Labor leader Bill Shorten has announced his shadow cabinet. It is full of surprises, with deputy Tanya Plibersek taking on foreign affairs and former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy the shadow defence portfolio.
Communications spokesman will be 41 year old Jason Clare, who entered Parliament in the 2007 election in Paul Keating's seat of Blaxland in the south-western suburbs of Sydney. From the time he was elected he has been spoken of as a potential future leader – he has impeccable Labor credentials and is articulate and telegenic.
Clare, who has degrees in Arts and Law, was Justice and Home Affairs Minister in the last Rudd Government. He was formerly Minister for Defence Materiel. There was a much lower swing against him – less than 1% - at the recent election than there was against Labor nationally.
Clare’s formidable task is to take on Malcolm Turnbull in and outside of Parliament on the NBN. He will be assisted by Michelle Rowland, who many thought might get the job (CommsWire, 17 October 2013). Rowland is also shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism.
Anthony Albanese, who briefly held the Communications portfolio under Kevin Rudd, retains responsibility for Infrastructure and Transport. Ed Husic, who was Assistant Minister for the Digital Economy under Albanese, is shadow Parliamentary Secretary to Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen. Clare has no experience in Communications. Kate Lundy, shadow Communications Minister when Labor was last in opposition before 2007, and with Husic a Minister assisting Albanese, missed out altogether.
Clare’s lack of experience in the portfolio is unlikely to be a major disadvantage. Under the Westminster system ministers and their shadows are not expected to be specialists, but to be capable of arguing the case for, and when in government administering, their departments.