Minister Shorten interview on the Today Show with Karl Stefanovic and Peter Dutton


SUBJECTS: Passing of Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon; Reserve Bank; cost of living; Dunkley byelection; economic policy; Sam Kerr allegation

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, Australia is mourning the tragic death of a soldier and the son of former Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon. Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon died after his parachute failed to open in a military training exercise at the Richmond RAAF base. We're joined now by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and in Melbourne by Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten. Good morning, guys. What a tragic, Pete, what a tragic and awful event for the family.

PETER DUTTON, LIBERAL PARTY: It's just horrific Karl. I mean, Joel is a wonderful Australian, but an amazing dad, and Diane would just be devastated beyond words, beyond description. And the regiment will be heartbroken. They’re such a tight knit community, obviously. And to lose Jack in these circumstances, somebody who's contributed to his country, he's served with great distinction and honour. It's just, it's just terrible.

STEFANOVIC: You were Defence Minister, I mean, this this goes right to your heart, doesn't it?

DUTTON: I texted Joel yesterday because I've got on with him very well, and he's a very decent bloke, and I've caught up with him since he's left politics as well. So, I've got a lot of time for him. But I texted Richard Marles yesterday as well, because he'll be feeling it not only as a friend and colleague, former colleague of Joel's, but also as Defence Minister. You feel each one of those incidents and you have a special burden that you carry as Defence Minister, and Richard will certainly be feeling that.

STEFANOVIC: Bill, he died serving his country, as I said, just awful, so awful for his family.

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: I heard the news yesterday afternoon. Just… I was shocked. I've texted and rung Joel. Everything Peter said is right about serving your country. It's a constant reminder that our defence force are highly, highly, highly professional and training is dangerous. But for me in particular, because I've known Joel for so long and his family, I know how much he loved his son. I know how much that family will be grieving. It's unimaginable for parents to bury their kids. This is just terrible. It's every parent's nightmare, that is for certain.

STEFANOVIC: And thank you guys on that. All right, we must move on. Pete, did the Reserve Bank make a mistake lifting rates in November?

DUTTON: Oh, well, Karl, a lot of households would say that. But look, everyone's 20/20 in hindsight, I think the Reserve Bank just deals with the facts before them. The fact is that the government's spent about $209 billion extra over the last 18 months. That has put upward pressure on inflation and therefore interest rates. And now the Treasurer is talking about really opening the purse strings in the May budget, which is, I think, going to put further pressure on interest rates and families just can't afford it.

STEFANOVIC: Bill, that is the problem. Economists are warning the government not to keep spending in the May budget. Otherwise, inflation will stay sticky, and rates won't come down. An election later this year, I can't see you putting the credit card away.

SHORTEN: I don't think that's the right characterization by Peter, or you there Karl. I've got to say, in the last two budgets, we've wound back $40 billion of useless Liberal spending that we inherited. Our tax cuts, which we've already announced were the key feature of our cost-of-living measures. And, Pete, you still owe me for the Dunkley outcome. But in particular, now I think you'll find that we'll be making long term decisions to improve productivity in the economy. And I'm certainly working hard. And I acknowledge the Liberals have promised cooperation to make sure that we put the NDIS on a sustainable trajectory. So that's something constructive we can work on together.

STEFANOVIC: Good of you to confirm this morning the elections later this year though. Thank you for that.

SHORTEN: Oh no, I have no idea when the next election is, but I can confirm there will be one at some point.

STEFANOVIC: You reckon it will be later this year?

DUTTON: Uh, well, I just presume that Bill's in the inner circle, and I think he's foxing. He'd know.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah. He would. All right, um, Bill, the flip side of all this and this is true in the last couple of weeks -

SHORTEN: They say hello from Frankston. Peter.

STEFANOVIC: I've had so many Bill, people come up to me and say that they're right now, they're small businesses, they're having to borrow to pay the bills just to get by. And then you've got the debt at home. People are really financially close to the edge here.

SHORTEN: I think they are, absolutely. You know, I've got my fingers crossed that, uh, sooner rather than later, we see a reduction in the mortgage rates, the interest rates. But that'll be a decision made by the independent Reserve Bank. I do think that inflation, well, we know that inflation is beginning to come down, but people are doing it hard. I think you'll find this budget will contribute to the economic improvement of the nation, which is what people want to hear.

STEFANOVIC: Pete, have you managed to conjure an economic policy yet, or will it magically appear for that election later this year?

DUTTON: We're working on lots of policies at the moment. I think just to go to Bill's point, people are hanging on by their fingernails at the moment. There is a lot of stress, not just in households but in small businesses.

STEFANOVIC: So how do you how do you help that without it being inflationary? That's the delicate dance.

DUTTON: Well, this is the thing. I mean, somebody on an average mortgage is paying 24,000 a year more under this government. Real wages have gone backwards because inflation has been high. And if the government continues to fuel inflation, then the Reserve Bank will say, as they've said before, that this is a domestic issue. Our core inflation here in Australia is higher than most other comparable countries in the developed world. And so, the government has, you know, a very difficult path to traverse here. But Labor's instinct will always be to spend more money, to tax more. And confidence goes from the economy very quickly. And I know Bill sort of jokes about Dunkley, but the real message out of Dunkley was that people are saying they're hurting, and they want help, and they need assistance, and they don't want a government making it worse.

STEFANOVIC: Bill any more taxes coming?

SHORTEN: No, not that I'm aware of. But what I would just want to be very clear is you actually asked Peter, are any economic policies? And he's fast becoming the David Copperfield of Australian politics. You know how magicians, when they don't want you to look at where you're looking, they get to look somewhere else. You just immediately flick the switch to negative on Labor. I mean, the Liberals have got to provide an alternative and they've got no alternative except knocking. Our stage three tax cuts are helping people. It's because of Labor and our policy around wages that we have seen movement in people's wages. We're now restoring better bulk billing. So, it is really hard, but I think we're actually doing the genuine day job that people expect.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Matildas star just finally; Sam Kerr has dominated headlines this week after her alleged racial slur was revealed to be “stupid white bastard”. Um, Bill, I'm going to start with you. Have you ever been called a stupid white bastard?

SHORTEN: I think I've been called nearly everything, and that's only when I go to Question Time. Just on Sam Kerr, she said she's not guilty. I'm not going to pile in and be judge, jury and the whole lot on her. Great athlete. I'm just going to let her case take its way through. I'm not going to join in on that. But I was thinking about some of the good sledges I have had, and I realize that I had so many it would take all day. The morning show would become a night show. But there's one which I still remember. I was going for a jog; I was going for a jog on a country road. And this old digger, you know, he would have seen his 90th birthday already. And I'm running along, not Chariots of Fire speed, but nonetheless. And he rolls down the window. He rolls down the window and says, “and you can't even effing run either!” Anyway, I just want to say, that bloke, I've never forgotten you.

STEFANOVIC: All right, Pete, for you.

SHORTEN: You're driving!

DUTTON: We miss the man boobs. Bill, it's been a while. It's been a while.

SHORTEN: I’ve got a comeback, but I won’t…

DUTTON: That’s just given us an image here on break. I know it's too early. It's too early. Please, come on.

SHORTEN: Do you know, I'm going to give you an early Easter present, not sledge you today.

DUTTON: Oh, you're a gentleman.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, quickly.

DUTTON: Have I been?

STEFANOVIC: No, what's the worst thing you've been called?

DUTTON: Uh, well, I don't think I'd been called that, but something similar to that. I think it happened in Noosa. But you were, you were hugging me at the same time as you're abusing me. So, I thought it was okay.

STEFANOVIC: Oh, come on, that was between us. Good to see you guys. I appreciate it.