Bill Shorten

Bill Shorten

"Bill Shorten DSC 3004"
by Peter Campbell
William Richard "Bill" Shorten (born 12 May 1967) is an Australian politician who has been Leader of the Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition since October 2013.

He has represented Maribyrnong in the Australian House of Representatives since 2007, and served in a number of ministerial positions in the Rudd and Gillard Governments, including Minister for Education and Minister for Workplace Relations. Prior to entering Parliament, he was the National Secretary of the Australian Workers' Union from 2001-07.

Early career

Shorten was born in Melbourne, where his father, William Robert Shorten—from Tyneside, England—was a waterside worker and union official. His mother, Ann Shorten (née McGrath) was a lawyer and university academic of Irish descent. He was educated at Xavier College and Monash University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws. During his time at Monash, Shorten was a founding member of Young Labor Network, a right-wing Labor youth caucus. He also gained a Master of Business Administration from the Melbourne Business School.

Shorten became active in the Labor Party while still a student, working part-time for federal Labor Minister Gareth Evans and state Labor Minister Neil Pope. He also worked for Bill Landeryou, Minister and later Leader of the Government in the Victorian Legislative Council during the Kirner Labor Government. After graduating, he worked for 18 months as a lawyer for Maurice Blackburn Cashman.

Union leader

In 1994, Shorten began his union career as a trainee organiser under the ACTU’s Organising Works program at the AWU, before being elected Victorian State Secretary in 1998. Before taking this post, Shorten had decided to enter Victorian state politics, being selected unopposed as the Labor candidate for the state seat of Melton for the 1999 state election. However, he quickly gave this up in order to pursue his career with the union. His time as Secretary was marked by a reform of the union’s structures.

Shorten was elected as the AWU’s National Secretary in 2001, and was re-elected in 2005. He resigned as Victorian State Secretary of the AWU in August 2007. Shorten was an active member of the Labor Party; he was a member of the party’s National Executive until 2011, as well as the Administrative Committee of the Victorian Branch. He is a former director of the Superannuation Trust of Australia (now Australian Super), and the Victorian Funds Management Corporation. From December 2005 until May 2008 he was the Victorian State President of the Labor Party. He was also a member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Executive. Until early 2006, he was a board member of

During his time as AWU National Secretary, Shorten was the interim chief executive of the Australian Netball Players Association (ANPA), following an alliance between the AWU and ANPA in 2005. Shorten also served on the advisory board of the Australian Cricketers’ Association.

Political career

The political correspondent of the The Age, Misha Schubert, wrote, “The ascendancy of the articulate, clever and impressively connected challenger, routinely touted as a future Prime Minister, seems all but assured.” She pointed out that, as well as his base in the right-wing unions, Shorten would be supported by some unions normally associated with the left, such as the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union.

In 2005, Shorten announced that he would seek selection as the Labor candidate for the seat of Maribyrnong, which was already held by Labor MP and Shadow Minister Bob Sercombe. Justifying his challenge to a sitting Labor MP, Shorten said, “…we haven’t won a federal election since 1993. When your footy team loses four consecutive grand finals, you renew the team.” On 28 February, Sercombe announced that he was withdrawing his candidacy for re-selection, a few days before the vote of local members in which Shorten was expected to poll very strongly. As a result, Shorten was selected unopposed to contest the seat.

During the Beaconsfield mine collapse, Shorten, in his role as National Secretary of the AWU, played a prominent role as a negotiator and commentator on developments in the immediate aftermath and the ensuing rescue operations. The mine rescue operations drew mass national media coverage, and raised Shorten’s political profile ahead of the 2007 election.

At the election on 24 November 2007, Shorten was elected to the House of Representatives as the Labor Member for Maribyrnong. It was speculated that with his high public profile and general popularity within the Labor Party, he might immediately be given a front-bench portfolio; however, when asked about the possibility, new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that he believed parliamentary experience was essential when designating front-bench portfolios. On 29 November, Rudd announced that Shorten would become Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services. As Parliamentary Secretary, Shorten pushed hard for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, something which was later to become a key policy of the Labor Government.

Shorten would later become one of the main factional leaders involved in the replacement of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labor Party with Julia Gillard in the 2010 leadership challenge. Following the 2010 federal election there was speculation that Shorten might seek to oust Prime Minister Gillard from her position within the year; former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke and former Labor Opposition Leader Kim Beazley had both previously endorsed Shorten as a potential future Labor Leader. Shorten denied this speculation, and was promoted to the Cabinet as Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. In 2011, he was also given the position of Minister for Workplace Relations.

Following a period of persistent leadership tensions, Shorten announced immediately before a June 2013 leadership ballot took place that he would back Kevin Rudd against Julia Gillard, and would resign from the Cabinet should she win. Rudd subsequently won the ballot and became Prime Minister for a second time, appointing Shorten as Minister for Education, with particular responsibility for implementing the Gonski school funding reforms.

Shorten is considered a moderate member of the Labor Party.

Leadership of the Labor Party

Shorten speaking at the launch of the ALP’s campaign for the 2014 West Australian senate election Following the defeat of the Labor government at the 2013 federal election, Kevin Rudd announced that he would stand down as Leader of the Labor Party. Shorten subsequently announced his candidacy to be his successor, in a contest with Anthony Albanese that would be the first time party members would be eligible to vote. Shorten subsequently gained 63.9% of the party caucus vote and 40.8% of the rank-and-file members’ vote, which when weighted equally gave Shorten a 52.02% victory over Albanese. His first speech acknowledged the role of women in his election success. He also distanced himself from Tony Abbott’s social conservatism, saying “I reject the assumption that merit is more located in the brains of men than women” and highlighting the proportion of women in Labor’s leadership, with Tanya Plibersek as Deputy Leader and Penny Wong as Senate Opposition Leader.

On 12 February 2015 it was announced that an ALP tribunal had discovered that 20 votes were redirected to the home of Councillor Hicham Zraika. Hicham Zraika was a staffer for Senator Sam Dastyari. Cr Zraika was charged with branch stacking offences under party rules and falsifying the meeting records of his own branch and suspended him for six months.

Personal life

Shorten was previously married to Debbie Beale, the daughter of businessman and former Liberal MP Julian Beale. His wife, Chloe, is the daughter of the former Governor-General of Australia Dame Quentin Bryce and her husband Michael Bryce. Shorten and his wife live with their three children: their daughter, and Chloe Shorten’s children from a previous marriage. In May 2012, the Shortens issued a public appeal requesting the cessation of an unspecified smear campaign about their marriage; Shorten was quoted by The Australian saying “personal lives and families should be off limits”. Shorten has a twin brother, Robert.


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