“If you forced me, twisted my arm, and threatened to pull out my fingernails, I’d have to say it’s the policies which go to the equal treatment of women,” he said.
“If we did nothing else in the next 10 years but achieve the equal treatment of women in Australian society, we would be the richest, most successful country on the planet.
“We would be the happiest and the fairest.”
The policies include a commitment to change the Fair Work Act to act on the undervaluation of work in industries dominated by women, such as child care and aged care, as well as measures to pay superannuation contributions during parental leave.
With almost half the Labor caucus made up of female MPs, Mr Shorten is presenting Labor as the better option for voters when compared with the Coalition, which has been beset by division over whether to use quotas to recruit more women.
“Treating women equally is a great economic strategy,” he said.
This would start with appointments in the public service, where a Labor government would introduce gender-neutral job applications so employers would not know the gender of the applicants before arranging the first interview.
Mr Shorten said he wanted to halt the “unconscious bias” in appointments and that his “starting principle” would be to name women to half the board appointments by government.
“The next governor-general I appoint will be a woman,” he said.
“This nation’s ready to share power between men and women on equal terms.”
Mr Morrison has named General David Hurley, currently the Governor of New South Wales, as the next Governor-General, and has announced he will be sworn in on 28 June. The appointment is at the pleasure of the Queen but usually runs for five years.
Mr Shorten made no criticism of General Hurley’s appointment other than to say the government should have postponed the decision until after the election.
The declaration is especially important given Mr Shorten is the son-in-law of Quentin Bryce, who was governor-general until 2014 and previously the governor of Queensland. Mr Shorten is married to Dame Quentin’s daughter, Chloe.
In the event of a five-year appointment ending in June 2024, the next occupant of the position would be chosen by the government that wins the election due in 2022, assuming standard three-year terms.
Labor has promised to hold a plebiscite on a republic in the next term of Parliament if it wins power, followed by a full referendum in the subsequent term.
If Australians support the constitutional change under Labor, the decision on a republic could come in the same term Mr Shorten seeks to name a woman as governor-general.
David Crowe is Chief Political Correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.