Bill has gone from toxic to radioactive

TODAY, Labor insiders are letting rip against their former leader because they think Bill Shorten is up to no good - the type where he wants to invoke "a Lazarus with a triple bypass".

Their comments are more brutal than the review into Labor's election loss recently handed down by former Rudd cabinet minister Craig Emerson and former South Australian premier Jay Weatherill.

Many have held their tongue because they wanted to wait for the review. Some did not want to comment at all because they knew Shorten was grieving an election loss.

Others just thought it would be unhelpful. They still think it is unhelpful, but some were around in 2010 and 2013 when some of Shorten's tactics ultimately undid prime ministerships while politically elevating himself.

Now they won't stand for it. "We will start calling him out,'' they have declared. None will go on the record - yet - but the message is clear.

The last straw for many was at the weekend after Shorten gave an impromptu speech to the Victorian ALP State Conference.

Albanese refused to attend - that decision was made weeks ago. Yet it leaked out he would not be there.

Albanese is no mug. He knew there would be some kind of stunt. With the simmering issue of controversial CFMMEU figure John Setka lingering in Victoria and the venue - Mooney Valley Race Course in Shorten's own electorate - Albanese knew there would be some political "get square".

Instead, Labor's deputy leader Richard Marles gave the speech to the party faithful.

Marles, one of the nicest blokes in parliament, paid tribute to his mate and fellow Victorian. Shorten and Marles entered parliament together in 2007.

After doffing the cap to Shorten, Marles told the room, "knowing that in that journey there will be days and weeks and months that we will not win and that's okay because while it's nice to win games in April, we all know that the only game that really matters is winning that grand final on the last day in September.

"And our grand final is winning the next election and if there is anything we've learned in the past few months, that's the only day that really matters that we win".

Some left-wing delegates walked out - it was supposed to be done for Albanese and although he wasn't there, they had already geared themselves up and the cameras were there.

Marles left by the time Shorten took to the lectern.

"You can't fatten a pig on market day. We are a party who did not seek to be the opposition, but 48.5 per cent of Australia gave us their two-party preferred vote,'' Shorten yelled, pointing in the air.

"And what we need to do between now and the election, every day, is fight, fight and fight."

Clearly, it was at odds with what Marles had just said and it was having a go at Albanese's strategy of wanting to "hasten slowly".

Bill Shorten speaks during the Victorian Labor State Conference. Picture: AAP Image/James Ross
Bill Shorten speaks during the Victorian Labor State Conference. Picture: AAP Image/James Ross

Shorten is no mug either. And he knew how his speech would be received by the media. He knew in the days following, the media would ask Labor frontbenchers about Shorten and his intentions. It means Labor MPs are playing defence.

After Shorten's rah-rah performance, ping after ping was heard reverberating within Labor.

Said one source, "Shorten went down like a bucket of sick (at the election). He is unelectable and not coming back".

Labor leader Anthony Albanese was a no-show at the Victorian Labor conference. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Labor leader Anthony Albanese was a no-show at the Victorian Labor conference. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

A number have anecdotes as evidence, especially when asked, "are you being paranoid?" or "are you sure?" These questions are met with further examples of what insiders believe is undermining, pure and simple.

They believe in Caucus, Shorten has put up some of his supporters to ask him open-ended questions. One memorable oration was sparked after a question from Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters asking Shorten to give the War and Peace version about the latest on robo debt.

Then there's the impromptu drinks he holds in his office. He recently held drinks for former lobbyist Kathryn Conroy.

Labor parliamentarians who were invited took notice of who was there - as much notice as those who were not.

Others claim he is staying behind on Thursday nights to meet up with senators.

When he stood side-by-side with a lawyer to announce a class action about robo debt it was clear the leader's office did not know about it or found out about it too late. Why? Because there was no reference to it by Labor in Question Time, meaning it was not raised in two tactic meetings that day.

It may seem like much ado about nothing to the punter but to the political savant it points to treachery.

Others say Shorten has few loyalists left "because he always used other people's numbers". Victorian parliamentarians, like Senator Kimberley Kitching and Brendan O'Connor, are still onside.

"But there's not many (who support him) anymore. Bill's radioactive," a source says.

Then there's the comments that on the day of the election, key staff were working on their "transition to government". Shorten had promised so many jobs to people in Caucus, "we would have had to have a ministry of 90" one claimed yesterday.

The review may be out of the way but the knives are out.