Bill Shorten, leader of Australia’s opposition Labor party, is known as a deft negotiator who can work a room to his advantage. His ability to organize – honed while hammering out union pay deals in industries as disparate as horse racing, skiing and ports – may prove decisive at the May 18 general election. Opinion polls suggest the former trade union leader will guide a rejuvenated Labor to victory, ending nearly six years of conservative and center-right rule. “When he came onto the scene it struck me immediately that this guy was going places,” said race horse industry executive John Alducci who faced Shorten in contract talks in the 1990s. “He was aggressive, they all are. But he was intelligent and knew how to put forward a case when negotiating for stable hands.” Shorten, 52, has never been the preferred choice of voters, consistently trailing leaders of the Liberal-led coalition, including current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in personal popularity polls. But Labor’s brand has strengthened since Shorten took over in 2013 after a period of leadership instability; a crucial detail in an electoral system whereby voters cast ballots for party members and do not directly elect the prime minister. Labor’s 2019 campaign has focused on higher spending for health and education, and more ambitious curbs to greenhouse gas pollution than his opponents. Shorten said late last month in a leadership debate that the economy was stoking inequality. The center-left Labor wants to restrict the use of negative gearing – whereby
Australians have rallied behind Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and his emotional story of his mum with Twitter users sharing accounts of their own mums who gave up careers to look after their families.
The hashtag #MyMum was trending after Mr Shorten fought back tears during a press conference after questions were raised about his mother’s story.
The Labor leader’s voice broke as he described his mother’s circumstances, to counter claims that he didn’t tell her full story during an appearance on Q&A this week.
“My mum suffered a catastrophic heart attack in her sleep … she never woke up,” he said. “It’s been about five years to last month when she passed away. I miss her every day.
“But I’m glad that she wasn’t here today to read that rubbish,” he said of the reports.