In Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s shadow cabinet reshuffle last Thursday, it was Richard Marles who appeared the big winner. Still relatively unknown despite being deputy leader since 2019, Marles is to head up a ministerial portfolio of “national reconstruction.”
Not only Labor No.2, then, Marles will also take on a key role in the next election – expected later this year or early next year – which shapes as one Labor will strive to make about how to rebuild the economy after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Who is Labor’s Deputy Leader?
Marles is the member for Corio, an outer residential and industrial suburb of Geelong. He is also the highest ranked right-winger in federal Labor.
A political operator from day one, Marles joined Young Labor from the beginning of his law degree at University of Melbourne. Before his preselection 13 years ago, he worked as a legal officer for the TWU before ascending through the union ranks.
Marles was formerly shadow minister for immigration and then shadow defence minister. To the Labor left and the Greens, he became notorious for supporting turning back the boats and the “Pacific Strategy” of indefinite detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. Similar animus towards him arose out of his support for recognising “Operation Sovereign Borders” in the $500 million expansion of the Australian War Memorial.
These moments of controversy aside, Marles has remained notably removed from the headlines for such a prominent political figure. This is particularly surprising given his six-year stint on the Sky News show Marles & Pyne – ft. the Christopher Pyne – a program I sadly missed but which one can only imagine as awkward.
There’s plenty more to learn about exactly where Marles wants to steer this ship if a Labor government is to be elected.
A Labor Climate Shift?
The cabinet reshuffle also had many speculating Labor would tone down its climate policies, which include a net zero by 2050 commitment. This was prompted by the shift of left-winger Mark Butler out of the climate change portfolio. Marles himself has previously said, “Coal will continue to play a part in our economy for decades to come.”
However, Albanese said there is “zero possibility” a Labor government would not take action on climate change. He then told the press gallery that it’s “up to you the nonsense, frankly, that some of you from time to time write.”
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