Shorten, Abbott brawl over ‘lies’

Labor and the coalition have exchanged blows over issues of trust, after Bill Shorten apologised for lying about his role in the Rudd-Gillard leadership fiasco two years ago.


The federal opposition leader has admitted he made a mistake when he told Melbourne 3AW radio host Neil Mitchell in June 2013 there was no question then Labor prime minister Julia Gillard would remain leader, he was not reviewing his support and had not been asked to do so by contender Kevin Rudd.

His admission came after ABC TV’s Killing Season documentary this week revealed that wasn’t the case.

“You can rest assured, I am kicking myself in hindsight,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

“The Labor party was bitterly divided and certainly I didn’t want to put any more fuel on that fire.”

Mr Shorten dismissed as “ridiculous” suggestions his integrity would be a problem in the lead-up to the next election due in 2016 and denied his position as Labor leader had become untenable.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told parliament it was astounding Mr Shorten had taken two years to correct the record.

“The only thing that goes down and down and down is the … credibility of an opposition leader who has been caught out again,” Mr Abbott said.

Mr Shorten accused the prime minister of lying to the public before the election by promising to not cut schools and hospitals spending, while the 2014 budget papers showed an $80 billion cut.

Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne described Mr Shorten as a “dead political duck”.

Labor frontbencher David Feeney said no one should have expected a cabinet minister to reveal to the media details about any internal contests.

“I wouldn’t characterise it as lying,” he told reporters.

Mr Shorten told parliament the government was more focused on him than governing.

“Every day you talk about Labor, you talk about me, is another day that confirms you have nothing to say about the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, as parliament wrapped up for a six-week winter break, Mr Abbott dismissed talk of an early election.

Anyone thinking there would be an early poll should “have a Bex and a long lie down”, he said.

“This is a government that was elected to govern for three years,” Mr Abbott said.

The latest opinion polls have Labor leading the coalition 52-48 on a two-party basis, but Mr Shorten’s personal approval has been slipping.