SUBJECTS: NZYQ High Court ruling; NDIS Review
HOST, SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Welcome back. A former immigration detainee has allegedly assaulted a woman within weeks of being released into the community. He was among the 148 people released from detention as a result of a High Court ruling that caught the government off guard. Joining us now to discuss is Minister for Government Services and the NDIS, Bill Shorten and Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, morning to you both. Bill, this is your worst nightmare, isn't it?
MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES, BILL SHORTEN: The incident sounds terrible and my thoughts are with the victim. This is why the Senate should pass the preventative detention legislation, which is currently in the Senate. I know that the House of Reps is reassembling on Thursday to vote on this legislation. I think it's important that these laws, which have been put in place to remedy the High Court decision, are passed with utmost speed so we can ensure that this doesn't happen.
JEFFREYS: But it's also why he shouldn't have been released in the first place, this is a known convicted sex predator, Bill. It is the job of the Immigration Minister and the Home Affairs Minister to keep the community safe. They failed clearly in that, should they both resign or be sacked now?
SHORTEN: You know, the logic of that is that the High Court should resign if you really think that there was some way to prevent this. The reality is the High Court has made its decision, that is their right and prerogative in our judicial system. Once the reasons were made available for the High Court decision a week ago, the ministers have moved with utmost speed to introduce preventative detention laws where if a court thinks that one of these detainees, former detainees is a is a risk to safety, then they can be put back into preventative detention. The issue here is the High Court has made a decision, we've had to respond to that very quickly and there is a law in the Senate today which Bridget and her colleagues can vote for to keep people safe.
JEFFREYS: But Bill, they knew this decision was coming and they didn't have a plan B, that's a rookie error, isn't it?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, these laws have been in place for the best part of two decades, and the advice was that the case was strong and the High Court has made its decision, but if everyone knew that these laws were so bad, why did the previous government rely on them for 20 years? The fact of the matter is, we do have a legal system in this country. The High Court has made a decision. It was only last week that we got the reasons for the decision and within one week, these ministers have managed to put together legislation which will, I think, provide the preventative detention system that we now need because of the High Court's decision barely a couple of weeks ago.
JEFFREYS: Okay, Bridget, let's bring you in. If Claire O'Neill and Andrew Giles won't resign, should they be sacked?
SENATOR BRIDGET MCKENZIE: Well, this is an absolute disgrace what's happened. The government knew back in June that the High Court was likely to make this decision, and they failed to do the preparatory work to actually ensure that Australians are being kept safe. I mean, it's the first role of government and now sexual predators and convicted criminals are loose on our streets and Australians are being harmed. It is absolute disgrace and this is the biggest failure in the migration portfolio since the Labor Government was last in power, and they lost control of our borders. I mean, I, you know, Labor's had to be dragged kicking and screaming to actually get legislation in place and we will be debating that legislation here in the Senate and we want to make sure that it is robust enough to make sure that Australians are kept safe from the criminals that Labor has allowed to roam across the country following the High Court decision.
JEFFREYS: Everyone desperately wants this legislation now passed before the end of the week, before Parliament breaks for the year. Bridget, will you back this through? Will you get it done before the end of the week?
MCKENZIE: Look, we make no bones about putting the safety of Australians first, it's why we drafted legislation following the High Court decision to bring the Labor Party to the table. If they're not going to do their job, we'll do it for them and so we're absolutely going to support legislation that gets it right. We're not going to support a bad bill, so if it needs to be amended, we will be amending in the Senate, but we absolutely want to make sure Australians are safe, given the failure of the Labor government to do so.
JEFFREYS: I think Australians deserve to know, Bill too, how many of the 148 detainees need to be locked back up? How many will be open to these or will you be making applications for, is it a couple? Is it more like a couple of dozen? How many?
SHORTEN: First of all, we've got to have the laws to do it. I listen to your question to Bridget, which said, would the coalition back the preventative detention laws in the Senate today? And whilst a lot of words were used, I didn't hear the yes or the no in terms of the identity in the circumstances.
MCKENZIE: I’m not going to back a bad bill, you've got to get it right.
SHORTEN: Well, Bridget, first of all. Yeah, but isn't it sort of cute, really, isn't it? What you just said there? Bridget, on one hand, you say Labor's not doing enough, and then the other hand, you sort of got yourself out there on the sun lounge ordering a form of a legislative pina colada while you wait to decide if you want to vote for it.
MCKENZIE: Bill, you can you can use trite analogies. This is serious and you have been left sleeping at the wheel, not the coalition.
SHORTEN: It is serious, so yes or no Bridget? Yes or no? Yes or no?
MCKENZIE: If the bill needs to be amended, we'll be putting serious amendments on the table.
MCKENZIE: Absolutely, Bill. We haven't seen the detail.
JEFFREYS: Do you know what angers people at home right now is this dispute. People just want this to pass so that we know that we are not at danger.
SHORTEN: Yes, exactly.
JEFFREYS: All right, let's move on. Let's see how this plays out over the next couple of days. Bill, you've also got an uphill battle to get the states on board with your NDIS overhaul. That's coming up at tomorrow's national cabinet meeting, are you open to giving the states more GST revenue to fund this?
SHORTEN: Oh, that'll be a decision made by our Treasurer and the Prime Minister and National Cabinet. Just for all the families who've got a family member on the NDIS and for people on the NDIS, the NDIS is here to stay, but we want to make sure that all the funds are getting through to the people for whom the scheme was designed. We want it to be more human, less bureaucratic experience. I think people of goodwill at the states and all levels of government can work together on this. So I remain quietly positive that some of the changes that need to be made will be. For Labor, we really care about the NDIS, so we're determined to make sure that it's sustainable for future generations and delivering for the participants. It's worked well for a lot of people so far, we just think it can do better.
JEFFREYS: I think the states want to know that they're going to get enough money to help fund their part of the deal, Bridget?
MCKENZIE: Yeah, I mean, we all want Australians with a disability to be fully, and appropriately supported. The facts are that the NDIS scheme is a runaway train. This year alone, $42 billion will be spent and NDIS plan inflation is running at 15%. So that's putting a lot of pressure out there in cash washing through the community, so Bill is going to have to stand up to the Labor states and make sure they pay their fair share to ensure that Australians with a disability get the support that they need, and that we rein in the costs of the NDIS scheme at a federal level.
JEFFREYS: All right, it's a busy week ahead. Bridget McKenzie and Bill Shorten…
SHORTEN: And Bridget…
JEFFREYS: Sorry, Bill. We're all out of time.
SHORTEN: Bye, guys.
JEFFREYS: You've got plenty of time to discuss everything over the next few days in Parliament. We'll see you soon, take care.