Senior Labor frontbencher and one-time party leadership candidate Anthony Albanese has slapped down suggestions from some of his colleagues that South Australian Labor premier Jay Weatherill should be muzzled over a possible increase in the GST.
Launching his re-election bid for the federal seat of Grayndler, in Sydney's inner-west, on Thursday morning, Mr Albanese was asked about calls to bind Mr Weatherill to federal Labor's staunch opposition to any GST increase.
Anthony Albanese with a fight on his hands
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese takes a swipe at his Greens opponent, while announcing he's re-contesting the seat of Grayndler. Courtesy ABC News 24.
Mr Weatherill, who has repeatedly drawn attention to the looming funding crisis for all states in health and education owing to federal cuts, says he wants to keep a GST increase on the table so long as extra revenues are devoted to those key service areas.
Asked about calls from some of his federal colleagues to effectively gag Mr Weatherill, Mr Albanese responded: "We are not a Stalinist party. Jay Weatherill is entitled as the Premier to put his views on behalf of the South Australian Labor government. "
He added: "Jay Weatherill is a friend of mine and a great premier of South Australia. He is voicing concerns that any Labor Premier would have about the need to fund education and health. That's the view he has put, he has said he wants to look at options of how you do that."
Mr Albanese, Labor's shadow minister for transport and cities, then re-stated his own opposition to a possible GST increase. But his staunch defence of Mr Weatherill's right to take a different view puts him at odds with Labor's defence spokesman, Stephen Conroy, and its federal shadow parliamentary secretary for manufacturing, Nick Champion.
Mr Champion told the ABC on Wednesday that Labor needed " iron discipline" to defeat what would be a "very, very regressive taxation measure". He has called for Labor members to be "bound" to the federal campaign against the GST being prosecuted by federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten.
Mr Conroy, on labor's national executive, said if Mr Weatherill thought raising the GST (to a mooted 15 per cent) was such a good idea, then he should " take it to the people of South Australia at a state election and see how long he lasts as Premier".
Mr Weatherill has said he would be "surprised if [Labor] started turning its back on its democratic traditions and started gagging state premiers "
The intervention of Mr Albanese, who was only narrowly defeated by Mr Shorten in the party's last leadership ballot, will be keenly noted by those who believe he may still be a future Labor leader if Mr Shorten stumbles.
Mr Albanese emerged relatively unscathed from the backroom dealings that deposed Kevin Rudd and then Julia Gillard as prime minister.