Bill Shorten came to a Labor party members’ forum sausage sizzle in Perth dressed in a smart-casual shirt and trousers, while Anthony Albanese wore a Rip Curl shirt and jeans.
Perhaps that says something about their different approaches to tackling the federal Labor leadership contest.
Despite their differences, the pair have kept their rivalry friendly and as each addressed the 500 people gathered at Hyde Park on Monday – a public holiday in Western Australia – both agreed to work with whoever won the leadership battle.
For the first time, rank and file party members will have their say in choosing Labor’s leader and both contenders were given 10 minutes to convince members why they should be leader.
Mr Albanese said he believed he could unite the party, reminding members that he was leader of the house when it was a “fairly difficult” parliament that still managed to pass 596 pieces of legislation.
“I think I’m in a very strong position to advance Labor’s cause, to defend our legacy, hold the Abbott government to account, but also help develop Labor’s new agenda,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
Mr Albanese also used part of his speech as an opportunity to remind Western Australians that the new coalition government had slashed the amount of federal infrastructure funding going to the state.
He said Prime Minister Tony Abbott had left a $ 500 million hole in the WA government’s plans to build a light rail network through Perth’s northern suburbs and a new rail line to the city’s airport.
Mr Abbott had also withdrawn funding for other projects including $ 140.6 million for three new interchanges along the Tonkin Highway, $ 307.8 million for upgrades to the Great Northern Highway between Muchea and Wubin, and $ 174 million for improvements to the North West Coastal Highway, Mr Albanese said.
Mr Shorten was more impassioned during his address, telling members he wanted to make Mr Abbott history and present a brave Labor party.
“We need to be a party who people want to vote for because they like us, not because they just don’t like the other mob,” he said.
“We need to make it clear that we’re not anti-mining.
“I just don’t confuse people who own mining companies with miners. The miners do the work.”
Mr Shorten said he also wanted to tackle domestic violence and promised that factions would not run Labor.
The former union boss also drew applause when he said Australia should be pro-immigration.
“We should not shy away from saying the refugees are a legitimate part of the Australian population,” he said.
Among the attendees was WA Labor leader Mark McGowan and opposition treasury spokesman Ben Wyatt.
Mr McGowan told reporters the event gave people a feeling of empowerment and made sure leadership aspirants were in touch with members.
The leadership contest will be decided by a nationwide ballot of party members before the caucus meets for a vote on October 10.