Minister Shorten Interview on ABC RN Breakfast with Patricia Karvelas.


SUBJECTS: Refugee policy, RBA, the Voice

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Though there's already commentary that this will result in an influx of new boats to Australia. How likely do you think that is that the people smugglers will sort of market this announcement?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: the government is fully committed to Operation Sovereign Borders, and under it we have returned or turned back, every boat that's tried to enter Australia. The measure which has been proposed doesn't apply to any person who arrived since Operation Sovereign Borders which means that anyone being sold alive by the unscrupulous people smugglers, they're not staying here. That's it, full stop. This proposal applies to people who arrived before Operation Sovereign Borders some more than 10 years ago.

KARVELAS: Okay, so what happens if there happens to be an arrival that you can't turn it around? Will those people be able to have a similar pathway to residency in Australia like this cohort?

SHORTEN: No, absolutely not. No, they're going to third party countries, that’s it. We don't intend to see the people smugglers model given any oxygen. It’s a terrible way of coming to Australia, it's horribly unsafe. It's fatal and deadly. So the answer's no, no, and no.

KARVELAS: The teal independents and others are welcoming these this cohort of people being given permanent permanency. They'll also have access I understand to government services that you're in charge of, do you expect that all of those 19,000 will be accessing those services.

SHORTEN: No, I don't and as a matter of fact, a lot of these people came here more than 10 years ago, and have been working. They worked through the pandemic delivering services. Most of these people want to earn money and they have been working and doing the right thing, I think in terms of giving something to this country already.

KARVELAS: I want to move to a couple of other issues Bill Shorten and let's turn to the economy, which no doubt is stressing people out in their households every day. Last week, the RBA increased rates and their statement again will warn higher wages could create a wage price spiral. But wages aren't yet anywhere near inflation. Are they are they falsely hyping up the issue?

SHORTEN: No, and the theory is that if you have wages moving higher than inflation that starts the wages spiral. So it's Reserve Bank stating orthodox economic theory, but you're quite right. The reality is that wages whilst they're moving modestly and much, are long overdue, modest improvement much better than the previous government. They're not. They're not the source of inflation. This particular tough bout of inflation is caused by shortages on the supply side. Everything from Russia's illegal war against Ukraine through to China being shut down with its COVID restrictions, meaning that there's a whole lot of material in the supply chain not getting to our market which is increasing the product to be remote which is increasing the price of the remaining products. So no, this is not wages driven inflation round at all. And indeed, thank goodness wages are moving a little bit modestly because at least it's providing some relief from the inflation we saw last year.

KARVELAS: RBA governor Phil Lowe gave a closed door briefing to the major banks last week for lunch. Where he spoke was hosted by an investment bank. Is that appropriate?

SHORTEN: I don't think there's anything untoward from a banker talking to bankers. You know, journalists talk to journalists. In Parliament we talk to parliamentarians so no, I don't see anything untoward.

KARVELAS: Okay. But at the same time, it was the first time in his term. It's been reported that he didn't do a public briefing. Was that the wrong call?

SHORTEN: Oh listen, I'm not going to start getting into Monday morning coaching of Saturday’s game here. For me, what's important is how, and the government, is how we provide cost of living relief. That's where the government's focus is upon, the treasurer has been very clear that we want to keep pushing our cost of living relief. We want to unblock supply chains, we delayed the skill shortages, and we want to decrease put downward pressure on our fiscal policies and government spending. So that's the game in town and the tough thing at the moment, is that people paying mortgages are the tip of the spear at the Reserve Bank strategy to tackle inflation and that's tough, because they've got mortgages to pay and the, the nine increases are painful. They're incredibly tough for people who've got no means of replacing the income that they're now - the extra money of which they've now got to contribute to their mortgage.

KARVELAS: Is there a better way to kill inflation then than raising interest rates again?

SHORTEN: Oh listen, Ross Gittens. First of all, the Reserve Bank's doing the job which it has to do at hand which is monetary policy, your question goes to the things driving inflation and not just the expenditure on houses and things which interest rates affect then are there other mechanisms and that's why I think the government – Ross Gittens did a pretty good article on this today, I thought

KARVELAS: And what were the points you made that you think may…

SHORTEN: In essence, he said that if all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail and the metaphor being that if he told you to reduce interest is the altering the price or the rates of interest rates then that would become the only solution you you have in your hands. That's what the Reserve Bank has. The federal government, I think, is trying to do the right thing here. I wouldn't say that but it actually is. They're looking at how do we how do we relieve pressure on energy prices? And interestingly, the Reserve Bank commented pretty positively about the impact of what the federal government, the Prime Minister and the treasurer did at the end of last year, which is keeping downward pressure on energy prices, getting wages moving is important. New childcare changes come into effect this year. And that's good for parents who are sending their kids to childcare. The other thing which we're looking at is, as I said earlier in the interview, part of what's driving inflation now or a big part is delays in the supply chain or blockages in the supply chain. The things which go towards price of products. So if we have more skills and training, then we've got more skilled workers that helps decrease blockages in the supply chain. Again, we've mentioned energy prices. Our energy system really has been neglected for 10 years, which means that that's putting upward pressure on energy prices, that causes fiscal discipline. The government I know in the, my colleagues and the expenditure review committee are working night and day to see where we can tighten up government spending to make sure there's not money being wasted.

KARVELAS: Governor Phil Lowe’s term is up this year. He wants another five years heading up the central bank. Does he really deserve it?

SHORTEN: We don't comment on the independent reserve bank and that would be and I haven't made any comments on Phil Lowe and I’m not going to.

KARVELAS: But do you understand the frustration? I mean, some of your colleagues, would say they’re frustrated.

SHORTEN: I certainly do. There's a challenge out there in the community. You know, one of the things I do to try and help make amends for always being away in parliament in my family is to do the weekly shopping and you talk to butchers, you talk to shopkeepers, they're seeing people tightening their belts, in terms of expenditure. There's a lot of pressure out there on families because wages growth helps a bit. Energy prices not increasing as much as they would otherwise, helps a bit but when you're paying $1,500 or $1,700 or $1,200 more each month in your mortgage. Most people are not, people are not going to get pay rises or find an extra $1,200 lying around each month. So that's the pressure that people are feeling. So the sooner we can get the inflation genie in the bottle, that's just what I think people are really looking for.

KARVELAS: Just on a couple of other issues. Linda Burney will today warn those who boycotted the apology to the Stolen Generations not to do the same with the voice now. She hasn't named him but there's one person in Parliament very senior who has done that and that's the opposition leader Peter Dutton. He said he made a mistake walking out on that speech. Do do see it as the same thing, but he's about to make another mistake again. Do you agree with Linda Burney's comparison?

SHORTEN: Linda's a pretty classy, lifelong advocate for a fair go. And I think she's just reminding all of us, not just Peter Dutton, reminding all of us that sometimes politics move beyond the day to day, sometimes there are moments where we all have the privilege to reach for a higher better outcome. I think the day after we have the referendum on the voice and if we wake up and found out that people have voted yes. I think there'll be just a national sigh of relief, a bit of weight off the collective national shoulders. I think the alternative scenario that if we wake up in the morning after the referendum and there's for whatever reason, not a majority of states or a majority of people, I think it will be a terrible generational missed opportunity. For me the voice argument, and I thought about this long and hard ever since the Uluru Statement from the Heart from six years ago, or five years ago. It's this, after 1788 to now, pretty much all the policies which the governments of the day, the colonies and  the government of the day that tried for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have been, whilst in some cases well intentioned, in some cases, not well intentioned, haven't delivered the outcomes I think we should. If you think in Australia that we can do better in our relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, I think Linda’s commending us not to miss the opportunity. Because these opportunities come around once in a generation. I think the nation will be better off if we can look in the mirror the day after the referendum and say, hey, we're proud of ourselves. We actually recognise that we haven't done as well as we could and we collectively want to do better together recognition and consultation.

KARVELAS: Just on your portfolio. The Australian Services Union wants the government to pay for annual leave carers and sick leave for all NDIS casuals and contractors. Are you considering that?

SHORTEN: I think there's a legitimate general issue in terms of how we remunerate people who work in the care economy, in the disability sector. For example, in terms of the specifics, we don't have any specific arrangement that we have in mind. We were able to last July, almost straight after the election, pass on the awarding process which did see several percent of improvement in workers’ wages. The Services Union and other unions in the disability sector are saying to me, Bill, if we want the best possible workforce, we need to make sure we factor in their ability to get trained by their employers. We need to factor in also that in this sector, a lot of disability carers won't work for one employer their whole 15 years. The long service leave is a sort of 1970s, 1980s, 1960s proposition that you have a job to live for one employer and the care economy you move between employers, you might be a contractor you might be on one of the internet platforms. That means that long service leaves just becomes impossible to get. So they're saying these are important issues which go to a worker's remuneration so we're going to have the discussion with them, with employers, with people with disability we don't have a specific plan specific time I'm but I think it's wrong of the government of the day and indeed, the broader community just to think that these disability carers who really do very tough work, important work, therapeutic work, when they shouldn't be subsidising our nation's desire to care for some of the most vulnerable people. We should be talking about what works

KARVELAS: Minister thanks for your time.