Bill Shorten slams newspaper over story about mum in emotional press conference

Labor leader Bill Shorten has paid an emotional tribute to his late mother as he criticised a newspaper article accusing him of omitting a key fact about her career.

During ABC's Q&A program on Monday, Mr Shorten told how his mother wanted to become a lawyer, but instead took a teaching scholarship so she could look after her younger siblings.

The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday attacked Mr Shorten in a front-page article headlined "Mother of Invention", saying he "omitted the fact" she went on to an "illustrious career as a barrister".

Mr Shorten told reporters the description was far from the truth – his mother had got about nine legal briefs in her time and struggled in the face of discrimination.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten speaks to the media about his late mother. Source: AAP

"It was actually a bit dispiriting (for her)," he said.

"She had wanted to do law when she was 17. She didn't get that chance. She raised kids. At 50, she backed herself ... but she discovered the discrimination against older women.

"I chose to give you that last bit of the battle of her time at the bar, because my mum would want me to say to older women in Australia – that just because you've got grey hair, just because you didn't go to a special private school, just because you don't go to the right clubs, just because you're not part of some back-slapping boys’ club, doesn't mean you should give up."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mr Shorten would have been very hurt by the News Corp Australia story and the election should not be about MPs' families.

Mr Shorten (front left) carries the coffin of his mother, Dr Ann Shorten, with fellow pallbearers including brother Robert (R) at Xavier College Chapel in Melbourne in 2014. Source: AAP
Pictured here is Mr Shorten's mum, Dr Ann Shorten. Source: AAP

"Bill lost his mother five years ago and I can understand that that would have upset him a great deal," he said.

"I would only extend my best wishes to him."

Mr Morrison said the election should be focused on the choice between himself and Mr Shorten as prime minister.

"This election is not about our families," Mr Morrison said.

Mr Shorten said his single mother worked as a teacher for three decades before studying law when he and his twin brother were at university.

"I can't change what happened to my mum. But I can change things for other people. And that's why I'm in politics,” he said.

Labor's campaign spokesman Jim Chalmers said the newspaper story was a "disappointing new low".

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