Labor sought to underline its unity by seating its last three prime ministers Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard next to each other for the launch, despite the deep animosity between Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard from their tumultuous period in government.
The former prime ministers did not address the room, although Mr Keating appeared on the ABC after the event and railed against the Coalition government as “policy deadbeats”.
The party’s entire frontbench team assembled on stage to watch speeches by deputy leader Tanya Plibersek, indigenous affairs spokesman Pat Dodson, foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong and Mr Shorten’s wife Chloe, who introduced her husband as truly “his mother’s son” and “a man for others”.
Mr Shorten made two new major promises in his speech, including a “new jobs tax cut” for businesses with annual turnover of less than $10 million that take on new employees who are under 25, over 55 or carers returning to the workforce.
Such firms would be able to claim a 30 tax deduction for up to five new workers’ salaries for their first year of employment, capped at $50,000 per company. The new employees would need to have been unemployed for three months or longer.
Mr Shorten said the policy was an example of “fair go economics at its finest”. However, it is a rehashed and reduced version of a policy Labor took to the 2016 election, which would have given a 40 per cent deduction capped at $100,000 per business.
The other major announcement related to multinational tax avoidance, which Mr Shorten flagged at Friday night’s leaders’ debate. He promised to deny tax deductions for royalties to large global corporations if those royalties were paid into arms of the company that “pose a multinational tax a risk”.
This was designed to stop multinationals “treaty shopping” by funnelling “dodgy royalties” into tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Mr Shorten said. The policy would apply to companies with global turnover above $1 billion and save the government $2.3 billion over a decade, he said.
The ALP leader also confirmed he would spend an extra $500 million to upgrade emergency departments and hire more doctors and nurses in a bid to reduce emergency waiting times.
In a new line of attack against the Coalition’s claim that Labor’s promises are unaffordable, Mr Shorten told voters: “Every time you hear the Liberals say we can’t afford it, they mean you don’t deserve it.”
On climate change, an emboldened Mr Shorten promised to “defy the pseudo-science and the scare campaigns”, and declared: “I will not bring lumps of coal to Parliament for a laugh while temperatures rise and bushfires rage.”
Labor’s official campaign launch began with a pitch from Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk that capitalised on lingering resentment of Campbell Newman’s former Liberal National state government and urged Queenslanders to “vote them out” federally. The Coalition holds eight federal seats in the Sunshine State by a margin of 4 per cent or less.
Senator Dodson outlined Labor’s indigenous affairs agenda – including a commitment to constitutional recognition in a Shorten government’s first term, and creating a voice to Parliament as recommended by the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Senator Wong delivered a personal dressing down to Mr Morrison and government figures Barnaby Joyce, Tony Abbott and Michael McCormack, calling them “small men with small ideas”.
Meanwhile, Ms Plibersek derided the Prime Minister as “a motormouth running on empty” and “a failed ad guy” who had run a scare campaign about Mr Shorten’s union background.
“Bill hasn’t spent this campaign shearing sheep and bleating about tax,” she said.
“Scott Morrison talks so much but he has so little to say … the Liberals go negative ‘cos they got nothing.”
Michael Koziol is a political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.