A reliable source has told me about some interesting political market research being carried out by AusPoll, a research firm with close links to the ALP.
At a focus group in the inner eastern suburbs of Melbourne, participants were discussing two separate but (kinda) related issues - opposition to a Free Trade Agreement with China, and perceptions of Bill Shorten. Apparently the client for the two was one-and-the-same, presumably AWU heavyweight Shorten, who is keen to challenge incumbant Labor MP Bob Sercombe in the seat of Maribynong during Labor preselection.
As part of the research, participants were shown various news clips of Shorten and were asked to evaluate his style, manner and appearance. No doubt Shorten appeared in his famous blue AWU shirt, which seems to be permanently stitched to his back. During the China FTA research, the firm tested various messages on participants, in particular looking at China as a human rights abuser and a 'Fairwear' style campaign to challenge Chinese-made goods.
The very fact that the Shorten research is taking place is interesting for a couple of reasons. It suggests that Shorten is keen on a high profile campaign during preselection, perhaps emulating Malcolm Turnbull's successful campaign for Wentworth. Given the expense that goes with market research of this type, Shorten presumably has deep pockets, and is prepared to spend plenty to gain preselection. It is also a little unusual that the research took place in the leafy green inner eastern suburbs, quite a long way from Shorten's preferred electorate of Maribyrnong in the west. Is there some element of cockiness in Shorten's approach: he's yet to win the preselection, and is likely to have a fight on his hands, but he has already started wooing the electorate before he's wooed the numbers men in the ALP.
Shorten was opposed to the FTA with the US, and presumably will be taking a similar hard line to any deal with China. Perhaps he sees his best chance for electoral success as riding on the back of anti-FTA sentiment, likely to be particularly potent in his working-class electorate? Hmmm, just what is Bill up to?