Minister Shorten interview on Today Show with Sarah Abo


SUBJECTS: Interest rates; Labor’s tax cuts; corporate profits; cost of living; bet for charity on Dunkley by-election; Albo’s proposal

SARAH ABO, HOST: Well, unemployment has reached a two-year high and Australia's economy is expected to slow. But RBA boss Michelle Bullock is defending the decision to lift interest rates to their highest level in over a decade. I'm joined now by Government Services Minister Bill Shorten and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton. Good morning to you both. Thanks for your company, Bill. Let's come to you first. Is this unemployment rate cause for concern?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FORTHE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: You always want to see unemployment as low as it can possibly be, but I think generally we're starting to see inflation slow, and I think we're looking forward to those tax cuts on the 1st of July for 13.6 million Australians who work.

ABO: I mean, it's true we want to see it hover around the 4% mark. But 4.1 isn't great. Pete, Japan and UK went into recession overnight. Do you expect Australia might follow suit? I mean, we're talking about soft jobs creation and the RBA rates hurting a lot of Australians.

PETER DUTTON, OPPOSITION LEADER: Uh, well, all very good points and relevant points, Sarah, because if you haven't got a job, the tax cuts don't matter to you at all. So, I'm really worried about where the economy is headed. And I think a lot of analysts are concerned about particularly the second half of this year. But this financial year, a lot of businesses are already putting off staff, and you've got a lot of businesses that have failed as well, a record number over the last 12 months. So, the Government has got in place pretty bad economic settings. And unfortunately, that's, you know, the reality of the situation for many families when they thought it couldn't get any tougher, now they've lost their job.

ABO: Well, I mean, we're also talking about astronomically high profits from these energy companies. I mean, Bill, that number from Origin overnight $747 million, that's not going to help Aussies.

SHORTEN: Well, companies are allowed to make a profit, but we're just, in Victoria where we've had power outages, I think it is important that the power companies reinvest in some of those transmission towers. Although to be fair to the power companies, we had cyclonic winds down here. So yeah, I think some of the big corporations are making big bucks. But at the same time, we've had inflation. And I just want to make sure that those power companies aren't gouging prices.

ABO: They're allowed to make profits. Is $747 million acceptable?

SHORTEN: Well, I do hope that - I think there is a debate to be had with some of the large corporations using the fog of inflation to take advantage of that with price rises. I do note that Labor has initiated an inquiry into Coles and Woolworths, for example, when ordinary Aussies are doing it tough. I mean, the Government's giving tax cuts, but the big corporations, well, they've just got to remember that you can make profits, but you still need customers and charging your customers too much. Well, that's counterproductive in the long run.

ABO: Yeah. And I think what's what else is alarming Australians. Is the Government spending, right? I mean, we heard this week of a $40 million spend on selling those Stage 3 tax cuts, with the government admitting it was working on those reforms long before they were brought to cabinet. I asked the Treasurer about the timeline last month.

VIDEO: These changes would have been contemplated for some time now. You don't you don't make a decision like this overnight. When did you take this to Treasury?

JIM CHALMERS, TREASURER: Well, it became increasingly clear to us over Christmas, over summer that we could deliver these tax cuts in a better way.

ABO: Bill, there's a little bit of fogginess there I think, in terms of the dates here, it seems an unnecessary spend. But obviously Aussies need answers.

SHORTEN: Well, let's go to the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is, are the Labor tax cuts good for Australians? 13.6 million Australians are going to be able to keep more of what they earn. And the tax cuts are so good that even Peter Dutton, whilst initially his crew were all over the paddock, they did eventually come on board. So, I think the verdict on the tax cuts is they're good for Aussies and we have finalised that position over summer.

ABO: So why do you need to sell it? But yes, I mean Pete, you did come through, I understand on a bet with Bill handing over $20 that you promised for rolling over on the proposal. Is that right?

DUTTON: I did. I was happy to give it to him. I was going to get him a Richard Marles cap for the Today Show, but we'll do that for Christmas. I don't know where Richard is. Look, Sarah, just a couple of points. I mean, obviously, you know, the tax cuts don't start until the 1st of July and yet people are under huge pressure right now. Secondly, it's about $15 a week and people will take whatever money they can at the moment because, you know, they're searching for $150 a week in their budgets. Their mortgages have gone up and the government's had two budgets where they've made decisions have actually made it harder. Inflation is higher than it should be. And people's mortgages therefore are more expensive. So, it's okay for Bill to claim that people are getting $15 a week on the 1st of July, but it's just being eaten up when you go to the supermarket or when you're paying your insurance bill. Gas is up by 29%, electricity up by 20%. The government promised all of those prices would go down and there's just been absolutely none of it.

ABO: Pete, I reckon you're enjoying sparring with your new partner here.

DUTTON: Yeah, it's not too bad. Well, I mean, he and I might be able to organise the bucks party for Albo.

ABO: Oh, yes.

DUTTON: He and I, we have his best interests at heart.

ABO: Wow. Now that, you need to come through on that deal, Bill, what do you reckon?

DUTTON: What do you think, Bill?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, like, I'm a bit critical of the way Peter’s always, you know, knocking the measures the Government are doing. But full credit, he did send around his envelope with the bet he paid, and I just want to, I've just opened it. It was for $20, but [shows $5 note]

ABO: Oh no, Pete!

SHORTEN: Maybe he’s just given - no he didn't. No, to be fair he did actually give us $20. And what I wanted to do, because he's a good sport sometimes, is I want to challenge Pete to a bet. Double or nothing. He thinks that the Government's on the wrong track. Maybe he would double his bet for the Dunkley by election. And what we could do is agree to give the winnings to the Salvos either way. So, the Salvos are the winners. But would you like to go double or nothing that, Liberal or Labor can win the Dunkley by election?

ABO: You reckon you could swing it more than 6%?

DUTTON: Well, it's, uh, it's, there'll be a swing against the Government in Dunkley, but very, very difficult for us to win the seat. But I'll take the bet because the Salvos will be the beneficiary, and, I don't know, maybe by Christmas it compounds and there'll be other things for us to bet on, Bill. But, very happy to take the bet.

ABO: We're going to have to keep a tab on all these bets you two are making, I reckon.

SHORTEN: Alright, it’s on.

ABO: But you know what I do like? I want to get to this before we finish up as well. I do like your idea there, Pete, of throwing Albo a bucks, because I'm not sure there either of you will get an invite to the big day, just quietly. But I also hear that neither of you are very romantic when it comes to proposals. Peter Dutton, you didn't even get down on bended knee, is that right?

DUTTON: Uh, well, it's so long ago, I just can't remember whether I got on bended knee. I think that's, I think that's fairly accurate. But I did take my wife to, we went we went overseas to get married, so I thought that was, you know, it was a fair bit of planning and activity.

ABO: like every other Australian? That's original. Bill, let’s –

DUTTON: Yeah. That was the best I could do.

SHORTEN: I think that’s okay?

ABO: Bill. Surely yours was more of a hallmark proposal, then?

SHORTEN: I think that's all right. I did get down on bended knee, but…

ABO: And that’s it?

SHORTEN: Yeah, that's about it. It was in Brisbane. It was about. No. I think Albo’s timing of Valentine's Day puts a lot of blokes in the shade. But good luck to him and good luck to Jodie.

ABO: Yes, he absolutely has revealed himself as the ultimate romantic. All right, you two, have a great weekend. Thanks for joining us.