JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Troubleshooter appointed as Bill Shorten faces internal unrest

Date

James Massola, Heath Aston

Dissent in Labor ranks: MPs are unhappy with the centralisation of power under Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Dissent in Labor ranks: MPs are unhappy with the centralisation of power under Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's chief of staff Peta Credlin is frequently criticised for the ''command and control'' she maintains over government - but six months into opposition, Labor MPs are unhappy with the centralisation of power under leader Bill Shorten.

Mr Shorten appears to have acknowledged angst in ALP ranks caused by the centralised policy and media units. He has appointed veteran media strategist Eamonn Fitzpatrick to shake up operations and protect his most vulnerable flank - relations with the NSW Right.

Mr Fitzpatrick, a former Sydney Morning Herald journalist who then cut his teeth working for former NSW premier Morris Iemma, was the lone survivor from Julia Gillard's media team retained by Kevin Rudd on his return last year.

A Labor source said there was some confusion about Mr Fitzpatrick's role and whether it would overlap with Mr Shorten's most senior media aide, Kimberley Gardiner. ''Eamonn has always been a great tactician but that is a lot different from the role of devising a strategy,'' the source said.

Mr Shorten's media unit has been a particular source of frustration for MPs. All media releases and press conference transcripts from the shadow ministry are sent out centrally.

Shadow ministers are still required to transcribe releases but must then wait for approval from the leader's office, resulting in many releases being sent out late and falling outside the media cycle.

Mr Shorten's office argues a single, regularly updated data base is more efficient to reach all media outlets and has received no direct complaints from shadow ministers.

The Opposition Leader has allocated himself 30 of the 89 staff granted to the opposition shadow ministry. The 29 other members of the shadow ministry receive the 59 remaining staff.

The leader's office also plays a key role in determining which MPs appear on the ABC and Sky's 24-hour news channels, as well as on the parliamentary doors, though this arrangement is similar to when the Coalition was in opposition.

At least one shadow minster, Mr Shorten's vanquished leadership rival Anthony Albanese, does not seek approval for his contact with the media.

Questions have been raised about Mr Shorten not employing ''advancers'' to smooth the way for media events and head off potential protesters. Mr Abbott had four advancers in opposition and in government, while shadow ministers and ministers were allowed to send out media releases without centralised approval.

One Labor MP said it was clear the media team needed to be strengthened. ''There is not much of a coherent strategy. Eamonn coming on board will strengthen the show and demonstrate they are getting serious. He will be a unifying presence.''

The decision to appoint Mr Fitzpatrick comes a month after Mr Shorten was criticised by angry MPs over his surprise decision to back a second airport in western Sydney. They believe Mr Shorten has given away a potent political advantage in electorates Labor must win back to return to power.

Mr Shorten's office is split between Melbourne and Canberra, but Mr Fitzpatrick will be based in Sydney in a move interpreted by MPs as an admission the leader needs to reach out beyond his base in the Victorian Right.

The NSW Right's numbers were cut to 14 MPs at the last election, while Mr Shorten's Victorian Right faction grew from 14 to 15.

Follow us on Twitter

122 comments

  • The white anting has begun, honestly whats wrong with these luvvies,
    always chopping their own leaders down.

    Commenter
    SteveH.
    Date and time
    March 11, 2014, 7:02AM
    • At least Tony Abbott is in an unassailable situation. He provides a level of certainty which is precious in this day and age.

      Commenter
      adam
      Location
      yarrawonga
      Date and time
      March 11, 2014, 7:17AM
    • It's okay SteveH - they'll get their chance to show their support for Bill by marching in March next Monday.

      But have you noticed that consecutive Labor leaders in Gillard, Rudd and now Shorten have struggled to get their message out ? The McTernan period being the prime example.

      Alternatively, is it possible that people just don't like the message, as today's Newspoll suggests. Maybe it's time to change it.

      Commenter
      Hacka
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      March 11, 2014, 7:22AM
    • Shorten is good at strengthening a power base, but not so good at delivering results. Under the new rules, the ALP is stuck with him for better or for worse.

      Commenter
      Gelert of Birrong
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 11, 2014, 7:26AM
    • hi jace - look to your own house.

      Commenter
      Ross
      Location
      MALLABULA
      Date and time
      March 11, 2014, 7:50AM
    • Tanya will need to be "pushed"

      That battery has been flat since the Gillard catastrophe

      Commenter
      StormChaser
      Date and time
      March 11, 2014, 8:26AM
    • Bill who?

      Commenter
      doh
      Date and time
      March 11, 2014, 8:44AM
    • Ross, What's wrong with Tanya? I think she is pretty good at politics, she was on Q&A over the last few years at least. Tanya and Joel Fitzgibbon would make a good 1&2.

      Commenter
      Dirt
      Date and time
      March 11, 2014, 9:07AM
    • The ALP is my house, Ross. Shorten is a dud, and always has been. He needs to be gone before the next election.

      Commenter
      Jace
      Date and time
      March 11, 2014, 9:34AM
    • #Jace - We don't want another "Gillard" thank you. People are still raw with the experiences while she was in power. We do not want another repercussion of the era. It has nothing to do with that she is a woman, it has all to do with the ability to rule. I do not feel she has that ability.

      Commenter
      J.G.
      Date and time
      March 11, 2014, 10:11AM

More comments

Comments are now closed
Featured advertisers

Special offers

Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo