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Shorten confident his job’s safe

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Opposition leader Bill Shorten believes his leadership is safe despite questions about his time at the helm of the Victorian arm of the Australian Workers Union.

But now that he has agreed to front the royal commission into trade unions he won’t be addressing any specifics about his time as secretary of the union’s Victorian branch.

The commission’s request for Mr Shorten to appear comes after claims emerged of a 2005 deal in which a Melbourne building firm, Winslow Constructors, paid the AWU nearly $40,000 for 105 memberships.

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Mr Shorten repeatedly fobbed of media questions about the specifics of the deal on Saturday, saying he’ll explain everything when he takes his seat at the commission – likely in August or September.

“I know that every day I’ve got up, I’ve served the interests of workers,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

Asked if he thought his leadership was in jeopardy, Mr Shorten replied with “no”.

He’s happy to front the commission earlier than September, saying he’ll appear at “whatever mutually convenient time they can do”.

Earlier, frontbench colleague Richard Marles accused Prime Minister Tony Abbott of running a smear campaign against the Labor leader.

Mr Marles said the prime minister’s only allegation is that the agreement signed off by Mr Shorten “wasn’t a particularly good deal”.

That deal was voted on by union members and went to the Industrial Relations Commission and passed the legal no-disadvantage test, he said.

“What we are seeing from the prime minister now is nothing other than an attempt to smear the reputation of the leader of the opposition,” Mr Marles told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday.

From the time Mr Shorten took over Labor’s top job, Mr Abbott and his government had sought to spread “nasty rumours and innuendo” about him, he said.

Cesar Melhem, the man who succeeded Mr Shorten at the AWU, has been stood aside as a whip in the Victorian parliament to fight allegations relating to Winslow and other companies.

Mr Shorten, Victorian AWU secretary 1998 to 2006 and national secretary from 2001 to 2007, has defended the Winslow agreement.

The opposition leader says he has zero tolerance for corruption or criminality in the workplace.

Labor has accused Mr Abbott of using $80 million of taxpayer dollars to pursue a political agenda through the commission.


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