Chloe Shorten discovered that in 2016, when she met Labor candidate Libby Coker and quickly formed a friendship with her.
Ms Shorten was in the ultra-marginal Victorian seat Corangamite yesterday, supporting Ms Coker in her attempt to unseat incumbent Liberal MP Sarah Henderson. Labor needs a swing of just 0.03 per cent.
She told news.com.au why she felt so strongly about Ms Coker’s candidacy.
“Libby is the very understated grassroots community girl, and that’s what I just love about her,” Ms Shorten said.
“Her kids are the same age as my kids, she’s got a girl in VCE at the moment, snap bang in between Rupert and Gigi, being in first year uni and year 11.”
She said Ms Coker’s previous career as a teacher was particularly important.
“She works so hard and has done so many different jobs. You look at her background, it’s so impressive,” she said.
“Libby was a teacher. And Bill and I love teachers. The kids say, ‘You know, the teachers again, and when they meet teachers, they get very emotional.’ We do because Bill’s mum was a teacher, my grandma was a teacher. It’s a big part of our lives. And we think they are unsung heroes — and that’s really what Libby is to me.
“I just wanted to come down and give her some support and a hug really, and then we went for a walk. It was amazing talking to so many locals and seeing how they respond to her.
“She’s so warm and utterly committed to her community and knows everyone. I was just deeply impressed by her. I think she’s a lovely human being.”
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Ms Shorten is playing an active role in the election. She also appeared at a joint campaign launch for four of Labor’s female candidates in Queensland — Susan Lamb, Annika Wells, Corinne Mulholland and Ali France.
Today, she and her husband drew a standing ovation when they arrived at Box Hill town hall, where Mr Shorten addressed a room teeming with 500 enthusiastic Labor volunteers.
Box Hill is in the electorate of Chisholm, which is currently kind of, sort of vacant.
The incumbent MP, former Liberal Julia Banks, abandoned the seat at this election to run in Flinders instead. Labor needs a 2.9 per cent swing to reclaim it.
Mr Shorten used the event for several high profile announcements. The Labor Leader pledged he would expand Medicare to cover dental care for about three million seniors and pensioners.
The significant $2.4 announcement would see anyone on the Age Pension or who holds a Seniors Health Care eligible for the scheme.
“The first $1000 of dental work you get in a two-year period will be free,” Mr Shorten said.
Mr Shorten said 185,000 older Australians skip going to the dentist each year because they can’t afford it.
On top of that, funding cuts from the Coalition government has seen public dental wait times “blow out” to up to 820 days on average, he said.
Mr Shorten also promised a 20 per cent pay rise, spread over eight years, for early childhood educators.
The average wage increase would be $11,300, on top of any increase in the award rate.
That’s on top of this morning’s $4 billion child care subsidy announcement, which would see parents save considerably each year — or in many cases, pay nothing.
More broadly, Mr Shorten sought to paint a stark contrast between his leadership style and that of Scott Morrison.
He mockingly referred to Scott Morrison’s assertion that he “doesn’t need anybody to prop me up”.
“It is fundamentally two different views about leadership,” Mr Shorten said. “He thinks it’s all about him. And I’m proud to lead my stable, united team.”
He called out several ministers by name, suggesting Mr Morrison had no one he could rely on.
“Even if he wanted to, the other bloke can’t do it, can he?” Mr Shorten said.
“His best people either quit parliament or have left the party. The others are either in exile or witness protection.
“Peter Dutton disgraced himself on day two of this campaign, even by his own standards.”
That was a reference to Mr Dutton suggesting his opponent in Dickson, Ali France, had used her disability as an “excuse” not to move to the electorate.
Mr Dutton later apologised.
Mr Shorten said Energy Minister Angus Taylor “hadn’t been sighted” since questions emerged about an $80 million water buyback deal.
And he reserved particular mockery for Environment Minister Melissa Price, who “has been in hiding so long, I’m not sure she even knows the election has been called”.