22 December, 2015. 15:34
ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact
PRIME MINISTER MALCOLM TURNBULL and his government have, in recent weeks, been openly toying with industrial relations policy, including the hot topic of penalty rates.
Coming from a background in trade unions, one would expect opposition leader Bill Shorten to have a differing opinion on the matter.
“I don’t need to tell people where I stand on matters like that,” said Shorten. “They know me. Every time the government comes out with new policy, doesn’t mean I need to call a press conference and speak on it.”
The 48-year-old is described by his party colleagues as being quiet at reserved. At the Labor Christmas party earlier this month, witnesses told the media that Shorten stood at the edge of conversations, smiling and nodding, waiting for his chance to join in. But that chance never came. Rather than join in, one guest said he awkwardly sat in the corner, playing with Penny Wong’s 4-year-old labrador.
“So what? I’m quiet,” said Shorten. “Public speaking makes me nervous. Fucking hell. I was in a trade union, so basically I’m the opposite of Malcolm Turnbull on everything. OK? Jeesus.”
Come election time next year, it’s looking more and more like a popularity vote – as opposed to one made entirely on ideology. Many rusted on Labor voters aren’t sure about Shorten, not because they don’t know where he sits on issues, but because he refuses to address them.
One life member of the CMFEU, who has a neck tattoo, said he feels sorry for Shorten.
“He’s not a bad bloke. Works hard and plays the game,” he said. “It’s just that I feel he’d be better suited in a portfolio like transport or the environmental one, where he’s not expected to do much.”