PM’s new line of attack in Longman
THE Turnbull Government has dramatically shifted the debate in the Longman by-election to the Labor leadership, declaring Anthony Albanese is gearing up to challenge Bill Shorten.
Just days after LNP candidate Trevor Ruthenberg sidetracked his own campaign with false military medal claims, the Government ramped up its attack on Labor's immigration policies and the "leadership contest (that) has started".
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be in Longman today, and will return later in the week.
It comes as Labor candidate Susan Lamb continues to be criticised for failing to participate in political debates contested by her opponents.
Meanwhile, unions are preparing to call in favours from Mr Shorten to ensure Operation Sovereign Borders, which turns back boats and includes offshore detentions, is dumped.
Mr Albanese, an influential member of the Left, which is aligned to Ms Lamb's union United Voice, would not yesterday answer "hypothetical" questions on whether he would support the unions' immigration campaign.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton stoked internal Labor tensions.
"Anthony Albanese is trying to sabotage the Labor Party's success in the upcoming by-elections, because he knows that if they fail at the by-elections there will be a certain challenge to Bill Shorten's leadership,'' Mr Dutton said.
"Anthony Albanese is firing the first shots in this leadership contest. Bill Shorten knows Albanese's coming for him.
"I think he'll wait until after the by-elections on the 28th to launch his challenge, but it is clear he is putting stakes in the ground right now."
Mr Dutton ramped up the pressure on Ms Lamb, saying voters in Longman needed to know where she stood on boat turnbacks and offshore processing.
Mr Albanese's office would not comment yesterday on whether he would challenge Mr Shorten, pointing to statements in the past where the popular Left MP has said he was a team player.
Earlier this week, The Courier-Mail revealed Mr Ruthenberg had claimed he had been awarded an Australian Service Medal when, in fact, he had received an Australian Defence Medal, which is given to all military personnel who serve four years.
An LNP spokesman said Mr Ruthenberg apologised for his "honest mistake" and was not shying away from campaigning.
"Trevor Ruthenberg has fronted up and answered the difficult questions. Susan Lamb keeps hiding from the people of Caboolture."
Asked why Ms Lamb was missing debates, her spokesman said she had prior commitments.
"No other candidate has been scrutinised more than Susan Lamb," the spokesman said.