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'We're ruling a line under the past division'

Bill Shorten says the Labor Party needs to demonstrate change to Australians after he declared his candidacy for the party leadership. Nine News.

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Labor's next leader will be a son of the movement.

Both men were raised within the culture of unions and the party and have spent their lives fighting for the Labor cause.

Who will lead Labor: Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten.

Who will lead Labor? Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten.

The NSW Left's Anthony Albanese is the son of a single mother who instilled in him three great faiths - the Catholic church, the South Sydney rugby league team and the Labor Party.

The Victorian Right's Bill Shorten might have been educated at the private Jesuit Xavier college but he is the son of a wharf worker and teacher who went on to head up the Australian Workers Union.

Both were instrumental to the prime ministership of Julia Gillard.

It was Shorten who did the early legwork on the national disability insurance scheme - the great bipartisan legacy of the 43rd Parliament - while the task of making minority government work fell to Albanese.

As the manager of government business it fell to the man known around the corridors of Parliament House as "Albo" to make sure Labor did not lose a vote on matters either procedural or legislative.

Albanese has more of the air of the larrikin about him and the party's rank-and-file membership love him for it.

Shorten carries the role of "faceless man" - that pointless moniker - after his role in the change of leadership from Rudd to Gillard in 2010 and back again in 2013.

It is that exhausting legacy of minority government that might rule Albanese out of contention.

He is said to be spent by the past three years and wants to spend more time with his wife, former NSW deputy premier Carmel Tebbutt, and their son.

Shorten is keener - but only if it doesn't mean a head on fight with Albanese.

When speculation has previously turned to the so called next generation of Labor leaders (this is politics so that tag applies to one man who is 50 and another who is 46) Shorten's has always been the name that comes up in dispatches.

Albanese has more been thought of as the ultimate backroom warrior while Shorten was never backwards about coming forwards when it came to long-term leadership speculation.

Whoever decides to run - and whoever wins - knows the job they will be taking on is hard.

He must be able to take on an ascendent Coalition government hell-bent on getting its mandate though, he must be able to unite the party's parliamentary wing and reconnect with its rank-and-file membership.

And that's before they begin the monumental task of working out just what it is that the Labor Party of the 21st century stands for - is it a party of the centre or should it fight harder to regain some of the territory that has been taken from it by the Greens?

Once all that has been settled the new leader must be able to connect with the broader public and begin to sell Labor's message.

There is more than a whiff of irony about this week's speculation over the Labor leadership.

The very thing that has plagued Labor for much of the past three years is now dogging it again.

This could not be far from the minds of either man but particularly Albanese who has despaired at the extent to which his colleagues and the press gallery have fed and fed off the leadership narrative.

The least appetising part of the whole job description is that whoever takes on the job must know that he is unlikely to defy history and become prime minister.

Both men might like to ask Kim Beazley exactly how that feels.