Small, friendly and charming, Bill Shorten looks like a cuddly koala. But take care: he can scratch. Last year he was one of the key conspirators in the plot to bring down Kevin Rudd, and it was he who marshalled the numbers for Gillard, working two mobile phones from a Canberra restaurant on the night of the spill, ticking MPs off his list.

Since then, he’s been rewarded with the job of assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, which isn’t bad for a guy with less than four years in parliament, and he’s been polishing his Mr Nice Guy image. But don’t be fooled: Shorten has been a factional powerbroker all his political life and has huge ambition.

Bob Hawke and Kim Beazley long ago earmarked this former union star as a future Labor leader. And Shorten shares their high opinion. ”Bill is a future champion,” the late Senator John Button once quipped. ”I know that because he’s told me.”

One Power Index informant remembers Shorten grabbing a seat beside Button at a dinner and bending his ear for half-an-hour, at the end of which the shocked senator told the person on the other side that Shorten had been seeking tips on how to become prime minister.

Bill isn’t in the top job yet. And he told The Power Index, “I’m a Gillard man. I don’t lie awake at night thinking about whether I’ll be leader.”

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