Minister Shorten interview on Ten News Live with Narelda Jacobs


SUBJECTS: Prime Minister’s proposal; Stage 3 Tax cuts passing the House; Jobs figures, NDIS reform, Taylor Swift

NARELDA JACOBS, HOST: Joining us on the final day of the first parliamentary session of the year is Minister for the NDIS and Government Services, Bill Shorten. Bill, let's – Minister, rather - let's start with that happy note. The Prime Minister's marriage proposal. Did you know he was such a big romantic proposing on Valentine's Day?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Yeah, it's one for the books, isn't it? They say in politics, timing is everything, but perhaps that's also the case in love. So, congratulations, Prime Minister, and Jodie.

JACOBS: Now, Kirribilli would have to be the most sought-after wedding venue in all of Australia. Do you think there will be a Kirribilli wedding?

SHORTEN: I think it'll be up to them to decide. Now, I cannot provide any more information on that because I don't know.

JACOBS: Okay. All right. Well, let's get into politics now. And there's been a big day of the last parliamentary session, first parliamentary session of the year, changes to Stage 3 tax cuts have cleared the House of Reps. But is the victory short lived with fresh figures showing a hike in unemployment?

SHORTEN: Well, what the tax cuts mean, Labor's tax cuts mean, is it means for 13.6 million Australians are they're going to earn more and keep more under all the changes we've been doing between wages and tax cuts. And so, I think it's a great news for Aussies that from 1st July, they will be keeping more of what they earn.

JACOBS: What about the jobs figures though? What do you make of those, tens of thousands of people out of work?

SHORTEN: I think there's always going to be movement. Unemployment is still at historic low levels. Obviously, we want to do everything we can for a robust economy, but I think the signs are good. And I think that, you know, we'll see how the tax cuts affect people, but I think that's positive news and cost of living. And as for the unemployment numbers, I still think they're pretty remarkably low. And we'll do everything we can to assist people to find work in a growing economy.

JACOBS: All right, Minister, to your portfolios now. And there are people with disabilities who need the NDIS to function in their daily lives, but they just can't get on it. Yet there's been a surge in children with developmental delays entering the Scheme. Is the bar too low for some people living with disability?

SHORTEN: No, I think what we need to do is provide more supports for people with disabilities outside the NDIS. The National Disability Insurance Scheme, it's changing lives. Under Labor it's here to stay. What we want to make sure is that it's not the only lifeboat in the ocean. If you're a mum and your precious, beautiful 2- or 3-year-old is not developing in a standard journey and you want assistance, at the moment, the NDIS is all it is. So, I think it's very important that we have a long overdue conversation with the states and also the community, how do we make the whole of Australia more inclusive for people with disabilities, so the NDIS is not the only option.

JACOBS: So, what forms of disability then would sit outside the NDIS? Would it include development delays and autism?

SHORTEN: No, no, I need to be clear there. What we need to do is the NDIS is for people with severe and permanent disability. It also provides early intervention for kids with significant disability. So, it's child by child, case by case. Certainly, this Scheme is going to continue to support literally hundreds of thousands of people with a diagnosis of autism, and kids with other developmental delays. What we need to do is start being better at supporting people who might have a disability, including our precious children, whose disability is not so severe and doesn't have such a major impact on their daily living that they require the NDIS. But at the moment it's a relative desert. It's either - too often it's either NDIS or nothing.

JACOBS: Minister, is it going to be a reassessment of people who are on the NDIS or some people that are NDIS, to reduce the numbers of people receiving or benefiting from the Scheme?

SHORTEN: What we want to do is make sure this Scheme continues to grow, but not as fast as it has been growing. So, there's a bit of an assumption of what you said about kicking a whole lot of people off the Scheme. That's not what's motivating us. It's just that at the moment, there's more people coming onto the Scheme than we expected and that previous Governments expected. 

And what we want to do is start saying, well, there's other choices for people and it doesn't become the proverbial lifeboat in the ocean. It's not about mass kicking people off Scheme. That is not right. We're going to co-design all our changes with people with disability. We're going to work across the political divide. We're going to work with the states. 

Under Labor's projections in 2026-27, the Scheme will still be growing by a target of 8%. We still anticipate there will be more people on the Scheme next year and the year after than there were, but what we want to do is make sure that people are not seeking refuge in the NDIS when they don't require the full support of the NDIS but require less significant interventions. But at the moment it's all or nothing.

JACOBS: Should there be a bit more transparency as to how this all, how you go about this? You know, reforming the NDIS, reassessing those that are on it. Has it been a secret up until now?

SHORTEN: No, it hasn't really been a secret ever since I became the Minister nearly two years ago. We started from day one about, how do we improve the NDIS experience? How do we make it more human? How do we kick the shonks out of the Scheme? And by the shonks, I'm referring to dodgy service providers who were making millions for themselves, but not providing proper service for people with disability. That's been our goal. Sustain the Scheme, look after the people for whom the Scheme was originally designed, get rid of the shonks, make it more human. 

So, we've done a massive review. We've had thousands and thousands of contributions. And so, we'll keep doing that. We'll be hopefully putting in our first, uh, part of legislation later in the autumn sessions. But this a bit like sort of turning around a big ocean liner. You can't do it on a dime. So, the changes will be slow, steady, consistent. It'll take years, not months or weeks, but at all times we are being very clear with people and more importantly, we're listening to people's lived experience.

JACOBS: Okay, just on to Julian Assange now, there was huge support with 86 MPs to 42 voting to urge the US and UK to allow him to return to Australia. Does that vote carry sway?

SHORTEN: I think it's important. I was one of the 86 MPs who voted. Mr. Assange has been caught up in legal processes in England and via America now for the best part of 14 years. I think the majority of the Parliament said that's long enough. Now, of course, we don't want to do diplomacy with a megaphone. We're not a party to - Australia, the Australian Government - is not a party to the litigation and the legal action. But I think it is a symbolic statement of support saying enough's enough.

JACOBS: Minister, just on a lighter note to end with, Taylor Swift has arrived in Australia. Will you be heading to her concert in Melbourne?

SHORTEN: No, I'm not popular at home. I was too slow off the mark to get tickets. I did take my then 12-year-old daughter, who's now, I think, 21, to the Tay Tay concert at Marvel Stadium some years ago, but unfortunately, I was too slow off the mark. And so, my youngest daughter has put me in her, she's marked me down for that. 

JACOBS: All right. So, you didn't make a bracelet to give to another Swiftie?

SHORTEN: Well, I think she's great. I think she's actually a fabulous artist and musician. I'm rapt she's here, she's a phenomena. And you know, all those conspiracy people who are sort of anti-Tay Tay, I just say get a life. She’s fabulous.

JACOBS: The bracelets I speak of usually have one word that people have made. If you had a word to make a Taylor Swift bracelet, what would it say?

SHORTEN: Oh, I always put the word love.

JACOBS: Oh, you're a big softy. Thank you very much, Minister Bill Shorten, thanks for joining us.

SHORTEN: Don't let that secret out. See you, bye.