Minister Shorten interview on the Today Show with Sarah Abo


SUBJECTS: Potential USA TikTok ban; cyber security; young people on social media; Treasurer’s comments on upcoming budget; CSIRO; nuclear energy

SARAH ABO, HOST: Well, TikToks could soon be banned in the United States over security concerns, with the Opposition calling on the PM to take action on the social media app. Let's bring in Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten in Hobart this morning and Opposition leader Peter Dutton in the studio. Good to see you both.


ABO: Bill, I'll start with you. 8 million Australians use TikTok. So, are you going to ban the app?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GIVERNMENT SERVICES: No. The Government has said that we're not going to ban the app. We will rely on the advice of our security agencies. What we have done is said that for our Government phones, for sensitive Government phones, we're not going to use the app. So, we'll just take the advice of the professionals, and we'll take it step by step.

ABO: You're not worried about the Chinese mining data of Australians?

SHORTEN: Well, I think that as a general issue is a challenge, yes. But I'll be honest with TikTok. Whilst I acknowledge the national security debate, which is important as a parent, I think there's a separate discussion to be had about the impact of social media on kids in particular, the algorithms that these programs use, I think, do have an injuring effect on kids. But in terms of - so I'm not a fan of TikTok at all, but in terms of national security, we'll take the advice of the national security experts.

ABO: Yeah, you don't want to pick a fight with those teenagers either over TikTok. Peter, your cyber security expert, James Patterson MP, says that he thinks it should be banned. So why not introduce a ban right now?

DUTTON: Well, sir, as Bill says, it depends on the advice that the Government is getting from the national security chiefs. And if they're saying, look, Prime Minister, we've got a real problem here because young kids, you know, Australians of all ages are using TikTok and their personal information is being mined, the images are being captured and Australians are having their devices exploited, then the Prime Minister has got a responsibility to step up and do the right thing by Australians. Now, whether that's banning it, it will depend on the advice.

ABO: Will you be agitating for that though?

DUTTON: Well, I want to make sure that our kids are safe online, and I haven't got the advice that the Prime Minister gets from the head of ASIO and the head of the cyber security centres, etc. but clearly there's a huge problem. And if you've got personal data on there and it's being taken by a third party or by a state actor, that is of huge concern to not just parents, but to the users as well. And we need to make sure that we've got a safe operating environment for our kids because they spend so much time on social media, they're also sharing intimate images and conversations. And if all of that data is being extracted against your knowledge or consent, then I think the Prime Minister does need to step up.

ABO: I mean, just quickly, Bill, is this about not really annoying the Chinese any further? We know we're trying to thaw relationships there.

SHORTEN: No, not at all. Prime Minister Albanese and the whole Government will place our national security priority and agenda ahead of any other issue.

ABO: All right. Well, we heard from the Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, yesterday. He's warned Aussies not to expect a cash splash in May's budget, signalling the need to curb inflation and bring much needed relief to households. Bill, the Treasurer seems to be making two arguments at once, saying the Government needs some kind of growth strategy, while also saying he won't be able to help that along because of inflation. You can't have it two ways, can you?

SHORTEN: Well, I think Jim has just said that in this budget, we want more protein than carbs. I mean, we do have the tax cuts coming along, the Labor tax cuts coming along on the 1st of July. That'll be important. But he's also saying that we don't want to have any spending, which doesn't contribute to the economic growth of Australia.

ABO: Will that be it then, for relief? Will that be it for cost-of-living relief?

SHORTEN: I think that it's our major, at this point that's our major strategy for relief. And I know a lot of Australians, 13.6 million Australians, are looking forward to that tax relief. What the Treasurer is saying is that we've got to make sure that there's no wasteful spending, and he wants to make sure that at the expenditure we are doing is contributing to growing the economy and not putting additional pressure on households.

ABO: He's sounding conservative, Peter Dutton.

DUTTON: Well, what we know Sarah, is that there is going to be a tax and spend budget. I mean, that's what Labor always does. And at the moment, I just think the cost-of-living pressures that families are facing, it's astronomical. And there are a lot of families who just can't balance the budget at the moment. And the Government's spending additional money, which is putting upward pressure on inflation and interest rates. And that is going to make it really tough for not just for families, but for small businesses as well.

SHORTEN: All right, Peter, this week you undermine the CSIRO, the peak science body has bitten back in a statement saying that maintaining trust requires our political leaders to resist temptation, to disparage science after you said they can't be relied upon because they happen to be at odds with your nuclear policy.

DUTTON: Well, there's nothing disparaging about the comments that that I made or that we've made. My point is that we need to compare apples with apples. And at the moment that report was released, it doesn't take into consideration all of the costs around renewables. I'm strongly in favour of renewables, but we need to keep the lights on, and we need to keep power prices down. And the fact that most other developed countries are adopting a zero emissions latest generation nuclear technology means that we could get greener power, we could get cheaper power, but also reliable power as well. We're going to see more blackouts under this Government, and we're going to see the cost of your electricity bill continue to go through the roof. And all I'm saying is let's have a fair comparison instead of a skewed one. And that's why I was critical of that particular report, not of the CSIRO in general. And I think it was a fair point to make.

ABO: I mean, but you know, better than most, this is going to cost tens of billions of dollars. It's going to be more than ten years away. I mean, with due respect, you’re not a scientist, I'm not a scientist. They are, is it - do you want to pick a fight with them.

DUTTON: I'm not doubting the science. I'm talking about the economic modelling here and the Government's proposal at the moment on the 100% renewables model is going to cost up to about $1.5 trillion. All of that money is going to be passed on to consumers and small businesses who are being smashed at the moment already. They've got to roll out 28,000km of new poles and wires to make their system work, which is essentially the whole coastline of our country. It's like pink batts on steroids. It's not going to happen. And I don't want to see families struggling. I don't want to see them pay even more. The Prime Minister promised that power prices would go down by $275. Everyone knows that every bill is going up and this Government's taking our country in the wrong direction.

ABO: All right, well, talking about cash and splashing cash, it seems yes, the public may not get a handout at the May election, may budget, but the politicians have no problem spending money. Greens leader Adam Bandt slugging taxpayers nearly $1 million, 200,000 spent on printing. Bill. This isn't fair, this isn't going to wash with the public.

SHORTEN: Hey, if you want to talk about cash splash, Peter's just spent a couple of minutes talking about everything but his own nuclear policy. Hey, Peter Dutton taking on the CSIRO, the best scientists in the country, chucking on a white lab coat doesn't make you a scientist, Peter. I've got one question. As you spent two minutes trying to rubbish labour, are you willing to host one of your nuclear power plants in your electorate or anywhere in Queensland? You know, like I think you have a submerged and unrecognised sense of humour. Are you seriously taking the proverbial with your nuclear power frolic? Where are you going to put your reactors?

DUTTON: Well, Bill, there's a huge argument in the United Kingdom at the moment where adults are able to have a conversation and the Labour Party there is arguing for the Tories to have more baseload nuclear power because they know it's zero emissions. This Government, your Government, has no chance whatsoever of meeting the zero 50 target. That's, that's the reality of it. So, what we've said is that where you've got a retiring asset, so a coal fired generator in a brownfield site and you can replace that coal with a zero emissions technology, the latest technology, the same technology you've signed up to for the nuclear submarines, you've got the ability to distribute the power with those poles and wires already connected up to that site. That saves $1 trillion.

ABO: All right. Okay, you two.

DUTTON: I reckon it's okay.

ABO: You two will argue about the merits of nuclear until -

SHORTEN: So, you going to put power plants where all the coal plants are.

ABO: All right, that's enough. We will leave this argument for another day, because I feel like there's a lot more time that we could spend on it. Thank you both so much.

DUTTON: Pleasure.

ABO: Thank you for coming in. Appreciate it. Thanks, guys.

SHORTEN: Cheers.