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Bill Shorten is promising casual workers a clear path to permanent positions as he ramps up his pre-election jobs pitch in north Queensland.

Kicking off Labor’s campaign day in Townsville on Wednesday, the opposition leader is proposing new laws allowing casuals to request permanent jobs after 12 months working with the same company.

Workers would also be given the right to challenge an employer who “unreasonably refuses” their request.

“While some people like the flexibility that casual work provides, for others it has become a constant worry – never knowing what it’s like to have a paid sick day or paid holiday,” Mr Shorten told AAP.

“For these workers, it’s tough to pay the rent or the mortgage and the bills, let alone make longer-term decisions like taking out a car loan or buying their own home.”

Mr Shorten is due to attend a military parade in Townsville in the marginal Labor seat of Herbert on Wednesday morning before hitting the hustings to talk about his plans for casual staff.

Labor’s policy builds on a recent decision of the Fair Work Commission, which paved a path for casual workers to ask for part-time or full-time employment if they worked a regular pattern of hours over a year.

Currently, there is no obligation for an employer to switch a casual worker into a permanent gig.

“Too many Australians are employed as casuals with no clear prospect of a permanent position and endless job insecurity,” Mr Shorten said.

“Too often, long-term casual work is used as a mechanism to pay workers less, deprive them of leave, and make them easier to sack.”

Labor estimates there are 2.6 million casual employees in Australia. More than half have been with their employer for more than 12 months, and 192,000 have been in the same job for more than 10 years.

Crippling unemployment is a major issue in Herbert, which Labor’s Cathy O’Toole holds with a margin of just 0.02 per cent.

Labor’s clamp down on casual work is the latest in a string of industrial relations reforms the opposition has released this week.

Mr Shorten is also promising to boost the minimum wage, crack down on the use of foreign workers and pump big money into regional tourism.

However, he continues to be dogged by questions about Labor’s position on the Adani coal mine, with many Queensland voters focused on the jobs on offer at the Galilee Basin project.