Shorten Fights Back Tears After 'Attack' On Dead Mother
Labor leader Bill Shorten has blasted a “political attack” on his dead mother Ann.
Sydney newspaper The Daily Telegraph had the headline ‘Mother Of Invention’ on its Wednesday front page, with a story claiming Shorten had “omitted” the fact his mum was a lawyer on the Q&A program.
On Monday, Shorten raised the story of his mother - a central theme in his political life and campaign, who died in 2014 - in a response on the ABC program.
“I know if she had other opportunities, she could have done anything,” he said. Shorten said his mother had wanted to study law but was forced to accept a teacher’s scholarship instead, so she could look after her children.
The paper claimed Shorten had skated over the fact that she did in fact study law later in life.
Shorten was asked about the story at a press conference in Nowra on Wednesday. He asked for the media’s indulgence and said he was going “to take a bit of time” to answer.
In a long and emotional response, he described the “gotcha shit” from some media outlets and asked for the tone of the debate to be lifted.
“Who do these people at News Corp think they are?” he said.
Fighting back tears at several points, he gave some of his family history and showered glowing, emotional praise on his mother.
“My mum wrote the book on education and the law in Australia,” he said, eyes visibly filling with tears.
“And that’s why drives me.”
His voice quivered as he criticised “lazy” work from some outlets.
At the end, he thanked media for allowing him the time to express his anger and sadness.
On Tuesday night, after the paper shared an image of its front page on social media ahead of the Wednesday publication, Shorten tweeted a response.
“In a new low, the Daily Telegraph newspaper has decided to use my mum’s life as a political attack on me and on her memory. They think they know more about my mum than I do,” Shorten wrote, praising his “brilliant” mother.
He detailed how she had only studied law later in life after her children were grown. Indeed, Shorten said his mum was actually at University at the same time he was, in her final year when he was in his first.
“She loved being a teacher and she was very good at it. She later became a teacher of teachers. She worked at Monash University for over three decades, but she always wanted to be in the law,” he said.
“She finally realised her dream and qualified as a lawyer in her late 50s.”
He took aim at the newspaper but used the moment to further outline his ambitions if he is elected Prime Minister on May 18.
“Mum was never bitter. She had a remarkable life and she felt very fortunate. But because of her financial circumstances, she didn’t get all the opportunities she deserved,” he wrote.
“I can’t change what happened to my Mum. But I can change things for other people. That’s why I’m in politics.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison called it an “upsetting story” and said the election was “not about our families”.
“I know Bill and I would like to keep focused on that choice [between the two major parties] and not on our families,” he said at a press conference.
Josh Butler is on the campaign trail with Bill Shorten.
Listen to Hugh Riminton and Peter Van Onselen in The Professor and The Hack discuss all things #Auspol.