Wanting Senator Kristina Keneally as Penny Wong’s deputy leader in the senate required some shuffling. Two senior males, Don Farrell and Ed Husic, ultimately had to step aside for it to happen.
“Even though [Senator Farrell] had substantial support of Caucus colleagues, he was prepared to step aside as Labor’s deputy leader in the Senate on the basis that he understood that I had made it clear that my view was there needed to be gender balance in Labor’s leadership team,” the new Opposition Leader said on Thursday.
Earlier in the week Albanese had been unequivocal about wanting the former NSW Premier in the role.
“What I’m saying is, I’m making it very clear as leader of the Labor Party, I want the best team, and the best team includes Kristina Keneally,” he said.
Ed Husic took to Facebook to announce he would resign from the front-bench to make way for her ascent.
“We need to ensure someone of Kristina’s enormous talents has the opportunity to make a powerful contribution on the front line, in the Senate,” he wrote.
When asked on ABC’s Radio National if he was pushed Husic insists he wasn’t.
“It seems right that a man should step aside for a stellar woman to take over,” he said. “It is inconceivable that we could have a situation this week where someone of Kristina’s calibre, as a former premier, [could] be sitting on the backbench.”
But there is no denying the factional machinations were at play.
Senior men, with talent and potential, openly stepping aside for women with talent and potential is certainly a new phenomena. Naturally there have been comments about the merits of men “making way” for women.
Curiously these questions do seem to overlook the fact that there are – and always have been – a number of quotas at play in politics. How else can factional representation be explained?
If this is a sign that gender will openly be considered a factor, like an individual’s faction or state, that needs to be intentionally considered in determining the front bench that’s a welcome development.
The alternative – having no women in the Liberal party’s leadership and just one in Labor’s – in 2019 renders it critical.