But Mr Shorten’s clearly been in this politics game for a while because the facial expression remained fixed. He even chuckled a little.
The Opposition Leader spoke to Sales in his first big interview after he delivered Labor’s Budget reply on Thursday evening in the House of Representatives.
The 7.30 host quizzed Mr Shorten on his plans to inject billions into cancer services, his claim that tax changes down the line were a “ticking debt bomb” and movement on negative gearing.
But as things wrapped up, Sales went in for an altogether more personal question.
“I want to ask you something completely blunt — and I don’t want to seem rude, but Australians value authenticity, and so I just want to speak plainly,” she began, leaving viewers wondering where is this going?
“You would know that opinion polls for a long time have shown that your personal popularity is a bit lacklustre.
“What would you say to the Australian voter who thinks, ‘Jeez, I just don’t like that Bill Shorten bloke very much? I don’t know if I can vote for him?’”
“Wait until you meet me and see our fair go plan in action,” Mr Shorten said, barely skipping a beat after being told he just wasn’t that nice a guy if we’re being perfectly honest.
“Not every voter, though, is going to be able to meet you in person,” Sales interjected.
Mr Shorten answered with a rhetorical question: “What do people dislike more?
“Do they dislike everything going up except their wages? Are they frustrated that their adult children can’t get into the housing market? Are they annoyed there’s been no action on climate change?”
The thing is though, he didn’t answer his own question. That sentence surely should have concluded with “or me?”
Popular or not, Mr Shorten said he would at least stick around.
“I guarantee you, if you ever want to have a barbecue conversation with random strangers, talk about the fact we’ve had three Liberal prime ministers, in fact, five, in the last three years,” he said.
“People are craving stability. I think the more people see our plans people (they) will realise we’ve got a fair-go plan for Australia. The other side are basically consumed by themselves.”
Earlier in the interview, he rubbished the Government’s Budget announcements as “a lacklustre, wimpy Budget which doesn’t prepare us for the future”.
“It’s just a set of numbers to try and patch us through to the next election,” he said.
But Sales asked that given Australia’s coffers were still in the red, and next year’s projected surplus was “wafer-thin”, wasn’t Labor’s further tax cuts for low income earners “irresponsible right now”?
“You’re spot on, there’s a pretty wafer-thin surplus. What we need to do is have a real surplus so we’ve got a fighting fund against what the world will do to us, in terms of economics,” Mr Shorten said.
“That’s why we need to do our reforms on negative gearing. That’s why we need to do our reforms on dividend imputation.”
The initial round of tax cuts, Mr Shorten said, were affordable. That’s the Coalition’s initial cuts plus Labor’s new ones for those on less than $40k.
“But we have great reluctance with the second and third-round tax cuts by the Government. It’s $150 billion, and most of that’s going to just a few taxpayers.”
‘LEIGH, I’LL PUT IT SUCCINCTLY’
Sales quizzed Mr Shorten on plans to restore Sunday and public holiday penalty rates.
“If businesses meet those higher wages through charging more to customers, won’t that simply add to the cost of living that the policy is trying to address?” the host asked.
“Leigh, I’ll put it really succinctly,” he replied.
“Who do you think shops in these shops? It’s the working people of this country. Who do you think goes out to breakfast on a Sunday morning? If you’re not getting wages growth and you’re dipping into your household saving, that affects the high-street economy.”
During the Budget reply, Mr Shorten said a Labor government would deliver more relief for lower paid workers by upping tax cuts for those earning less than $40,000. But he promised to keep the tax cuts for middle income earners that the Coalition has announced.
The Labor leader also said his party would pour more than $2 billion into cancer care and $1 billion extra into the TAFE system.
Combating climate change was also in the mix with a promise of $2000 to households who installed a battery storage system and a nationwide electric vehicle policy.