ONE of the men touted as a prime contender to replace Kevin Rudd as Labor leader has withdrawn from the race.
Departing treasurer Chris Bowen, who defied the odds to hold his western Sydney seat of McMahon on Saturday, told reporters in Canberra he would not stand for the leadership.
Mr Bowen said he would make himself available to serve on the opposition frontbench, including as shadow treasurer.
His decision left Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten as the frontrunners to step into the leadership, with Mr Bowen describing them as "people of great talent".
"I think there's an obligation on each of us to make ourselves available for positions like the leadership if we feel genuinely that we are the best possible candidate," Mr Bowen said.
"Equally, there's an obligation not to put our names forward if we don't feel that."
Mr Bowen said it was vital for the party to unite behind its new leader and defend Labor's achievements.
He said the Coalition was inheriting a strong economy, albeit one in transition.
"I am looking forward to holding the government to account on the promises it has made," he said.
"The Labor Party is determined to be a credible alternative government for Australia. Australia deserves nothing less."
Wayne Swan, the man Mr Bowen replaced as treasurer after the Labor leadership putsch in June, also ruled himself out as a potential successor to Mr Rudd.
Mr Swan, who looks set to hold his seat of Lilley with a reduced margin, said he wanted to spend more time in his electorate.
He also wanted the "freedom" to contribute "constructively" to the national debate on a range of key issues.
"I think I can more effectively do that if I don't have a frontbench position," Mr Swan told ABC radio.
"I can say some things that I want to say from the viewpoint of my six years of experience that perhaps when you're in a leadership position or a frontbench position you can't say."
Mr Swan said the disunity which had plagued Labor since 2010 had been a "dominant factor" in the election result.
As for Labor's better than expected showing in Queensland, where it might end up losing just one seat, Mr Swan said Premier Campbell Newman was "living in fantasy land" if he thought his government's public sector cuts had not been a factor.
"They (the voters) weren't prepared to risk Tony Abbott coming along and doing the same thing," he said.