'Labor must follow in Chifley's footsteps'

LABOR MPs should become ''authentic and fair dinkum storytellers'' to win back Australian voters before next year's election.

That's the view of senior federal minister Bill Shorten, who, in a wide-ranging interview with the Herald, also conceded he and other Labor strategists - the party's so-called ''faceless men'' - failed to tell one very important story two years ago: the reasons behind their move to dump the then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, and give Julia Gillard his job.

The Minister for Workplace Relations was in Bathurst at the weekend to give Labor's annual ''light on the hill'' speech in honour of Ben Chifley, the prime minister from 1945 to 1949.

Sitting in the kitchen of Chifley Home, which is now a museum, he distilled the Chifley view of politics into a line the Labor Party might apply to its recent modest gains in opinion polls.

''If you [keep] sticking to what you actually believe in, then the times ultimately come to favour you,'' he said.

It has taken a while. Ever since the June night in 2010 when Labor dumped Mr Rudd, a sense of deceit from the leadership change has plagued Labor and helped the Coalition make ''trust'' an issue in its attacks on Ms Gillard.

Mr Shorten insists Labor has ''the best person'' in the top job ''but I also agree, when you look back, the more you can communicate with people about why, that's important. In politics, you should always explain what you are doing and then re-explain it and keep explaining it''.

However, he doesn't want to go on explaining that night forever. ''I'm not going to spend my time looking in the rear vision mirror,'' he said.

He is determined to be forward looking and positive - to make himself a contrast to the ''always negative'' tag the government is trying to give the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott.

The opposition has countered recently by claiming a ''dirt unit'' at work inside the government has been digging up material to attack Mr Abbott with - such as recent claims of aggressive behaviour during his university days.

''Absolutely I [am not], and no one I deal with in Labor and the government is running a dirt squad,'' Mr Shorten said. He placed his hand on his heart as he said it, for those still having trouble trusting him.

From his days as the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Mr Shorten has been spoken of as a future prime minister. For now, he remains a Gillard supporter but his Chifley trip has given him the opportunity to tout his own credentials.

Last week he voted for same-sex marriage, a ''very tough decision'' given the likely views of voters in Maribyrnong, his north-west Melbourne electorate.

He's happy to put one policy above all others on the government's to do list - a national disability insurance scheme to help Australians with ''a profound or severe impairment [who are] practically exiled in their own country''.

It's another of the stories Mr Shorten insists Labor MPs must tell as they try to claw back support before the election next year.

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