Minister Shorten Interview on Sky News Afternoon Edition with Tom Connell


SUBJECTS: Motion on Robodebt scheme

TOM CONNELL, HOST: Welcome back. Well, a motion condemning the Robodebt scheme has been debated to express the Government's deep regret and apologies to victims of the scheme and accept findings of the Royal Commission that ruled the scheme was crude, cruel and unfair. Let's bring in the Government Services Minister Bill Shorten, who was leading the charge on this. So, part of this was an apology motion as well. You had some strong words to say about Scott Morrison. He has apologised. What did you make of his apology?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICESHORTEN: Well, his apology was to - well, the speech he gave on Robodebt was 2114 words long. He spent 22 expressing his regret for what he called to be the unintended consequences of the scheme. He reserved the other 2092 words for himself, to exonerate himself. So, no, I don't think it passed this serious apology test. But even leaving Scott Morrison aside, when we were seeking a resolution for the Parliament to apologise to Robodebt victims and frontline staff, senior Coalition frontbenchers the Member for Deakin and the member for Bradfield spoke against it. They used 3000 words and never mentioned the word Robodebt once. See, I think the Liberals actually understand they need to apologise, but they're not sure what they're apologising for, and I don't think anyone believes they understand quite what they - they understand what they did wrong.

CONNELL: Do you fundamentally disagree when he says unintended consequences from that Royal Commission that perhaps there wasn't an intent for some of the really dramatic harm, but they knew what they were doing? Is that the crux of the issue on that apology?

SHORTEN: When a person drives a car so recklessly and negligently that they hurt someone, it's not really a defence to say I wasn't aiming at that person. These are Cabinet Ministers. Their defence has been essentially the public service told us what to do and it's their fault. They didn't tell us any of the problems. Today in Question Time, I explained there's a concept of vulnerability in our social services system. Social services system. It's a human right. It provides income support to a wide demographic of Australians. Some of those Australians are people who are particularly vulnerable, courtesy of psychological, physical, cultural, social disadvantage. It's known that when you are implementing new policies, you've got to look out for groups like victims of terrorism, people who are full time in resi care, the homeless, people who are ill. But in Robodebt, they did not consider that at all. Now you can keep saying someone should have told us, but where does the buck stop in politics?

CONNELL: So, on that question, because a lot of people are saying, okay, what actually happens at the end of this? Can you clarify what happens on the sealed section once all the legal avenues have been exhausted? Is that released in full publicly? Everyone can look at it.

SHORTEN: There’s not a final decision. I hope so. But you know -

CONNELL: You hope so? You're the Minister.

SHORTEN: Yeah, but no, it's know it's a collective decision. It's the Attorney General's. I think it's important for closure that we see what we see, and that people feel there's full accountability. But that's not a decision which is mine alone to make.

CONNELL: Once the legal avenues are exhausted, why wouldn't you release it in full? I mean, the question -

Speaker2: Well, I think that's a very - I think that's a very good point. I don't think anyone's going to accuse me of protecting anyone. But the Royal Commissioner who did an outstanding job, although I see now the opposition is starting to try and attack her and call her - they used the words handpicked as if somehow, she's a card-carrying member of the Labor Party. That's not right. She's a very independent personality, a very distinguished judicial career in the Queensland court system. She said that she wanted to keep this section sealed in order for the prosecutions or investigations to be done without a whole lot of public conjecture. Ultimately, the Royal Commission report after that, we're going to respect her wishes. But you're quite right, once all of that's done. I don't think it'll be a secret.

CONNELL: Not redactions, just out there. If you have your way.

SHORTEN: Well, I mean, I play in a team, but… I think you -

CONNELL: Okay. You get a vote, at least in a say.


CONNELL: A bit of sway still?

SHORTEN: A little bit.

CONNELL: Changing in word on Israel from the Labor government, occupied territories and illegal for West Bank settlements. What changed in the situation to necessitate this in your view?

SHORTEN: Um, well, first of all, the basic direction hasn't changed. I've been to Israel several times. I've been to the Palestinian territories several times too. We support a secure border for Israel, the right for Israelis to live securely within their borders. We also want to see a two-state solution. The resolutions which have been proposed are consistent with a lot of other countries who we would normally, you know, work with in the United Nations.

CONNELL: But it's still a change in what we do, how we talk about it.

SHORTEN: Oh, well, there was a change proposed by Mr. Morrison in 2018, which I indicated to the other people here I didn't agree with, when he wanted to move our embassy to Jerusalem. You know, I think that was a move which should be done at the end of the peace talks, not at the start of the peace talks. I think the only person who had done it then was Donald Trump. No, I think that with what's happened there, the fundamental pillars remain exactly the same as the Prime Minister articulated in an excellent answer yesterday.

CONNELL: Is it effectively a message because of what's happening in Israel and in particular around the reform on the Supreme Court, basically trying to muzzle what the Supreme Court can do on government decisions? Is this a way of saying we don't like this, here's a consequence?

SHORTEN: No, but I think, you know, for those who criticize Israel, have a look at the Democratic protests in Israel. I don't want to comment about Israeli domestic politics, but one thing's for sure, there's a lot of Israelis who jealously guard their democracy. I can't help but think that some of those demonstrations in some of the nations very critical of Israel, the protesters, Israeli protesters exercising their democratic rights would have ended up in jail or worse. So, no, to people who are looking for Australian leadership, we want to work to ensure that we get a proper two-state solution. And it's important that all sides try and talk and not fight.

CONNELL: Bill Shorten, got to leave it there. Thanks for your time.

SHORTEN: Super. Thank you.