A debate between Labor’s two leadership candidates has failed to convince Victorian party members who to vote for, although many are leaning towards local Bill Shorten.
Mr Shorten was on home turf on Friday as the former union boss debated fellow leadership aspirant Anthony Albanese in the familiar surrounds of Victorian Trades Hall.
Despite the debate being on at the same time as the AFL grand final parade, which crammed Melbourne CBD streets and made parking a nightmare, several hundred Labor faithful packed into Trades Hall.
Mr Albanese spoke of his working-class background and Labor credentials as he opened the debate.
Mr Shorten began with a loud and impassioned speech about party members making history by choosing their own leader.
But the pair agreed on much of what was said, nodding and applauding each other’s points including the party standing up for the achievements of the Gillard government.
“We will defend her legacy and indeed that is what the last election was about,” Mr Shorten said.
Mr Albanese said the party needs to defend the legacies of both Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.
Both say the party should show a kinder approach to refugees.
As Mr Albanese spoke in his closing address of Labor uniting and him and Mr Shorten having similar values, a heckler shouted “you’re a disgrace, you’re a disgrace”.
The heckler continued to the annoyance of many fellow party members and was soon escorted from the room.
As they left Trades Hall party members praised both candidates and said the quality of debate didn’t make it any easier to choose a candidate.
English tutor Lesley Fielding of Kilsyth said she enjoyed both speeches and felt empowered by the process of electing a leader.
“I’m having trouble deciding who I’m going to vote for,” she told AAP.
“I like them both. You can’t go wrong. I don’t mind who wins.”
Australian Education Union officer Susie Mandley of Barwon Heads was equally undecided.
“It is something I will have to go and think about,” she said.
“I’m a Victorian and I have been a bit loyal to (Shorten) for a long time, but I think Albo did us all proud.”
Registered nurse Tara Nipe from Hawthorn said Mr Shorten’s support for Victorian nurses during a recent industrial dispute may be enough to get him her vote.
ALP life member Gary Jungwirth of Craigieburn, who will vote for Bill Shorten, had been ambivalent about directly electing a leader until he attended the debate.
“You can see the enthusiasm of people and the civility in which the debate was debated,” he said.
“I thought Bill Shorten was a lot sharper on his vision for Australia, the values of the Labor Party and also about how you would reconnect with the broader community – the votes that you need to win.”
Grassroots members continue to vote in the historic ballot for the leadership which opened on Tuesday.