Minister Shorten interviewed on the Today Show


SUBJECTS: Alice Springs; The Voice to Parliament

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, welcome back to the show. As you've heard, the Albanese Government is standing firm in their refusal to intervene in the growing crime crisis in Alice Springs, amid calls from local MPs for alcohol bans to be reinstated. Joining us to discuss today's headlines is Minister for Government Services and the NDIS, Bill Shorten and 2GB’S Chris O'Keefe. Good morning, guys. Nice to see you. Bill, first up, there are big problems in the Alice. Why doesn't the PM go there?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Well, first of all, let's just acknowledge there are big problems in the Alice. What you said was right on your interview before with Mr. Dutton. You know this has been a problem brewing. In terms of the Prime Minister, he visits everywhere, I'm sure he will visit in the near future. I know that our Indigenous Affairs Minister, Linda Burney, was there last year and been in communication a lot more recently than that. So it is concerning -

STEFANOVIC: So, why wouldn’t the PM have been there if it's such a national crisis?

SHORTEN: Oh well, I'm sure that he'll get there in the near future. And he does get around this country as you've seen. So, you know, watch this place. But it's not just the visit which will matter. It's providing solutions that are lasting. As you observe, there's some long term problems here which haven't been addressed. And now we've got to address them and we'll do it in partnership with the Territory government.

STEFANOVIC: Well, Chris, I heard you on 2GB drive yesterday talking about and interviewing several people, parents who are afraid to have their kids live a normal life because they're afraid of the crime that's coming. That's the level of hurt here. How is it solved?

CHRIS O’KEEFE, 2GB: I think we need to, I spoke to a friend of mine who works in health in Alice Springs. He's on the front line and he says, you've got to address it by first recognising this is the face of 200 years of dispossession and bad policy and bad politics in Indigenous communities all around Australia. Now once you recognise that, then you can move forward with policies. But right now, it is a national emergency and what is happening in Alice Springs is a national shame. Forget the Voice, the Voice has got absolutely nothing to do with this conversation. Anyone who tries to drag the Voice into what's going on in Alice Springs is reprehensible because it's just politics writ large. And the problems that we need to face are kids getting to school, women feeling safe enough to leave the Emergency Department of Alice Springs Hospital and being able to go back to their families and their communities. Because right now, I can guarantee you, doctors are being, they're being pleaded with by women who are saying, please do not discharge me because I do not want to go home. You've got business owners who've been broken in 42 times, cars getting smashed every single night. You've got home invasions, you've got kids running around with machetes. You've got sexual violence across Alice Springs, exploding. Forget the politics. We're talking about real world problems, real world families and Australians. Now, trying to sort of conflate this into some argument about the voice is ridiculous. This is a law and order issue and it is a social justice issue and it needs to be addressed as such.

STEFANOVIC: Bill, it's not going to work, just leaving it up to the Northern Territory Government.

SHORTEN: No, I think I perhaps didn't say it strongly enough in my opening. It's got to be a partnership between the feds and the state. No one is saying it should just be the Northern Territory Government left to deal with it. But as Chris said, you know, a problem a long time in the making, acknowledge that policies haven't worked and now you’ve got to this crisis. There's no doubt that parents don't feel safe. The kids don't feel safe. That's what really matters, making people feel safe. That's got to be the uppermost issue in the mind of people. But to tackle it, you're going to need to get everyone working together. I agree. Park the politics at the door. That would be the worst thing you could do right now.

STEFANOVIC: This story is not a beat up either. I mean, this is not the Ukraine. This is this is a town in Australia and this needs to be sorted quickly. Just quickly on the Voice and not related to, are you going to get that up because it looks like it's not going to get up, Bill.

SHORTEN: Oh, it hasn't even had a vote yet. We haven't even got a date. The principal of the Voice, I think, is sound. And it goes to that point that was made earlier, in just even our interview. What we've been doing for 200 years has had some success, but it's had some failure and we're seeing it still now. I think what's fundamental is that whenever governments have policies affecting First Nations people, why not consult them before you finalise the policy? The Voice isn't going to have a veto power. There's a lot more detail to come yet. But the basic principle of consulting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders about decisions affecting them, I think that's sound. Putting them on the nation's birth certificate isTRANSC long overdue.

O’KEEFE: But the path what the pathway forward Bill, is the problem that people have got here. If we're going to get to an outcome where - the Voice itself is not a big deal, it's not a big ask, whether it goes into the Constitution is another thing. And if people are scared about that, what that looks like on the global stage is that Federal Labor is pushing Australia into a position where they've got no choice but to vote no because they're concerned about the detail, because you guys can't explain what the hell is going on and the rest of the world thinks we're a backwater full of rednecks.

STEFANOVIC: All right.

SHORTEN: Well, just- .

STEFANOVIC: 10 seconds.

SHORTEN: There isn't anything to be scared of in this. There is detail out there, and more will come clear about it in the course of the next months. 

STEFANOVIC: All right, guys,

SHORTEN: Let’s all just keep an open mind. That’s all.

STEFANOVIC: Alright guys, heavy topics. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.