Labor leader Bill Shorten has nightmares of the Turnbull variety. Photo Digitally altered
Labor leader Bill Shorten has nightmares of the Turnbull variety. Photo Digitally altered Digitally altered

STRANGE POLITICS: Shorten shaking in his boots

PEACEFUL dreams of chugging beers with Bob Hawke at Kirribilli House have declined into sweaty, fretful nights for Bill Shorten.

The poor sod had it all - a lame duck opponent, free run at the top job and more than two years since a party leader's own team had dealt them a fatal blow.

Instead of running against someone with the approval rating of leprosy, he now faces Malcolm Turnbull - a bloke even a few weekend bolshies cannot help but begrudgingly admire.

In truth, Turnbull is not so much progressive as Abbott was the product of a backwards time warp.

Where Abbott had the flat earth theory, his usurper accepted climate change existed. While homosexuality made Abbott feel "a bit threatened", Turnbull realised gays were here to stay.

I would have paid to see former Australian Republican Movement leader Turnbull's face when Tony granted Prince Philip a knighthood.

These views are on par with the majority of the country. Maybe he can bring his party up to speed.

So far he is paying lip service to all the government's existing policies, but we can expect that to change in short order if he has his party's support.

No more captain's picks - just a party-room democracy, apparently.

But policies have to change if they want to stay in power.

As former Labor minister Graham Richardson put it while the spill was underway: "self-preservation is a great motivator".

Shorten's sleepless apoplexy must be about to send cracks through his skull by now.

He was on top of the world when news of the coup broke this week, taking every opportunity to capitalise on the government's disunity.

Finally, the shoe was on the other foot.

All the jibes about Labor back-stabbing had done an about-turn.

The celebration proved premature during Question Time when Turnbull, cool as an Arctic cucumber, rattled off answers with polished ease.

He had no problem dealing with the apparent hypocrisy of supporting marriage equality personally, but failing to replace Abbott's delay-tactic plebiscite with a conscience vote in parliament.

"There is no greater virtue in a free vote here or a plebiscite," he said.

"They are each means of resolving the matter.

"One, I grant you is more expensive but, nonetheless, it is a very legitimate and democratic way of dealing with it."

Not quite the bumbling prime ministerial response we have become accustomed to.

A snap Roy Morgan poll on Tuesday found about 70% of voters preferred Turnbull over Shorten.

That means even Labor voters would rather the silver-fox, four-time "sexiest male politician" winner over their own party leader.

Another ReachTEL poll on Thursday had Turnbull leading at 62% to 38%.

Labor and the Liberals are now neck and neck on 50-50 on the first two-party preferred polls since the spill.

A word of advice for Shorten: take some sleeping pills, get some rest and keep an eye out.

You will need your wits about you.

Albanese might be coming to tap you on the shoulder soon enough.