Bill Shorten likes to talk. He knows how to shape a media grab, chuck a barb at his opponents and stir a union crowd.

So what does Hansard and the public record say about the new leader of the federal Parliamentary Labor Party? Crikey trawled the archives.

Inaugural speech

On being elected the member for Maribyrnong, Shorten rose in Parliament on February 14, 2008 to deliver his inaugural speech:

“In this great country, if I were another skin colour or if I were a woman and could not enter a shop, ride a bus, catch an aeroplane or get a job, there would be a hue and cry — and deservedly so — but if I am in a wheelchair or have a mental illness or an intellectual disability then somehow the same treatment is accepted. Why should I be told to be grateful to receive charity rather than equality? It is not enough just to rely on the existence of laws to prevent this treatment. It is something that, with every fibre that we have, we should cry out against. It should go without saying that all of us demand equal treatment for those living with disabilities, as we would for any other Australian. This argument, for me, is a natural progression and parliament, I believe, is a place where real change can occur.”

‘PM for the powerless’

During his campaign for Labor leadership, Shorten said:

“I would like to be known as the PM for the powerless.”

In federal Parliament, he has said:

“Employees do need a voice. They need it in the Parliament, they need it in the community and they need it at work. With the best will in the world, sometimes bad things happen to good people, and this can happen at work.” (June 2013)

“We should always listen to people who lack power. It is not just our duty, but a key source of advice on how this parliament and this country can conduct themselves.” (March 2011)

On the ALP membership

A speech at the National Press Club in 2002 was written up in an industry journal:

“Shorten, who recently passed up the opportunity to become Victorian state president of the ALP, also commented on the union movement’s relationship with the party. Addressing the 60-40 rule which gives unions 60% of the votes at ALP national conferences, Shorten said branch numbers were too small at present in Victoria to justify giving them more than 40% of the vote, with the Collingwood Football Club having more members than the ALP in Victoria.”

On the Coalition

“We know the first rule of conservative politics is to never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” (May 2013)

“So far this week, they have not met anyone who earns less than $37,000 that they will even make a fist for.” (February 2013)

“It is time for those opposite to stop being self-righteous and instead — why don’t they ever vote for an increase in super for low-paid health workers? Why don’t they ever vote for a pay rise for low-paid workers? Will they be making a submission to the minimum wage case in favour of health workers? I think not.” (May 2012)

“If I were feeling polite — which I am — I would just say that this is fiscally sloppy. If I were feeling slightly more adventurous, I would look for the collective noun for a group of pork-barrels — maybe it is a piggery.” (March 2008)

On superannuation and the Coalition

In February, the then-minister for superannuation took on the Coalition’s record on super:

“Let us go through the attitude of the Liberal Party to superannuation. I love it when they get up and say — actually, I do not love it; it sticks in my throat — ‘we love superannuation’. Do you, really? Unfortunately, there is a thing called Hansard. Do you know what the member for Warringah, now the leader of the opposition, this great white knight of superannuation, said? He said: compulsory superannuation is one of the biggest con jobs ever foisted by government on the Australian people. Do you know what he said in Eureka Street volume 5, No. 3, April 1995? He said: compulsory superannuation is possibly the greatest confidence trick of the last decade.”

On Malcolm Turnbull

During a debate in June on asbestos exposure in rolling out the National Broadband Network:

“I do not mean to puncture the member for glass jaw here … He is not fit to hold the highest office in the nation if he does not understand that sooner or later we have to start removing this asbestos — otherwise more people will die and more people will get sick.”

On himself

From his maiden speech in 2008:

“I advocate no rigid road, for I am sceptical of absolutes.”

“I am an optimist.”

When speaking to accountants in 2013:

“I’ve been accused of being a numbers man myself in the past.”

On family and politics

Shorten, who married Chloe (pictured), daughter of Governor-General Quentin Bryce, in 2009, addressed rumours about his personal life in a tabloid interview in 2012:

“Certainly in politics I just think personal lives and families should be off limits.”

In stating the obvious

“I am not saying we need a Harbour Bridge everywhere, but certainly over the water.” (March 2008)

And for once

“Words fail me.” (March 2008)

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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