Minister Shorten Interview on The Today Show with Sarah Abo


SUBJECTS: Moira Deeming’s potential expulsion from the Liberal Party; Neo-Nazis at Melbourne rally; Xi Jinping’s public meeting with Vladimir Putin; potential TikTok bans for government devices

SARAH ABO, HOST: Welcome back. Liberal MP Moira Deeming has vowed to fight her expulsion from the party room, the Victorian MP came under fire after going to an Anti-transgender rally attended by Neo-Nazis. Let's bring in Minister for Government Services and the NDIS, Bill Shorten and 3AW’s Neil Mitchell. Good morning to you both. Now Bill, Moira said she condemned the men who performed the salutes. Should the expulsion still go through?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Listen, I'm a Labor politician, so ultimately what I say is not going to influence the Liberal Party. But I do note that the Liberal leader John Pesutto, seems to be taking a strong stand, a line in the sand moment. Clearly, he and the people around him are not just concerned about a specific minute in time that this Miss Deeming saying she has misunderstood, but there seems to be a whole lot of unwise judgments beforehand and afterwards with this rally. But in particular, I have to say that no matter what your politics and no matter how new you are to parliament, what is it when 30 Nazis turn up that you don't realise you're at the wrong place at the wrong time?

ABO: Yeah, exactly. As soon as you know they're there, you've got to walk away, right? It's that simple.

SHORTEN: You would have thought so.

ABO: I mean, Neil, these images were pretty shocking out of Melbourne this weekend, on Sunday. It's really unacceptable. And you know, as Bill said there, John Pesutto has come out quite strongly. This is the boldest we've seen him since he was elected. But he has a very, as the opposition leader, but he has a very slim majority within the Coalition. How is he likely to go with this?

NEIL MITCHELL, 3AW: Well, I think you could have trouble. I also think Bill's being a little unfair. Moira Deeming and the others had their backs to the idiots and the Nazi salute. I'm not sure they even knew what had happened. However, it was an appalling look. She's a loose cannon, Moira Deeming, and she's made some bad mistakes here. But I think John Pesutto has gone too hard, too early. I think he's gone into the trenches too early. He hasn't got - he might not have the numbers. He could have he might have to put his leadership on the line. And there is a legitimate debate to have about trans rights versus biological women's rights. But you've got to do it in a respectful way. Moira Deeming is a problem for them, but John Pesutto has gone a little bit hard, and the research they've produced so far seems to be based on a sloppy Wikipedia entry. I hope they've got a lot more facts on this than they presented so far.

ABO: But whatever they went out there to protest has completely been hijacked. Now the issue has become about the neo-Nazis and whether this, you know, the Hitler salute should be banned. It is only banned in a handful of countries across the globe. I mean, Neil, is it something we need to introduce not just in Victoria, perhaps across the country?

MITCHELL: Yeah, possibly. Victoria, sadly, seems to be the centre for this sort of madness. I've got no problem with banning the salute. My only reluctance is whether it gives it extra power to ban it. But we ban the Nazi symbols, so I think we should ban the salute. No argument about that, really. But there's a whole - John Pesutto should be fighting the government. Instead, he's fighting within his own ranks.

SHORTEN: But Neil, if he's getting undermined by poor behaviour by his own team, if a party can't govern itself, it can't govern the State or the nation. So, you know, ultimately it's a matter for the Liberal Party. But I just heard what you said earlier, that she had her back to them. Those clowns are pretty hard to miss. And I say we can't necessarily stop this, but I really hate it when the Australian flag, the thing which also upsets me along with the Nazi salute, is those clowns have got the Australian flag and that just really makes my blood boil.

MITCHELL: Oh, I think we're unified on that. I don't think there's any argument about that.

SHORTEN: Absolutely, mate.

ABO: Yeah, it'll be interesting to see how this plays out during the week. All right. Well, let's move on now. The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, is in Moscow this morning where he met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin ahead of formal talks in the coming days. Bill, this is a bit of a worry. China still hasn't verbally declared support for either side of the war. I mean, the fact that he's there, he's trying to show up the West. What do you make of it?

SHORTEN: Well, I think the visit, frankly, contradicts Xi Jinping's stated commitment to trying to create peace. The war in Ukraine is illegal, the terrible war crimes happening. There's been a Ukrainian parliamentary delegation in Canberra yesterday. They were briefing me how little Ukrainian kids are getting taken away and sent to Russia. I think that China, as a member of the United Nations Security Council, should use its significant influence to encourage Putin and the Russians to leave Ukraine and I know that Australia certainly stands with Ukraine.

ABO: Neil, America will be watching very closely and whatever Xi Jinping does is always a worry for Australia, right?

MITCHELL: Well, of course it is. And good luck getting any common sense out of the President on this. I mean, he's already congratulated Putin on his observation of the law and his fight for justice. What? And as Bill said, kids being kidnapped, cities bombed, and he pats Putin on the back and said, you're fighting for justice and you're observing international law. Don't take him seriously. This is this is just a PR stunt. Well, what do you call it? A propaganda stunt, that's all.

ABO: Which we've become quite used to, right? Let's stick to China because we're talking Tik Tok now at the moment. I mean, this idea that the Chinese are spying on us via the TikTok app is a very real threat, right? And now it looks like politicians are being banned from using the app. Federal government ministers, Premiers and even independent MPs using burner phones to run the Chinese owned app, which is expected to be banned, as I've said, across government devices. Bill, I hear you've got a burner phone here to try and get around this. Is that right?

SHORTEN: That part of the story was not correct. I don't have a burner phone.

ABO: Are you sure?

SHORTEN: Yeah, I really am sure.

MITCHELL: Got a shoe phone, Bill.

SHORTEN: The app - oh well, if I need a burner, I'll borrow Karl's. But anyway.

ABO: We were talking about that.

SHORTEN: I just want to get Karl in on TikTok. No, there is a serious issue. The government's reviewing all the social media platforms. There is no ban in place. That's a personal decision. I have taken the app off my particular government issued phone, but there's no formal ban in place. Tiktok is a platform -

ABO: Hang on a minute, hang on a minute. You've got TikTok, you've got around 12,500 followers. So, if it's not on your government issued phone, what phone is it on?

SHORTEN: It's one of the staff. You've got staff you know, let's not pretend that every politician's out there doing all their own - 

MITCHELL: Well, they spy on staff.

SHORTEN: You know, I wish that -

MITCHELL: Come on Bill, this is ridiculous. They spy on staff. Come on. Whose side are you on? You’ve got a Chinese spy phone in your office!

SHORTEN: Neil. I know that you think I'm the repository of all the secrets of the government. I'm not. But we use TikTok as a platform to talk to people.

MITCHELL: Self-promotion.

ABO: On a burner phone.

MITCHELL: Self-promotion.

SHORTEN: No, actually, what it is, Neil, is about good news about people. Neil, you should have a look at my TikTok. It's about good news about people with disability.

ABO: He's putting a plug in for his TikTok as well.

MITCHELL: It’s propaganda. It's your own form of propaganda on a Chinese propaganda tool.


MITCHELL: Get out of it, Bill. I mean, fair enough. You want to communicate with people, but why TikTok?

SHORTEN: Neil, just before you just - what I do is I talk good stories about people with disabilities. I'm sorry that you think that's propaganda, but fair enough. You probably haven't seen it so you weren’t aware of that.

MITCHELL: I've seen your stuff, Bill. It's propaganda. It's propaganda.

SHORTEN: Neil, I listen to you on radio sometimes, I don’t say -

MITCHELL: You’re on TikTok with 12,500 people to sell yourself.

SHORTEN:. Neil. I listen to you on radio. I don't say you've got a propaganda machine. Others might, but I don't.

MITCHELL: Yeah, but I'm not working for Chinese intelligence agencies.

SHORTEN: You work for Fairfax and Channel 9.

MITCHELL: This is a Communist Party of China runs this thing. Hey?


MITCHELL: What do you say? Ooh, Bill. Channel 9’s a communist front?

SHORTEN: I said yes. The Chinese Government does run TikTok, and I think that's an issue.

ABO: All right, guys, thanks so much.

MITCHELL: Well, get rid of your phone. Hang it up, Bill. 007 Bill.

SHORTEN: But then you wouldn't be able to talk to me if I got rid of my phone Neil, and I couldn't bear missing out on our dialogue.

ABO: Hey, listen, I reckon we can settle this. Neil. You just need to do a TikTok dance for Bill Shorten's TikTok platform, and then everyone's a winner, right? Karl, what do you reckon?

SHORTEN: Yeah, that might crash my numbers.

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: All I reckon is that whatever just happened there is going to end up on TikTok for sure. And I reckon both guys should have a statue. Thank you, guys.