to be asked if they want to be Prime Minster. They will will find a way to deny it, because we expect them too. And we still won’t believe them.