The Labor leadership contest is expected to go down to the wire.
With caucus votes for Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese under lock and key in Canberra until Sunday, both camps have turned their attention to the rank-and-file element of the vote.
Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten arrive together for ALP caucus leadership ballot at Parliament House. Photo: Andrew Meares
Supporters of each candidate have been cold-calling ALP members around the country in a bid to gauge where the membership vote will land.
Early signs indicate a strong turnout in the key states of NSW and Queensland for Mr Albanese.
A Labor source said Victoria and Western Australia would be Mr Shorten’s best states but a strong response from Tasmania and the ACT indicate vital extra numbers for Mr Albanese.
As revealed by Fairfax Media on Thursday, Mr Albanese has wider popular support among voters in NSW and Victoria and a greater pull with Labor voters.
But Mr Shorten has solid ALP support in Victoria, according to a Fairfax-ReachTEL poll.
Mr Albanese needs an estimated 60 per cent of the rank-and-file vote to overcome Mr Shorten’s win in caucus – said to be about 51 votes to 35 based on the numerical dominance of the Right faction.
A caucus source said: ”There wasn’t a single vote up for grabs in that room.”
The direct election experiment was supposed to broaden democracy within Labor but MPs of the Right ”paired” to cast their votes.
The process, often used by union delegates at Labor conferences, ensures members toe the factional line because they must show their pair how they are voting.
Earlier, Mr Shorten denied a ”lock-in” by the Right.
”They will pick the candidate who they believe in good conscience is in the best interests of Australia and the Labor Party,” he said.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd and former treasurer Wayne Swan were among about eight Labor MPs allowed to post a vote from overseas.
Mr Shorten told caucus he could attract new voters to Labor if he was given the chance to lead the party in opposition.
Interim Labor leader Chris Bowen said the five-minute speeches by each candidate closely mirrored the repeated pitches they have made during the month-long leadership campaign.
”They made the point that they had given the speeches across the country several times and, in fact, they could have given each other’s speeches the number of debates they have had,” he said.
An MP of the Left said Mr Shorten had ”found his line and length” since first addressing the caucus room a month ago.
Counting of the rank-and-file ballots will begin on Friday, overseen by scrutineers from both camps. On Sunday, a decision will be delivered to Mr Bowen, caucus returning officer Chris Hayes and ALP president Jenny McAllister.
Labor members will be informed of a result shortly before a public announcement at 2pm.