Serious questions are being raised about Labor’s leadership team and why Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is allowing Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek to launch Wayne Swan’s book when it attacks former prime minister Kevin Rudd.
The shadow cabinet has been called to meet in Canberra on Monday, shortly after Mr Swan launches his book at the ANU, meaning frontbenchers can fly to the capital to attend and invoice taxpayers, if they wish.
Causing a stir: Wayne Swan. Photo: Glenn Hunt
Ms Plibersek defended her decision, saying through a spokesman that she is ''looking forward'' to launching ''Wayne’s book'' because it highlights Labor’s response to the financial crisis.
Extracts published over the weekend revealed the book by the former treasurer also attacks Mr Rudd’s ''unstable personality'' and his ''vindictive and juvenile'' character. Labor frontbenchers and backbenchers fear it will reopen the bitter Rudd-Gillard wars just when the opposition has Treasurer Joe Hockey on the back foot.
One caucus source said Mr Shorten could not afford to let the last Labor government’s infighting destroy the chances of a future one, invoking Paul Keating’s one-time withering attack on John Hewson: ''Bill’s a shiver looking for a spine to crawl up.''
"Looking forward" to Swan's book: Tanya Plibersek. Photo: Andrew Taylor
But it is understood Mr Shorten has no issue with Ms Plibersek choosing to launch Mr Swan’s book.
The government has seized on the renewed internal division within Labor. Cabinet Minister Christopher Pyne said it was proof ''the dysfunction from the Rudd-Gillard era is far from over'' and that ''Labor is always most comfortable when talking about itself''.
The opposition says it is a coincidence the shadow cabinet meeting is being held in Canberra on the same day. A spokesman for Mr Shorten said the meeting was ''locked in'' ''well before'' the launch date was known, and that Mr Shorten welcomed the telling of ''Wayne’s story'' because he said it is one ''Labor is proud of and [a story] worth telling''.