Bill Shorten and wife Chloe have spent all of the campaign together, beginning and ending each day alongside each other. Picture: Liam Kidston
Bill Shorten and wife Chloe have spent all of the campaign together, beginning and ending each day alongside each other. Picture: Liam Kidston

Chloe Shorten’s awkward confession

Being in the public spotlight is not remotely Chloe Shorten's natural habitat, as comfortable as she may seem being in it.

But over the past six weeks, the wife of Labor leader Bill Shorten has emerged as a surprise star of the election campaign, her warmth and charm winning over the public.

"I have to kind of gee myself up to do it, talk myself into it a bit," Ms Shorten admits to news.com.au. "Being in front of the media is not comfortable for me."

When she's at an event or in a crowd and feels a bit nervous or out-of-place, she "always looks for Bill", she says.

"My kids tease me, saying 'you're staring at him with those eyes again'," Ms Shorten laughs.

The couple don't often give interviews together and during ours, she turns a few times to him to ask: "Is it OK that I said that?"

"Yes, it's beautiful, darling," Mr Shorten responds each time.

We're in the back of a car travelling from Sydney's western suburbs, where Mr Shorten has just wrapped a speech to Labor faithful two days out from Election Day.

It is also hours before news would break that former prime minister Bob Hawke had died.

Bill and Chloe Shorten during their exclusive interview with news.com.au. Picture: John Guanzon
Bill and Chloe Shorten during their exclusive interview with news.com.au. Picture: John Guanzon

The pair has spent virtually all of the campaign together, beginning and ending each day - usually in different cities - as a kind of political team.

"She's been irreplaceable," Mr Shorten says. "This has been a real shared effort.

"My colleagues have noticed that I'm more relaxed when she's around, which is understandable."

At this comment, Ms Shorten beams, asking: "Why?"

"Because you're not a politician. You bring a sort of very positive complexion to what we do, what we think and how we do it."

Ms Shorten's outsider's view, having not been part of the political bubble until she met him in 2007, is relished by her husband and his staff.

Bill Shorten and Chloe after his address at the Vote for Change rally. Picture: AAP
Bill Shorten and Chloe after his address at the Vote for Change rally. Picture: AAP

 

Chloe Shorten looks on as Bill Shorten addresses the Labor faithful. Picture: AAP
Chloe Shorten looks on as Bill Shorten addresses the Labor faithful. Picture: AAP

That fresh perspective, coupled with how well she knows him, gives Ms Shorten a theory about a common criticism of the Labor leader - that he's stilted.

"He's very humble," Ms Shorten explains.

"There's a real humility about him and in that regard, he hides his light under a bush a bit. I think part of that is because … and here's a big reveal - he's actually quite shy.

"He's reserved. He doesn't have that big, loud personality. He's strident and passionate and gets fired up about issues. But as a human being, as a man, he's quite reserved."

Ms Shorten continues: "Sometimes that might come across as being …"

There's a pause in the car as she searches for the right word, before Mr Shorten offers it: "Distant".

"Yeah, a bit removed or a bit clunky in a press conference," she continues. "I think it's because he's thinking very deeply about what he's trying to get across. He's not a showman."

Bill and Chloe Shorten say their marriage is stronger than ever after campaigning together. Picture: AAP
Bill and Chloe Shorten say their marriage is stronger than ever after campaigning together. Picture: AAP

 

Bill Shorten with wife Chloe and daughter Clementine. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen
Bill Shorten with wife Chloe and daughter Clementine. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen


The logistics of having been on the road together with three children at home has required "a lot of planning", Mr Shorten says.

"Chloe does most of that too," he adds.

"She's had to carry a big part of the burden since I became Opposition Leader. While she's not a sole parent, she's sort of one-and-a-half parents. I've asked a lot of Chloe and the kids to pursue my political ideals."

Ms Shorten has taught him how to be a better parent, he says.

When their relationship began, their blended household was busy from the get-go. Ms Shorten has two children from a previous marriage and the pair have a nine-year-old together.

"She's a really superb parent," Mr Shorten says.

"For her, parenting isn't just a love. It's all-embracing. She's very good at it. She loves her children like they'll never be loved."

Bill and his Chloe Shorten speak to cancer patient Jill Barnard. Picture: Getty
Bill and his Chloe Shorten speak to cancer patient Jill Barnard. Picture: Getty

 

Bill Shorten with Chloe and Clementine on the campaign trail in Sydney. Picture: Kym Smith
Bill Shorten with Chloe and Clementine on the campaign trail in Sydney. Picture: Kym Smith

 

Ms Shorten admits that the past several weeks is the most she's seen of her husband in a while, given how much he has needed to travel as Opposition Leader.

"I've loved that and cherished it," she says.

Mr Shorten agrees, saying it's hard to imagine the campaign without having her by his side.

"Our partnership was great going into the campaign but it feels even stronger from this shared experience," he says. "We'll have memories from this for the rest of our lives that we'll carry together."

Polling points to a Labor victory and if those signs are correct Mr Shorten is on track to become the next Prime Minister of Australia come Saturday.

And even though there's a whole host of considerations should the vote go Labor's way, neither has thought much about how life could change for the family.

"You know how there's people who are climate deniers? I'm a Sunday denier," Ms Shorten laughs, speaking about the morning after Election Day.

"We're just taking it one day at a time."

Bill and Chloe Shorten leave a campaign event in Perth. Picture: Getty
Bill and Chloe Shorten leave a campaign event in Perth. Picture: Getty

 

Bill Shorten and Chloe on their wedding day.
Bill Shorten and Chloe on their wedding day.


Mr Shorten said he's not one to "count his chickens" and only made one commitment to himself when it comes to the end of the election.

"When the last people have voted across Australia, I want to feel that I've left nothing unsaid about what I think and dream for the nation," he says. "That I have nothing to left to give in terms of the campaign."

Ms Shorten also isn't thinking too far ahead should she become 'First Lady', but doesn't see much changing about her priorities either way. After all, she's already got plenty on between raising a family and community causes she's passionate about.

"The kids are at such crucial stages," she says.

"There's one in the first year of uni, I've got another in Year 11 and our little one is like a supernova, full of electricity, in grade four."

Among the causes she wants to continue championing are supporting mothers, perinatal depression, ending family violence and helping vulnerable communities, including homeless youth.

"There are many fronts to fight there," Ms Shorten admits.

"There's lots of balls in the air. There's probably 20 balls in the air, but four of those are made of glass and not rubber."

Bill and Chloe Shorten have opened up about their unique political partnership.
Bill and Chloe Shorten have opened up about their unique political partnership.


Regardless of what happens on Saturday night, Mr Shorten says a "bonus" of the well-fought race has been sharing it with his wife.

"I think one of the nicest things in the campaign has been the rest of Australia being able to see a bit more of this fantastic woman who I married," he says, before laughing: "As they say, vote one Chloe Shorten's husband."


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