Minister Shorten Interview on ABC News Breakfast with Michael Rowland


SUBJECTS: Fox News billion-dollar settlement; Jobseeker rate; NDIS reboot

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: There are further signs this morning of the pressure facing the federal budget. Yesterday, the Minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten, outlined plans for an overhaul of the system and this morning the Government looks set to reject a call for a big boost to Jobseeker payments recommended by its very own expert committee. We're joined now by the Minister for the NDIS and Government Services, Bill Shorten. Minister, good morning.


ROWLAND: Get to those issues in a moment. I want to start with our top story, and you've had your run ins with News Corp over the years, particularly in the 2019 election when you were Labor leader, $1.2 billion the company has agreed to pay up. And as we heard from the Dominion boss, Fox News agreed it lied about the outcome of the 2020 US election. What does that finding, in your view, say about News Corporation as a media company?

SHORTEN: Well, in this case, senior Fox representatives on television repeated conspiracy theories about the 2020 American election. Specifically, as I understand, they said that the voting machines were rigged. Now, Dominion, the company who sued Fox, supplies voting machines to 28 separate states in the United States. So, they sued Fox. They said this is just a lie. And what's emerged is the court proceedings wound its way to trial, is that internal memos by senior people at Fox showed they knew or many of them believed that what they were actually saying to the population down the barrel of their camera was nuts, was insane, was a lie. But the problem is these conspiracy theories, when they were given amplification through a major media corporation to America, helped trigger the January 6th riots. So, Trump, former President Trump and his supporters weaponised the lies. And it's caused massive upheaval in the United States. So as the counsel or the lawyer for Dominion said, are lies have consequences, the truth matters. So, $1.2 billion is massive. This is not our go away money or a parking fine. This is massive. So, what it means for News Corp remains to be seen. But when a media company has to pay $1.2 billion because they lied, then that's an earthquake, I think. It's an earthquake.

ROWLAND: What do you think that says about News Corp as a media company?

SHORTEN: Well, in this case, it shows something went very wrong. Something went very, very, very wrong. I'd be curious to see what News Corp says next. This isn't a settlement, though, without an admission. The corporation has said, News Corp has paid the money. But they've also said in a statement, I've only just seen brief reports of it, the story is breaking as we speak, that they that they did fabricate things, that it wasn't true.

ROWLAND: The statement says from Fox, we acknowledge the court's finding that certain claims, we acknowledge the court's ruling, finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. So, yeah, lots to come on that story. I want to turn to those domestic issues. We'll get to NDIS in just a moment, but Bill Shorten, is the Government readying itself to say no to that call by the expert committee to raise Jobseeker payments?

SHORTEN: Well, that'll be up to the Government as a whole. I'm not in a position to answer that. I don't know. The reality is that we know that people are doing it tough. Absolutely doing it tough. And what we want to do is where it's responsible that we can - and affordable - that we can support people doing it tough. The reality is we've got to weigh that up against all the other things in the budget. And the budget is heaving with $1 trillion of Liberal debt. They did leave us -

ROWLAND: That doesn't say you're about to say yes, though to the Jobseeker boost.

SHORTEN: It says that I can't give you the answer to that question, but I'm giving you the context that people are doing it tough. We want to do things that are responsible and help people. And we've been doing some things. You'll have to watch this space. But there are, of course, a whole lot of things the budget's got to do. And our predecessors did leave us with $1 trillion of debt. And that is the single greatest call on the budget, paying off the interest bill that's left us.

ROWLAND: Let's turn to the NDIS. You say the scheme has lost its way; it needs a reboot. What do you say to those participants who would have been watching your speech at the Press Club yesterday, reading reports about it this morning? Participants of the NDIS worried that they're about to lose some support payments. What do you say to them?

SHORTEN: I'd say that's not what I said yesterday. What I've said is that the NDIS, I think, is shoulder to shoulder with Medicare. What I said yesterday is that we're a lucky country, but people shouldn't be excluded from the opportunity of this lucky country by the level of their impairment. Labor helped create the NDIS with thousands and thousands of people with disability and that it is here to stay and that's very important. I just want to say to people who you know, are saying, oh, what does this all mean? It's here to stay. But over nine years of mismanagement by the Liberals, everyone on the scheme knows that the scheme needs a reboot. And what we mean by reboot is not slashing and burning people's packages. Not that at all. But I do think that there is a challenge where the scheme needs to focus long term. Having annual plans as a default position creates a lot of anxiety every 12 months. Let's have longer plans, for example. We want to make sure that the people you deal with in the organisation are empathetic, humane, and actually understand disability. We also want to stamp out unethical practices. By unethical I mean everything from crooks scamming the scheme to some service providers, not the bulk, but some, who overcharge on things. When you come and tell some people in Australia that you've got an NDIS package, the price of everything goes up, which is ridiculous. It's like a wedding tax. We also want to make sure that the costs of some of the services are not being provided in a way which isn't what the participant needs. So, we'll run the scheme better. That's the short answer and we'll run it with people with disability.

ROWLAND: Bill Shorten, appreciate your time this morning. Thanks for joining us on News Breakfast.

SHORTEN: Thank you. Good morning.