Minister Shorten Interview on Today with Karl Stefanovic


SUBJECTS: Inflation; cost of living; refugees; Melbourne traffic solutions; Valentine’s Day

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: It's all about the money. The RBA has reportedly called on the Albanese government to help bring inflation under control as the bank's job is set to become even harder. Joining us to discuss today's headlines is Minister for Government Services and the NDIS, Bill Shorten and 3AW’s Neil Mitchell. Good to have you two sparkling gentlemen on Valentine's Day on our program. We'll get to that in just a second. But first up, Bill. Look, there's plenty of warnings. The Australian features the warnings today. Can the Government deliver on all its promises in regards to unemployment, in regards to power rebates, in regards to a plethora of promises and still keep inflation under control? The quintessential question.

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Yes, I'm sure that the Government's committed to honouring its election promises. I did see some reference in The Australian to an economist, not the Reserve Bank, talking about the budget. The Reserve Bank last Friday in its official forecast, actually went out of its way to acknowledge the Government's energy plan and its work that we've done on gas for helping relieve inflationary pressure on households. So, I'm confident that the Government's doing everything it can to help ordinary families who are doing it tough at the moment between interest rate rises and cost of living.

STEFANOVIC: Do you concede, though, that raising real wages, raising unemployment benefits and also giving power rebates, feeding that into the economy, do you concede that's inflationary?

SHORTEN: Well, let's just cut through the trifecta. Real wages are not moving faster than inflation. I think about all the teachers and the people working in our hospitals and people who work in our emergency services, their real wages have fallen and trying to relieve some of that pressure actually as a bulwark against the impact of inflation. In terms of energy, thank goodness Labor actually just before Christmas put in place our cap on the gas companies, making sure that there was enough gas in the Australian energy system, putting Aussies first. So that's important and good work. And in terms of expenditure and unemployment benefits, I'm not aware the Government has made a decision there, so I'm not sure that's quite right, mate.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Neil, are they going to be able to deliver on all of that?

NEIL MICHELL, 3AW: It's going to be tough. Where's the fat, though, Bill? I mean, what you've outlined there is right? I mean, you need to help people. But we've started out in the real world, people have started to cut their spending. The JB HiFi figures show that. Yeah, it's not the Reserve Bank, it isn’t an economist, but it's also a legitimate point. Government spending is inflationary. There must be fat in government that you can cut out and get the balance right. So, you help the people who are desperate but, you know, cut out jobs for the mates or something. Is there no fat in government that you can cut the fat, cut the fat without hurting people and reduce the spending? There has to be. There has to be.

STEFANOVIC: Bill, you've been always pretty good at cutting out the fat.

SHORTEN: Well, I'll take my own – oh yeah, yeah. Post-Christmas, post-COVID, yeah gotta work on it -

STEFANOVIC: I didn’t mean in like that!

SHORTEN: No, in all seriousness – oh no, you are body shaming me, but that's cool. Oh, you know, sort of. The NDIS is an area which whilst we're not going to cut it, I think that there is waste that we can reduce there, which still keeps the services going for people on the scheme. But you know, I think there is something we can do there to tackle some service providers overcharging. So yeah, I know the government is looking across all of our big areas to make sure that we can do what we've got to do to look after people but also curb the growth.

STEFANOVIC: You're in Newcastle this morning. Good vantage point to spot those refugee boats coming. Are you concerned about that at all?

SHORTEN: Oh yeah, you stayed up too late reading some of those crazy blog sites. No, no refugee boats here. In all seriousness, though, yeah, what we're doing is we're maintaining Operation Sovereign Borders boat turn backs will be aggressively maintained. People smugglers who are trying to prey opportunistically on vulnerable people, you're not welcome. You will be stopped. Full stop.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, Neil, is it a moth to the flame?

MITCHELL: But how are you continuing Operation Sovereign Borders when you're dropping the TPVs, the Temporary Protection Visas? There were three strands to that, turn back the boats, the TPVs and offshore detention. Now you're dropping one of those strands. It has to run a risk, Bill. There's a gamble here and already the people smugglers are looking at it closely and say, ah, the deal might have changed in Australia. You are running a risk. You can't say you're continuing the same operation. You're not, you're dropping one of the planks.

STEFANOVIC: Just quickly on that, Bill?

SHORTEN: We are running Operation Sovereign Borders. The people who are getting their visas have been here for over ten years. Anyone who has come in the last ten years and anyone who comes today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year will not be allowed to settle in Australia. Full stop.


SHORTEN: Full stop.

STEFANOVIC: I wanted to raise something with you guys. I mean, you're both obviously Melbourne born and bred. This this high-tech solution had my head scratching this morning, to ease the congestion. And one of Melbourne's worst bottlenecks, a light system will set the pace for drivers travelling through the Burnley Tunnel. Neil, it looks magnificent, but is it going to be effective or a driver is going to be distracted?

MITCHELL: Looks like one of those nightclubs you go to Karl, just before you come to work. I can't see - particularly at the Logies - I can't see how it's going to slow people down.

SARAH ABO, HOST: Double down.

MITCHELL: You're supposed to keep pace with the green lines. Anyway, look, anything they want to try, it's cost millions. That's the other thing. It’s a lot of money for lights.

STEFANOVIC: I love it. All right, I'm just finally, guys. Love is in the air this morning. Many people are not celebrating Valentine's Day today, not because they're single, but because it's too expensive. Bill. It's the perfect bloke excuse, the nation can't afford it. Sorry, love. Bill, how are you celebrating Valentine's Day there in Newcastle?

SHORTEN: Wow. Telling your wife that you can't afford some flowers on Valentine's Day will sink quicker than the Titanic. No, I can't believe my luck today. I get to celebrate it with you and Neil, and then I fly back to Parliament and spend it with 150 other people who I'm sure they're all looking forward to catching up with each other.

STEFANOVIC: All right, Neil, for you. Say something nice about Bill on this Valentine's Day. Let's feel the love people.

MITCHELL: No, look, I love Bill. It's clear I love Bill, but I've found the way to do it. I've got a new girlfriend in Russia called Olga.

SHORTEN: You're only human, Neil. You’re only human.

MITCHELL: Texted me yesterday.


MITCHELL: All I've got to do is send her my bank details and she’ll buy herself a box of chocolates. I mean, that's perfect.

SHORTEN: She doesn't know who she texted, does she, Olga? You knew from the get go that was spam.

STEFANOVIC: I love it. Have a great day guys

SHORTEN: I love you, too, Neil.

STEFANOVIC: Appreciate it.

SHORTEN: Love you all, have a great day.

MITCHELL: I love you, Bill.

STEFANOVIC: See what we've done Sarah? With Valentine’s Day, we’re bringing parties together.

ABO: Neil, you can probably do better than Olga. Just saying. Don’t you think?