The Power Four: Shorten’s inner circle
Every political leader has a main cohort of allies and advisers he or she can turn to, but Bill Shorten's inner circle is perhaps one of the tightest in recent times.
When the Labor leader needs advice and reassurance, blunt feedback or to bounce policy ideas off someone, he has a trusted group he relies on.
There are four main players who enjoy the closest contact with Mr Shorten - and they're faces most voters will recognise.
But there are several other figures who are also regularly called upon when required, and others who are kept at arm's length - including frontbencher Anthony Albanese.
A number of Labor sources have given news.com.au insight into Mr Shorten's inner circle and the key roles they have played over the past several years - and will play during the tight election race.
Deputy Labor leader and Education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek is Mr Shorten's closest confidant despite being at the opposite end of the party's factional spectrum.
Mr Shorten belongs to the Right faction, while Ms Plibersek is a prominent figure in the Left, although it's their differences that make them a strong duo, one figure tells news.com.au.
She appeals to a different kind of constituency and complements his working-class focus and staunch trade union background with a more moderate feel.
While Mr Shorten has a strong following in Victoria, Ms Plibersek is a key strength in New South Wales, where she has held the seat of Sydney on a strong margin since 1998.
Her points of difference to the leader are "important in their dynamic", the source says, and she provides an effective counterpoint to Mr Shorten's hard-edge persona.
She also polls extremely favourable from a public approval perspective in internal research.
The pair have an incredibly close personal and professional bond and regularly touch base to discuss key policy or hiccups that arise.
And as the campaign rolls on, the focus will shift towards Labor's education plans - when Ms Plibersek's role will become even more central.
Mr Shorten and Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen were not particularly close once upon a time.
But their relationship has grown strong during Labor's time in Opposition when Mr Shorten came to rely on his number's man for counsel and collaboration.
On potentially tricky platforms - including the superannuation and retiree franking credit changes, which have proven contentious - the leader defaults to backing in Mr Bowen.
He is a central part of Mr Shorten's inner circle, it has been said, and wields considerable respect in the caucus.
The two are also factional allies - an alliance that has firmed over the past few years.
As Labor's most senior senator and one of its most respected and admired figures among voters, Penny Wong has built her influence in Mr Shorten's inner circle over many years.
"But she's a very strong public performer who appeals to a different type of audience," a source said.
She has a steady hand and is known for being cool in a crisis as well as firm when prosecuting Labor's case.
Senator Wong, a major figure in the Left faction, has also built a reputation as being an attack dog who doesn't turn voters off by being aggressive.
Instead, her defensive style is more poised and intelligent. She is well-regarded in the party and has the ear of Mr Shorten on not just foreign affairs - her shadow portfolio - but also key social issues for which she has been a champion.
When it comes to his area of responsibility - industrial relations - Brendan O'Connor tends to take a back seat in the media stakes to trade unionist Mr Shorten.
Particularly during the campaign, the leader will do the bulk of the talking on this key area, which is his passion and a major point of difference between Labor and the Coalition.
It's understood penalty rates and the party's living wage policy will be key pillars of Labor's messaging in the final weeks of the campaign.
But while he defers to Mr Shorten publicly, Mr O'Connor is a prime player in the Labor leader's inner circle.
While he is part of the Left faction, his brother is the head of the powerful CFMEU faction, making them a "powerful little group" in the party's Victorian branch.
Mr O'Connor is seen as one of Mr Shorten's most loyal supporters. He has also played a central role in formulating industrial relations and workplace policy over recent years.
"He has Bill's ear and respect," a Victorian Labor insider told news.com.au.
STABILITY IS KEY
Part of Labor's pitch for government is that its key leadership team - including the roles of leader and deputy leader - have remained stable during its five-plus years in Opposition.
As one insider put it, the party has had a lot of time to "learn the lessons from 2007 to 2013" - a reference to the chaos the Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard-induced leadership friction caused.
Mr Shorten's mantra is "disunity is death" and that is driving the "very disciplined performance" that's on display.
There's another reason for the strong, united front - it could be the key to winning the election.
The party is aware that the way Labor succeeds is by presenting a really strong sense of team - a stability versus chaos, an insider told news.com.au.
Mr Shorten has to project a strong team image given he constantly lagged behind in leadership attributes in the polls against Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.
It's why there may be factional differences between some senior Opposition figures and Mr Shorten, but that has been put aside for the sake of stability.
"It's all team Labor. All of that stuff has been really put to the side - particularly for this campaign," a source said.
Mr Shorten acknowledged the importance of team unity in an interview with the Australian Financial Review late last year.
"Our greatest asset is my intelligent and idealistic team. It's been one of the secrets of our success over the last five years," Mr Shorten told the newspaper.
"Unity is irreplaceable. Being united doesn't guarantee you winning, but being disunited almost guarantees failure."
That show of unity aside, there are some major Labor figures who don't count themselves among Mr Shorten's inner circle.
Perhaps the most prominent is Anthony Albanese, the publicly popular long-time MP for Grayndler who entered parliament back in 1996.
As one of the leaders of the Left faction, he wields enormous power broadly, but one party figure told news.com.au there was a perception he and Mr Shorten "don't trust each other".
"Albo and Shorten aren't overly close," the insider said.
"They're factional opponents who battled it out for the leadership - the party rank and file overwhelmingly wanted Albo but caucus backed Shorten."
There was some misgivings from Mr Albanese and his camp over the way the Labor leadership ballot went.
Mr Shorten, one of the key figures that brought down Mr Rudd's prime ministership and then worked behind the scenes to reinstall him to replace Ms Gillard - ironically benefited from rule changes implemented to prevent that kind of instability.
It's understood Mr Albanese has largely moved on from the fallout and "co-operates" with Mr Shorten on policy issues.
Another figure also told news.com.au Mr Albanese was a major part of Labor's marginal seats campaigning.
Given his broad public appeal - "he's got that rare thing in politics where people see him as authentic" - he is spending a considerable amount of time in key election battlegrounds announcing Labor's infrastructure and transport commitments.
"He's so important for the marginal seats campaign. The Libs are dumping a lot of money in marginal seats but Albo is there … he's able to announce road, rail and airport funding in those areas across the country."
Kristina Keneally is emerging as one of this campaign's stronger performers, riding what she calls the Fair Go Express bus around Australia.
Her warmth and wit are key qualities, it seems. She can orchestrate attacks on the Coalition and defences of Labor's policy in a way that's not alienating, new.com.au has been told.
"She's playing a really important role on the pushback on the superannuation changes and retiree franking credits. She's out there prosecuting the attack lines - she hops off the bus, delivers the strong defence and leaves Shorten to focus on the positive," a source said.
Another rising figure in Labor is Queensland MP and shadow finance spokesman Jim Chalmers, viewed as a "young up-and-comer".
Elected in the southeast Queensland seat of Rankin in 2013, Mr Chalmers previously served as former treasurer Wayne Swan's chief of staff and was also a respected party official.
"He has risen rapidly through the ranks and is in the critical (shadow) finance portfolio and is doing a lot of the defensive work around Labor's tax and economic credentials," a source said.
In his role of campaign spokesman, he is enjoying prominence in the public spotlight.
Catherine King, Labor's health spokeswoman, has not had a high public profile until relatively recently.
But her stocks have risen after a major role in formulating Labor's health policy for the election campaign - in particular the $2.2 billion cancer care package.
Ms King has accompanied Mr Shorten on campaign stops across the country so far as Labor makes a strong push on its health policy credentials.
One familiar face who has popped up in the background at countless appearances is Mr Swan, who is now Labor's national president.
As one party insider puts it, it's not clear if Mr Swan and Mr Shorten are "friends or frenemies", but Mr Swan is an experienced campaigner with valuable insight.
He is a source of counsel on the trail.
So too is Mr Shorten's wife, Chloe. In addition to being incredibly popular on the public stage, Ms Shorten is a highly experienced corporate affairs adviser.
She is also used to the trappings of the limelight, being the daughter of former governor-general Quentin Bryce.
Ms Shorten is regularly relied upon as a sounding board for her husband, as well as a stabilising and reassuring force.
And another outsider behind the scenes who Mr Shorten relies on is his long-time mentor Bill Kelty.
Mr Kelty is a major figure in the trade union movement and was the long-time secretary of the ACTU. He and Mr Shorten have enjoyed a lengthy personal and professional relationship.