HE may be trailing the PM in the popularity polls, but Opposition Leader Bill Shorten won a few new friends in a Q&A; performance pitched straight at the battler on Monday night.

In the northern Adelaide suburb of Elizabeth, an area with unemployment running at 33 per cent and still reeling from the shutdown of the Holden manufacturing factory last year, Mr Shorten spoke straight to the "everyday" Australian.

He spoke of basic wages, unemployment, apprenticeships, housing affordability, negative gearing, aged care, and power bills, while casually skewering the Turnbull Government, big business and the big banks.

He stumbled briefly on immigration, but overall appeared unflappable, gaining kudos for sincerity and minimal spin, seemingly at ease in the town hall-like setting.

"This is more fair dinkum to me than half the rubbish we carry on in Parliament," he said as the show closed.

Mr Shorten talked workplace reform, criticising the casualisation of the workforce, and profit-sharing at the cost of basic wages as he spoke straight to much of Middle Australia - many of whom haven't had a wage increase in years.

"The problem at the moment in Australia is that we have mounting inequality. The problem in Australia is not that somehow workers are getting too much. The real problem is that corporate profits are going up and up and up, but wages have stagnated," he said.

Confronted by two faces of the unemployment in Elizabeth, Mr Shorten hit his stride.

Former Holden worker Charlie worked at Holden's plant for 30 years, but hasn't been able to find regular employment since it closed.

Mr Shorten said he remained "angry every day" that [Tony] Abbott and [Joe] Hockey "did nothing to save the car industry".

While he conceded bringing car manufacturing back to Australia was unlikely, he said "we can do advanced manufacturing in this country".

"I'm sick of blokes and women in their late 40s and 50s who get thrown on the scrap heap because someone says it's not economically rational," he said.

He said the casualisation of the workforce was not just "the way of the world".

"Everyone can pick up a job being an Uber delivery person or something … spare me," Mr Shorten said.

"We need to have manufacturing back in this country. I'm sick and tired of labour hire companies who rely on casualised labour undermining people's conditions."

Unemployed 22-year-old Maddie has participated in medical trials and studies to earn short-term money, and her parents, and siblings have struggled to find work.

Mr Shorten said Labor wanted to pay upfront fees for 100,000 apprenticeship courses over the next three years.

"Get people to university if they want to, but get them apprenticeships," he said.

"We are a tradie nation. 1.6 million Australians are qualified tradespeople but in the last five years under the Coalition Government we've gone back 420,000 apprentices down to 280,000.



On Labor's plan to end negative gearing, Mr Shorten was unapologetic.

"My concern is it takes a big lump of taxpayer money and it subsidises some people who have the opportunity to take advantage of it to make more money.

He challenged the notion "low-income earners" were negative gearing, and ending it would prevent any chance of them investing.

"In my experience, banks do not lend money to poor people to negatively gear," he said.

"I challenge your friends who earn $60,000 a year and see if the bank is lending them money to buy an investment property.

"Is it fair in this country that you go to an auction … and you find the price you were quoted all of a sudden jumps by another $100,000 and it's a property investor who is outbidding you courtesy of the taxes you're paying to Canberra. That's not fair in my opinion."


Of concerns rents would rise if negative gearing was abolished, Mr Shorten said there were "better ways to help young people than give a tax subsidy to property investors".

"The idea negative gearing was invented by Robin Hood to help the poor against the well off, I don't buy it," he said.

"You're right there's a challenge around rental properties, you're right there's a challenge around homelessness."

How to stop shortfall? Incentivise new housing, build more social housing. and not make it as easy for foreign investors "to come and buy up Australian housing stock".


Unemployed 22-year-old Maddie on Q&A. Picture: ABC
Unemployed 22-year-old Maddie on Q&A. Picture: ABC



Stuart, the son of a woman abused in an aged-care facility in South Australia asked Mr Shorten if he would call a Royal Commission into the issue.

Mr Shorten would promise that, but said there is a national crisis in aged care with our most vulnerable suffering abuse, neglect and inadequate care.

"I don't think the quality standards are working. What you see on paper is not what you get," he said.

"Any one of you who has a family member in a facility, it really just depends on the hard work of the staff."

Saying Labor also wanted to focus heavily on the issue of dementia, he asked anyone in the audience whose family had been touched by it to raise their hands, and 70 per cent did so.

"A country who can't treat its old people properly isn't the country it wants to see in the mirror," Mr Shorten said.


Quizzed about the Adani coal mine, Mr Shorten could not give a definite answer, saying while Labor is committed to fighting climate change, the coal mining industry is still relevant.

"What I'm not going to do is say to everyone that coal is not going to be part of our energy mix going forward. Anyone who pretends to you otherwise is kidding you," he said.

"But what we will do is put in policies which see a greater use of gas, and also move towards renewable energy, because I think the future is renewable energy."


Challenged to "promise to put an end to indefinite detention of asylum seekers in Australia", Mr Shorten wouldn't commit.

He said the Labor Party would not allow "the boats start again", and he would not "wash his hands" of the issue, and most importantly, there was "no need" for indefinite detention.

"I do not believe we need to have indefinite detention. I do not believe that is necessary," he said.

"I believe a Labor government can actually make sure that we don't have to have people in Manus and Nauru because we'll prioritise resettling people."


Mr Shorten took the most personal question of the night on the chin.

Noting Mr Shorten is known for "your unique use of zing, dad jokes and eccentric metaphors," the questioner said, "despite opinion polls suggesting you're likely to win the next election the same polls indicate you're one of the most unpopular politicians in our country. "Do you worry that these zingers and the Coalition's 'Kill Bill' strategy represent you as an untrustworthy and shifty character, and undermining your suitability as a potential PM?"

Mr Shorten's succinct initial reply: "No" drew applause.

"They say to be PM of Australia you've got to have a thick skin. the Opposition Leader's job is good training for it," he added.

"I tell you what the polls tell me if you want to obsess about them: any Saturday for the last two years we would have won the election. Of course obviously there hasn't been an election held. So I take them all with a grain of salt."