Minister Shorten interview on the Today Show with Sarah Abo


SUBJECTS: Former MP not named in ASIO report; Dutton misidentifying suspect in Question Time; Dunkley by-election; Labor’s tax cuts

SARAH ABO, HOST: Well, Australia's top spy boss Mike Burgess is refusing to name and shame a former politician who he says aided foreign spies. We're joined now by Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, thank you both so much for your time this morning. Pete, you are first up. Now, the actions of this mysterious MP at the time were apparently not a crime. I mean, it brings to mind all kinds of concerns if you ask me, but there are calls for that MP to be outed. So, should they?

PETER DUTTON, LIBERAL PARTY: Well, I think they should. I think Mike Burgess has made a very serious statement. And I think importantly also, we shouldn't have this overshadow the reality of Mike's message, and that is that there is a lot of foreign interference in our country. It's unprecedented, the level of cyber-attacks similarly. So, I think that's the key message he was trying to get across. But I think in a circumstance where you make an allegation or a suggestion like this, I think it is important for public confidence to know who it is. Also, because 99% of people on both sides of politics are good people, they serve our country. And if there's one person that he's talking about who is in scope here, then I think that person should be outed.

ABO: Pete, you're very tempered this morning. We had Wayne Swan on the show earlier saying that you are making this some kind of electioneering issue, that you're really blowing it up. You're on radio alluding to the fact you know who it might be. So why don't you have the courage to just name them?

DUTTON: What, you think I should take Swanny's advice? He's the prisoner of the Labor Party.

ABO: Oh, come on, he had a good innings.

DUTTON: Karl gives him a soft run every Friday. So no, I'm not going to take advice from Swanny. He's a shocker.

ABO: Oh, I love it. All right. Well Bill, the ASIO boss says that this problem has apparently been neutralized. But trust, I mean, it is an issue, Peter raises it, it is an issue for the public. Even Joe Hockey has weighed in saying that by not naming this former politician, every parliamentarian becomes a suspect.

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Oh listen, I actually am most worried about Peter in all of this because he's. I'm worried that he's playing in the traffic. On one hand, he says Mike Burgess should name the politician, but on the other hand, he won't do it himself. I will stick with how Mike Burgess wants to handle the matter. He's drawing attention, as Peter observed, to the fact that some other countries would try and potentially interfere with our system of democracy and pursue their own interests. But the issue here is that sometimes I worry that Peter sort of has a bit of a Pavlovian response, that he wants to immediately go to the blame issue. I mean, we saw yesterday in Parliament, he basically used the Parliament to prosecute some individual detainee who had been released by the High Court, and he accused him all manner of things. But the problem is they got the wrong guy. So, I think just periodically, politicians should not play prosecutor. Let's sit back, let the experts pursue what they want to do. What do you think of that, Pete? No more playing in the traffic. It’s safer.

DUTTON: Well, I know you've passed judgment on Albo and you're not a great fan. So again, Bill, I wouldn't, I wouldn't be throwing stones from your glass house.

SHORTEN: You’ve got more deflections than Wonder Woman. You know, you've got your bracelets out, your shield out. You're deflecting.

ABO: Wonder Woman! I didn't think I'd hear that this morning.

DUTTON: Seriously mate, I can't see you, are you saying it with a straight face or not? Honestly, your hapless Minister -

ABO: There's a slight smile on his face.

SHORTEN: I'm not about Wonder Woman, no I’ll pick – hapless? You got the wrong guy, you’re like the Inspector Clouseau of the prosecution department!

DUTTON: Mr. Giles, yesterday, your good friend. Your good friend who you're hoping is going to vote for you in a leadership ballot –

ABO: Oh, dear….

DUTTON: - confirmed yesterday in Question Time that he'd been advised by the police -

SHORTEN: You're just hoping they’ll vote for you in Dunkley.

DUTTON: - about this matter, Bill. So, come on. Well, you've got a great candidate in Dunkley, Nathan Conroy.

SHORTEN: What did you get wrong yesterday?

ABO: All right, all right.

DUTTON: Nathan Conroy, he's your candidate.

SHORTEN: Pete, when you run a lynch mob, make sure you get the right guy. Anyway…

ABO: All right, all right.

DUTTON: Back in 2019.

ABO: Okay, let's move on. Let's move on now because this weekend is going to be big, right? I mean, following that big, fat broken promise on tax cuts, the Prime Minister's popularity will be put to the test this weekend as Victorians head to the polls for the Dunkley byelection. Bill, this was once Liberal heartland. It's now Labor heartland. Are you worried about tomorrow?

SHORTEN: Well, I don't think anyone should assume that Dunkley’s is anyone's heartland. It's going to be close. Peta Murphy, the late Peta Murphy, who died after years of her battle with cancer, won the seat in 2019. I do think Labor's got the best candidate, Jodie Belyea. She's a local person who's been a champion for that community for many years. She's also never put up the rates in Frankston like the Liberal fellow. And our tax cuts are good for people.

ABO: Well, it's interesting though -

SHORTEN: So yeah, I'm hoping we get home, though it will be close.

ABO: Those tax cuts haven't really given you the bump you were hoping for, Bill.

SHORTEN: I think the tax cuts on 1st July will give people some relief, which is what I'm interested in. When I look at a disability worker who may earn, last year, $72, $73,000 a year, through the wage increases that we've seen plus now are the tax cuts they're going to, under Labor, they're earning more and keeping more of what they earn.

ABO: July 1 might seem a bit too far away for some people. But Peter, I mean, the polls are showing that the Libs are ahead for the first time, the Coalition rather since the election. But haven't you turned into a politician of late? You're calculating the margins, the historical context. It's a 6.3% swing, a 7%, 46.5%. I mean, isn't it just about the vibe down at Franga?

DUTTON: It's not about the vibe. It's about making sure people select a great, you know, local candidate who's going to be somebody, I think a community leader with a proven track record of delivering for the community. And that candidate is Nathan Conroy, and I think he's done a great job. He's got a great connection with the local community. It's a 6.3% margin, so it's a big margin. But look, if there was a swing against the government of, you know, 3 or, you know, around 3%, then I think that's a terrible outcome for Anthony Albanese. The boundaries have changed since a few years ago when we held this seat. So, it's obviously, you know, gone into some more Labor territory. But the fact is that Nathan has done a great job in his local community. And I think people will be, you know, voting for him in big numbers tomorrow, at pre-polling today. And he's a great young bloke and I think he's really hit the ground running. And I think he would be a great representative in Canberra.

ABO: Yeah. I mean, look, this is definitely one that a lot of people are going to watch. Dunkley because it does represent broader Australia. It's the outer suburbs of Melbourne, a lot of hard-working people there who are very concerned about cost of living, the rising cost of homes and so on. So, it's going to, it's absolutely going to, I think, make an impact on the next federal election. But the two of you, you don't mind a bit of a bet. So, if you were to wager on who wins, can I tempt you into entering some kind of bet here?


SHORTEN: I thought we'd bet last week. Double or nothing.

DUTTON: Well, let's say - okay so it's a $10 bet. Is that the standard?

ABO: Oh, come on, it's got to be higher stakes than that, Pete.

SHORTEN: No, no, you owed me, I've won 20 bucks off you Pete, and I offered to double it. And whoever wins, we give it to the Salvos. So, you know, that's a good -

DUTTON: Oh, that's right. Okay, we did that. But let's play a sneaky side bet, though. What about, what about just ten bucks? That if there is more than a 3% swing against Labor, Bill Shorten will be the winner. How about that?

ABO: Oh, it sounds tempting.

SHORTEN: I tell you one thing -

DUTTON: If you don't win, it could be game on, Bill could be back in the saddle.

SHORTEN: No cigar, because, Pete, I'll tell you what. The only thing that matters here isn't your sort of redefining victory as 3%. Victory is if you win the seat. Now, you may well, it's a close election. Your local boy, though, has increased the rates three times. Every time he was Mayor, he'd push up the rates so, you know, that's great work experience for the electorate.

ABO: All right.

SHORTEN: Point about it is, you've been defining victory now as 3%.

DUTTON: Put rates up by -

SHORTEN: 3% is still a loss. What you're doing now guys if I only lose by a certain amount, I’m a winner.

ABO: All right, I'll take both of those

DUTTON: 1.7%, give me a break.

ABO: Next week we'll hold you to it. Best of luck to both of you. May the best side win this weekend. Thank you so much for joining us.

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: The takeout of all of that, Peter Dutton dressed up as Wonder Woman at Mardi Gras.

ABO: Oh, look out.

STEFANOVIC: Who doesn't want to see that?