Opposition Leader Bill Shorten consults advisers Ryan Liddell and Kimberley Gardiner during question time in May. Photo: Andrew Meares Team Bill: Shorten in Canberra in November with his staff, including Kimberley Gardiner (left) and Ryan Liddell (second from left). Photo: James Brickwood
Bill Shorten’s chief spin doctor, Kimberley Gardiner, is leaving the Opposition Leader’s office by mutual agreement following an internal review ahead of the next election.
In a move that will be interpreted as the Opposition Leader looking to sharpen his political messaging and re-connect with voters in 2016 after falling well behind Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the opinion polls, Ms Gardiner is leaving the role of communications director after more than three years working for Mr Shorten.
The review of Mr Shorten’s office was undertaken by chief of staff Cameron Milner, a former Queensland Labor state secretary who replaced Ken Macpherson as chief of staff in September last year.
Ms Gardiner was a long serving staffer to Julia Gillard when she was deputy prime minister and worked for Mr Shorten when he was a minister in the former Labor government as well as in opposition. She has clocked up almost a decade of service in total with the ALP, including time with former Queensland premier Anna Bligh, as well as for AFL club St Kilda.
She had a reputation inside the parliamentary wing of the ALP as a political hard-head, leading some Labor MPs to criticise her performance for being too risk averse.
Others, however, have praised her for running a tight ship and for helping guide Mr Shorten’s political ascendancy over Tony Abbott before the change of prime minister in September last year.
Her exit, after that of deputy chief of staff Sarah Adams last year, means there are now no women in senior roles in Mr Shorten’s office. It also marks another significant change of personnel in the Shorten office after the addition of Ian McNamara as strategy director in June last year.
Ms Gardiner remains close to Mr Shorten, who praised her work ethic and commitment to the ALP. In a statement, the Opposition Leader said he was sorry to see her leave.
“Kimberley has done a tremendous job for me over many years, for which I’m forever grateful,” he said.
“She has played a critical role in driving Labor’s agenda over the past two years – I have greatly valued her strategic advice.”
A spokesman for the Opposition Leader emphasised the move was by mutual agreement and that a number of positions in Mr Shorten’s office would be restructured.
A replacement as communications chief has not yet been identified and it is possible that a “flatter” structure will be put in place that would see the position abolished, in a move that would be designed to better integrate the policy, strategy and media teams in Mr Shorten’s office.
In the short term, Mr Shorten’s well-regarded senior press secretary Ryan Liddell will run the Opposition Leader’s centralised media unit.
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