Minister Shorten interview on the Today Show


MIA GLOVER, HOST: Well, the Federal Government is this morning warning Australians in Lebanon to leave as soon as possible, this comes after two brothers from Sydney were killed in a suspected Israeli airstrike.

DR NICK COATSWORTH, HOST: Let's bring in Government Services Minister Bill Shorten in Cairns. Bill, welcome this morning. How are you helping Australians to return home?

MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT SERVICES AND THE NDIS, BILL SHORTEN : The Government is trying to facilitate consular assistance for people who need help. We are encouraging, one, Australians not to go to Lebanon, there's daily conflict there and, also, if people are having trouble getting commercial options they should contact the Government. There are commercial options to leave Lebanon as we speak.

GLOVER: Bill, it seems like it's going from bad to worse over there in the region, and it has been reported this morning that one of the Aussies that was killed was a member of the Iran backed militant group Hezbollah. Is there any more truth to this?

SHORTEN: Not that I'm aware of overnight, we're investigating that question, trying to get to the bottom of it, assemble our facts. The reality is Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation. They are currently launching attacks into Israel. It's against the law for Australians to travel overseas to join prescribed terrorist organisations, but I must say we don't have all the facts yet.

COATSWORTH: Bill Shorten, how concerned are you that this conflict is going to escalate beyond the Middle East, and what's that going to mean for us here in Australia?

SHORTEN: It is concerning, we've got to ensure social cohesion in this country. I understand people having very strong views. The attacks by Hamas on October the 7th were illegal and unprovoked, barbarous terrorism. I also understand the anguish of people who see civilian deaths in Palestine, in particular in Gaza, but those arguments can't be brought to our shores. People come to this country for a new start, for a second go, and I really would just join with community leaders across the spectrum, our own Government and the Opposition, to say to people who might have strong views about this conflict over there, you're entitled to have strong views, but don't bring these arguments to Australia and don't have these arguments and escalating behaviour in this country. When you come to Australia, you sign up to our laws and our way doesn't mean you forget where you came from, but it certainly does mean that we don't bring some of those shocking arguments we're seeing to Australia.

COATSWORTH: Good advice, Bill.

GLOVER: Well, moving on now, Bill, and the Government is considering an overhaul of the Aged Care act that would put leaders of negligent facilities behind bars for up to five years. These are pretty serious penalties, but a lot of these leaders, too Bill, are volunteers. So, will this deter people from volunteering, though?

SHORTEN: What the trigger for the story, and I only saw it half an hour before you raised it with me, I must say the trigger for it is what's called an exposure draught of a proposed law. Labor made an election promise to improve aged care in this country, we've improved the wages, we're improving the ratio of nurses in aged care. These are draft laws, so we will just see the discussion happen. Obviously, we want to encourage volunteers to be involved in aged care, but at the end of the day, for me, aged care receives a lot of taxpayer funding. We want to make sure that people in aged care are safe, we want to make sure they're not the subject of negligence or policies which just put the lives of people in aged care at danger. We'll work these issues through and there should be penalties. What the final look of penalties is will be a matter for the Parliament. So, I'm not getting ahead of myself there, but the principle of keeping people safe in aged care, I think, is a sound one and we've just got to get the balance right. We want to encourage people to volunteer on boards or not for profits, that's important, but we also, I think our greatest duty is to keep people safe from negligence and miscarriage and abuse and that's what this government's motivated by.

COATSWORTH: Bill Shorten just quickly, you're joining us from Queensland, it’s taken a beating over the last week or so. How are you helping people get back on their feet up there?

SHORTEN: Well, yesterday and today I've been visiting some of the areas affected by tropical Cyclone Jasper. I was in Mossman yesterday, the community there is resilient. I must stress that, on one hand, people still need support. It's not just in the aftermath of the rain, so much rain fell. A year's rain fell in a day and it has caused real damage to people. It's important we've let people in Far North Queensland know that they're not forgotten. I'm pleased to say that in my area of government services, something like $16 million has been paid out to over 13,000 people who suffered catastrophic rain damage. But I must also give a positive view here that whilst there's got to be repair at the Cook Highway and the Mossman area, we've got to see what can be done to improve the standard of water treatment which was damaged. Far North Queensland is open for business from Cairns to Port Douglas, we encourage people to have their holidays up here. If you want to do something, this is one of the unusual ways where you can have fun and still do a good deed by coming to Far North Queensland. The weather is just quite amazing, to be honest, it can also help the recovery of the small businesses. 

COATSWORTH: Bill Shorten, we really appreciate your time. We've got to move on now, thank you.