Minister Shorten interview on Today Show with Karl Stefanovic


KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: You're watching Today. Thanks so much for your company. Well, the Prime Minister has broken his silence on that military incident with China, condemning the use of sonar pulses while Australian Navy divers were in the water. Joining us to discuss, Minister for Government Services and the NDIS, Bill Shorten and commentator Neil Breen. Morning, guys, nice to see you. Billy, to you first up, he continues to dodge questions on whether he raised the matter directly with President Xi Jinping. Why wouldn't he have done that?

MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES, BILL SHORTEN: Well, first of all, he doesn't dodge the questions. He said that he doesn't reveal his private conversations with world leaders, but he's made his view clear and Australia's made its view clear. What China did was reckless, it was provocative. HMS Toowoomba was in international waters doing important work and the Australian government has formally expressed our displeasure at what the Chinese government did because it was reckless and dangerous.

STEFANOVIC: Is it that hard when two Navy divers are injured in that way to just raise it? How difficult is that?

SHORTEN: Australia has raised it.

STEFANOVIC: No, but the PM, he's right there.

SHORTEN: He's made a habit of not revealing his private conversations with other world leaders and he has raised the issue and he's made his personal view and Australia's view clear that what China did was reckless and unprovoked.

STEFANOVIC: Clearly, I'm not the Prime Minister of this country, but if I'm over there it's not that hard. Yo, Xi Xi, how are things going? What about the sonar thing? Throw me a bone, something.

NEIL BREEN, COMMENTATOR: Well, the Prime Minister was happy to let us all know that in these private conversations he doesn't reveal that he did raise the wine tariffs, the lobster tariffs and all those things and then they said, well, what about the sonar pulses? Oh, I don't divulge that, because clearly he didn't do it. It's another example, Karl, where the Prime Minister's slow off the mark on things. He's slow off the mark on this, he was slow off the mark when it came to the High Court decision about letting out the detainees with criminal records overseas, he's slow off the mark when it comes to cost of living, always slightly behind the eight ball. And when you want to be Prime Minister of Australia, you've got to be on top of it. If you're the right there with Xi Jinping, you say, yo, like, what was going on with the sonar pulse?

STEFANOVIC: It's pretty simple, isn't it, Billy? Come on.

SHORTEN: We have raised it, he has raised it. Australia has raised it.

BREEN: Once he was safe at home, once he was nice and safe and comfortable at home and not shirt fronting him.

SHORTEN: Listen, Neil, dare I say it? We wouldn't want to miss the wood for the trees here. The point is that Chinese made a reckless and provocative gesture which put two of our very highly skilled naval divers in harm's way and what they did was wrong and the Australian government has raised it all right.

STEFANOVIC: Optus is on the hunt for a new CEO after former boss Kelly Bayer Rosmarin resigned, an early front runner being considered for the top job is former NSW Premier Gladys Berajiklin, who is obviously competent but comes with a little baggage. Billy, you support that?

SHORTEN: Well, she's entitled to a career after politics, but if I was an Optus customer, it's not who's running the company, it's whether or not Optus has learned their lesson. The truth of the matter is that this outage, the explanation, seems quite innocuous and therefore quite predictable and preventable and again now we found there were 200 plus triple zero calls which were tried to be made at this time when the Optus phones weren't working. So, I just hope they become better at handling crisis and bad news and small businesses too.

STEFANOVIC: And small business too, they were at the pointy end of this. They cannot make another mistake.

BREEN: No, they can't. Look, Gladys Berejiklian, she'll get one thing right. She's a fantastic media performer and the outgoing CEO was appalling. That's what did her in the end. She just had no coherence, she couldn't tell us what was going on, she had no idea and that's what did her in the end was her poor management of the whole situation publicly. So, she'll do a great job. What did she do, 200 days of press conferences in a row during COVID? She can handle herself, Gladys Berajiklin, but the corruption thing hanging over her head is not going to help her, Karl, and I think the bosses at Singtel, a controlling company out of Singapore, I think they're going to appoint someone who's an absolute gun when it comes to telecommunications like the actual…

STEFANOVIC: Why would you want to do that?

BREEN: Put a telecommunications boss in charge of a telecommunications company? Seems logical doesn’t it?

STEFANOVIC: And actually communicate. I mean, come on, Breeny.

BREEN: We could get the Prime Minister to do it the way he communicates with Xi Jinping, something like that.

STEFANOVIC: Meantime, Deputy PM Richard Marles is copying a little bit of flak this morning, overtaking a taxpayer funded RAAF VIP jet to watch the Cricket World Cup. Now there he is there on the world stage watching Australia, that must have been awkward when he's next to Modi and Australia won. But anyway, surely there's more cost effective way to do this. We at the Today show have been researching this. So, if the Deputy Prime Minister took a Jetstar flight, combined with Air India to Delhi, and then flew from Delhi to Ahmedabad using Akasa Air, and then back to Melbourne from Ahmedabad using Air India, Scoot and Jetstar, it would have cost the taxpayer the grand sum of $2,800 and just around 7 hours of layover in between all that. So, Billy, if the government is serious about saving taxpayer money at this point in time, surely you've got to save money on international travel, because we just don't know how much the RAAF jets are costing. Do you agree?

SHORTEN: Well, the serious point in this is that Minister Marles has done everything in accordance with entitlements and security protocols. And, Karl, when was the last time you got a Jetstar plane?

STEFANOVIC: Hey. Actually, last weekend.

BREEN: He wanted to go to Noosa! He went to Noosa, Bill.

STEFANOVIC: Things aren’t the same at the Nine Network.

SHORTEN: You are Karl ‘man of the people’ Stefanovic. You’re my hero.

STEFANOVIC: Exactly, and I took a Rex on Saturday.

BREEN: Did you pay the extra $13 for Seat 1A?

STEFANOVIC: No, I didn't. I was up the back, but I did have to pay extra for baggage, and I'm carrying a fair bit Billy. All right, guys. Thank you so much.

SHORTEN: You're a good looking rooster, Karl. Don’t be hard on yourself.

STEFANOVIC: Thank you, mate.