Bill Shorten: Meet the likely next Australian Prime Minister

Bill Shorten.
Bill Shorten. Photo credit: Getty

Australian Opposition leader Bill Shorten is looking likely to be the country's next Prime Minister.

If the polls are correct and his Labor Party sweeps to power this weekend, Shorten will become the seventh person to lead the country in just nine years (if you count Kevin Rudd twice).

While there's been a high turnover of personnel at the top - including three different Prime Ministers from the Coalition in a row - Shorten has been leading the Opposition for six years now, providing stability for Labor after years of power struggles between Rudd and Julia Gillard.

He led the party to defeat in 2016, but markedly improved on their 2013 result, securing himself another shot in 2019.

Shorten, who celebrated his 52nd birthday on Sunday, was born in Melbourne to an Irish-Australian mother and English father. During the citizenship scandal of 2017, which saw dozens of MPs in hot water thanks to their illegal dual citizenship status, Shorten revealed he'd renounced his British citizenship (by descent) before entering Parliament in 2006.

Bill Shorten.
Bill Shorten. Photo credit: AAP

Before politics he studied law and worked his way up the union movement, eventually leading the Australian Workers' Union - one of the strongest factions in the Labor Party.

It was this job that led to him considering a political career. Shorten was head of the AWU when a gold mine in Beaconsfield, Tasmania collapsed, trapping a pair of miners. Shorten became the face of the story, regularly giving updates to media on how the rescue was progressing.

It was a success, and the miners have never forgotten the role Shorten played.

"He's a ripper of a bloke. He'll have my support - he always has,' Todd Russell told the Daily Mail last week.

"My mum, dad and (my ex-wife) Caroline all had a hell of a lot to do with him over the 14 days (I was trapped), and they loved him.

"You find people either love Bill Shorten or you hate Bill Shorten, but the way I see it, a lot of people don't see the real Bill Shorten behind the scenes."

Bill Shorten in 2006.
Bill Shorten in 2006. Photo credit: AAP

He used the profile the mine collapse gave him to launch a political career, being elected to the House of Representatives for Maribyrnong in 2007.

A few years later he helped Gillard roll Rudd, and was rewarded with a place in Cabinet. A few years later however he switched sides, and helped Rudd take back the top job.

When Rudd lost the 2013 election, Shorten took over after getting the backing of most of his colleagues in caucus - but not the party membership.

Paul Strangio, associate professor of politics at Monash University, wrote for The Conversation that Labor Party election rules introduced by under Rudd's second watch have given the party stability, making it difficult for anyone to topple Shorten in the following six years.

Outside of politics, Shorten has been married twice, presently to Chloe Shorten. They live in Moonee Ponds, Victoria, with Chloe's two children from a previous marriage and their own daughter.

He was raised Catholic, but converted to Anglicanism about 10 years ago.

As a youngster, he was a fencing champion and state-level debater.

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