Shorten reassures the faithful Labor is back

Reform bid: Labor leader Bill Shorten. Photo: Andrew Meares
Reform bid: Labor leader Bill Shorten. Photo: Andrew Meares

Federal Labor has recaptured its voice to represent Australians' opposition to the Abbott government's ''cruel'' budget, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has declared.

"Friends, the Labor Party nationally has its voice back,'' Mr Shorten told a Victorian Labor state conference at Moonee Valley racecourse on Sunday.

He used his speech not only to keep pressure on Prime Minister Tony Abbott's first budget, but also to stress the need for internal reforms. "We need to be a membership-based party first, not a faction-based party first,'' Mr Shorten said. "I also believe that we need to strongly maintain our relationship with the union movement.''

His push to increase the say local branch members have in preselection from 50 to 70 per cent was not debated at the conference after it was agreed to examine it over the next 10 months, ahead of the Victorian conference in March.

Mr Shorten said he wanted the party's membership to grow to 100,000 and urged it to make it easier for people to sign up.

He warned the party was in danger ''from the apathy faction'' in the public that was becoming less engaged with politics.

"We cannot shirk the task of modernising … of rebuilding the party,'' he said.

He rejected assertions from Treasurer Joe Hockey that Labor was against medical research funding; the budget included a $20 billion health research fund.

"You don't heal the sick by taxing them,'' Mr Shorten said.

The speech was followed by ALP television advertisements on Sunday night, in which Mr Abbott was declared a liar.

The 30-second commercial repeated Mr Abbott's quotes from last year's election. Big red stamps declared he had lied on changes to the pension and tax.

''Abbott lied his way into office, and you'll pay with your pensions, your petrol and your GP payments,'' the voiceover declared.

The campaign was accompanied by an email from the Labor Party to supporters asking for $5 donations to help run the advertisement.

ALP secretary George Wright said the party did not have money to advertise outside an election.

This story Shorten reassures the faithful Labor is back first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.