Troubleshooter appointed as Bill Shorten faces internal unrest

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's chief of staff Peta Credlin is frequently criticised for the ''command and control'' she maintains over government - but six months into opposition, Labor MPs are unhappy with the centralisation of power under leader Bill Shorten.

Mr Shorten appears to have acknowledged angst in ALP ranks caused by the centralised policy and media units. He has appointed veteran media strategist Eamonn Fitzpatrick to shake up operations and protect his most vulnerable flank - relations with the NSW Right.

Mr Fitzpatrick, a former Sydney Morning Herald journalist who then cut his teeth working for former NSW premier Morris Iemma, was the lone survivor from Julia Gillard's media team retained by Kevin Rudd on his return last year.

A Labor source said there was some confusion about Mr Fitzpatrick's role and whether it would overlap with Mr Shorten's most senior media aide, Kimberley Gardiner. ''Eamonn has always been a great tactician but that is a lot different from the role of devising a strategy,'' the source said.

Mr Shorten's media unit has been a particular source of frustration for MPs. All media releases and press conference transcripts from the shadow ministry are sent out centrally.

Shadow ministers are still required to transcribe releases but must then wait for approval from the leader's office, resulting in many releases being sent out late and falling outside the media cycle.

Mr Shorten's office argues a single, regularly updated data base is more efficient to reach all media outlets and has received no direct complaints from shadow ministers.

The Opposition Leader has allocated himself 30 of the 89 staff granted to the opposition shadow ministry. The 29 other members of the shadow ministry receive the 59 remaining staff.

The leader's office also plays a key role in determining which MPs appear on the ABC and Sky's 24-hour news channels, as well as on the parliamentary doors, though this arrangement is similar to when the Coalition was in opposition.

At least one shadow minster, Mr Shorten's vanquished leadership rival Anthony Albanese, does not seek approval for his contact with the media.

Questions have been raised about Mr Shorten not employing ''advancers'' to smooth the way for media events and head off potential protesters. Mr Abbott had four advancers in opposition and in government, while shadow ministers and ministers were allowed to send out media releases without centralised approval.

One Labor MP said it was clear the media team needed to be strengthened. ''There is not much of a coherent strategy. Eamonn coming on board will strengthen the show and demonstrate they are getting serious. He will be a unifying presence.''

The decision to appoint Mr Fitzpatrick comes a month after Mr Shorten was criticised by angry MPs over his surprise decision to back a second airport in western Sydney. They believe Mr Shorten has given away a potent political advantage in electorates Labor must win back to return to power.

Mr Shorten's office is split between Melbourne and Canberra, but Mr Fitzpatrick will be based in Sydney in a move interpreted by MPs as an admission the leader needs to reach out beyond his base in the Victorian Right.

The NSW Right's numbers were cut to 14 MPs at the last election, while Mr Shorten's Victorian Right faction grew from 14 to 15.

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