Minister Shorten interview on Sunrise


MARK BERETTA, HOST: Well, Government Services Minister Bill Shorten joins us now. Bill, good morning. How concerned is the Government about the possible rise of attacks here at home?

MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT SERVICES AND THE NDIS, BILL SHORTEN: Well, the conflict in the Middle East is incredibly distressing. It is crucial that we maintain social cohesion here. I like, I think most sensible Australians take the advice of security agencies very seriously. My message is to people who come from other parts of the world, you can never forget where you've come from, but don't bring these arguments to these shores. Australia is the land of the second chance and I just say to people who might want to escalate their arguments here, don't blow it, don't stuff it up. This country gives everyone a home, regardless of their background, regardless of their circumstances but having said that, once you're here, you follow our laws and our standards and you don't have these arguments here like we're seeing overseas. It's just not on.

EDWINA BARTHOLOMEW, HOST: And that applies, too, to people who are travelling back to their home country to continue the argument. Has the Government been able to confirm, Bill, if this Sydney man killed in Lebanon had links to Hezbollah?

SHORTEN: No. I don't know any more this morning than what's already been released by the Government last night and in the mainstream media. They're certainly trying to assemble the facts. I'm not going to leap to any conclusion, but what I do know is that it's against the law of Australia, the law of the sovereign nation that you live in, to join a terrorist organisation overseas. I feel you shouldn't even have to say that, should you? That it's against the law, but it is against the law. Don't do it, Australia is now your home, be happy with the opportunities you've got for your families here in Australia. This is a great country to get ahead in. If you buckle down and stick to our standards, there's no need to go back to where people came from and start getting caught up in ancient arguments because it's not going to fix anything there or here.

BERETTA: Yeah, okay. Hey, Bill, changing gear now. The Bureau of Meteorology is under fire over some of its recent forecasts. Locals in Far North Queensland claim they weren't warned about the extreme rainfall totals that accompanied Cyclone Jasper, which caused that major flooding around Cairns. While on the Gold Coast, the residents there say that they weren't warned in time before the wild storms ripped through that part of the country. Has the BOM let people down, Bill?

SHORTEN: I'm not sure it has. I can't comment on the Gold Coast matter, but I'm up here in Far North Queensland as part of the Albanese Government's ongoing commitment to help see people recover, my job is to make sure that people get the disaster payments, which they're eligible for. There's been over 13,000 locals in Far North Queensland who've received $16 million directly in cash support. As I understand, Cyclone Jasper came in, it was a shocker, but then it was downgraded to a sort of a very heavy tropical storm, but not quite a cyclone. But I think locals expected the storm to move on, but it just hovered over the top of Mosman and parts and Cooktown and north of Cairns, and Cairns itself, and it didn't move. So, what I've understood and learned in the last couple of days, being up here visiting recovery centres, is that it was like a year's worth of rain fell in a night, hundreds of millimetres. So, I think it was very unpredictable weather and the Bureau of Meteorology does, I think, on balance, a pretty good job. But this was just an extraordinary set of circumstances and now the focus has got to be helping people recover so that this is a glorious part of Australia and I would certainly encourage people to come and visit their holidays. It's unusual where you can do a good deed and have a good time, perhaps, but coming up here is a good time, it's also a good deed for the local community.

BARTHOLOMEW: I feel like, Bill, we say that every time. It's an extraordinary set of circumstances and certainly storms are getting more severe year on year. Do we need to have a look at what the bureau is doing? Maybe the warnings that they're issuing, certainly the insurance companies were on top of it. They were sending text messages out to everyone, but we weren't hearing the same. We've talked to so many residents, particularly on the Gold Coast, particularly in South-East Queensland, who said they just simply had no warning that this storm was going to be like it turned out to be.

SHORTEN: Yeah. I'm not going to say that the people who are affected don't have a point of view, because they clearly do. I know from about this time, or just about 13 months ago in my own community along the Maribyrnong River, the water rose a lot quicker than it's ever risen before and there was the same say, we need more warning, so I'll take on board what you're putting forward there and I'll certainly raise it with the relevant Minister in the Bureau of Meteorology. But I also say that we're in a new period where the storms and weather seem to be, there seem to be more extreme weather events than before and there seems to be worse outcomes. And again, I think part of that's to do with how we handle issues, from climate change through to making sure we've got more resilient communities that people aren't encouraged to build in low lying areas. We can't take the status quo for granted and we can't just assume it's always going to be a blue sky. We've got to assume sometimes bad things can happen and I think generally across community and government, we've got to lift our approach to resilience in the community.

BERETTA: And, Bill, finally, this one's right in your patch. For residents in Cairns, where you are, and on the Gold coast now who want to access disaster relief, how do they go about it?

SHORTEN: Just reach out to Services Australia. We've got hard working staff in recovery centres right through Far North Queensland. I visited some yesterday in Mosman and I'll be visiting some today in Cooktown. The process is a lot simpler, we've got lots of extra resources, hundreds of extra people answering the phones around Australia, and we were pretty good at assessing people's claims for immediate relief. Some of the other ones about business impact take a bit longer, but if you've been forced to move out of home, if you've had water across the floorboards, if you've experienced protracted period of power out, then you are eligible, just make the call.

BARTHOLOMEW: Yeah, make the call and get that assistance. I tell you what, Bill, you're doing a great job there advertising Cairns this morning. It looks absolutely spectacular behind you and what a great place for a holiday after what they've been through over the last month. Thank you so much for your time this morning. We really appreciate it.

SHORTEN: Good on you both. Thank you.