Bill Shorten has paused to recognise a major military battle while campaigning in key Queensland seats.

The opposition leader has spent the week in the electorates of Flynn, Dawson and Leichhardt where he is hoping to defeat sitting coalition MPs.

Mr Shorten is switching to defence on Wednesday as he tries to fortify Labor MP Cathy O’Toole’s seat of Herbert, the most marginal in the country.

He started the day pounding the pavement with North Queensland rugby legend Johnathan Thurston on an early morning run through Townsville.

Mr Shorten then traded bitumen for bagpipes, attending a military parade at the nearby Lavarack Barracks.

The parade marked the 68th Korean War anniversary of the Battle of Kapyong.

There were 32 Australians soldiers killed in the April 1951 melee as they held back a Chinese advance, with more than 50 others wounded and three taken prisoner.

Visiting a Townsville construction site, Mr Shorten is promising 2.6 million casuals an easier pathway to permanent work if Labor wins on May 18.

Labor is proposing laws allowing casuals to request permanent jobs after 12 months with the same company.

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

“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,” Mr Shorten said.

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.

More than half Australia’s 2.6 million casuals have been with their employer for more than 12 months and 192,000 have been in the same job more than 10 years.

Crippling unemployment is a major issue in Herbert, which Ms O’Toole holds with a margin of 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.

Mr Shorten is also expected to face questions after telling a Queensland coal worker he would “look at” tax cuts for people earning more than $250,000.