Minister Shorten interview on the Today Show with Jane Azzopardi


SUBJECTS: Lifting of Chinese tariffs; Labor’s deportation bill; Labor’s NDIS reform bill

JANE AZZOPARDI, HOST: Well, our politicians will be raising a glass to Australia's improving relations with China this morning as Beijing finally lifts tariffs on Australian wine. Let's bring in Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten and Shadow Minister for Finance Jane Hume. Good morning to you both. Bill, we'll start with you. This is obviously been a long time coming. How much work has gone on behind the scenes to get here?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNEMNT SERVICES: Yes, it's good news for Australia's wine producers, which means jobs and economic income for Aussies. A lot of work by Trade Minister Don Farrell, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Wang. So this is good news. Ah, it's been a tough time for the wine industry since 2020. So yeah, it's always good to wake up with a bit of good news, isn't it?

AZZOPARDI: Sure is. There are still tariffs though on lobster and beef. Any sign of movement there?

SHORTEN: Well, we've knocked off the tariffs and some of the Chinese restrictions on a range of Australian goods. We'll just take it day as it comes. I'm optimistic that the trend is our friend here.

AZZOPARDI: Okay. Well Jane, we know that relations with China did hit a low point in 2020 under the previous coalition government. Is this part of Labor cleaning up the mess?

JANE HUME, LIBERAL PARTY: Well, certainly this is really good news for Australia's winemakers. And they were benefiting from a very positive relationship with China that came out of the China Free Trade Agreement, which was negotiated by the coalition. But you'll recall that the reason why these tariffs went on in the first place was because Australia stood up for its national interests. It called for an inquiry into the origins of Covid 19, and it also ripped up that Belt and Road initiative that Dan Andrews, Premier Dan Andrews, had negotiated with the Chinese Communist Party. That is standing up for our national interests, I would hope, and perhaps Bill can confirm, whether we would do those things all over again. It's important that Australia stands up for its national interest, even in the face of a big economic partner like China.

AZZOPARDI: Well, speaking of national interest, there has been a controversial issue in that regard this week, and that is Labor's deportation bill, which failed to pass the Senate. It was blocked by the Coalition and the Greens, with some labelling it cruel, appalling and even racist. Jane, we'll start with you because it's not often that you side with the Greens. What are your major concerns here?

HUME: Well, the Coalition are concerned that this litany of chaos and incompetence on border security has continued with this rushed piece of legislation. Let's remind your viewers that this legislation was presented to the coalition on Tuesday morning at 7:30 and told by Minister Giles and Minister O'Neill that it was urgent that it had to pass within 36 hours. When we looked at that legislation, there was a print stamp on it that was dated four days prior. So, Labor had had this legislation in their hands for four days before they gave it to the Coalition, and then told us it was urgent. Now the Senate's job is scrutiny of legislation, and this legislation is controversial. It has broad reaching consequences. Even Labor's own party room, its own caucus, has voiced its concerns about the potential consequences of this legislation. So, the Senate will do its job, it will scrutinise the legislation, it will understand what the consequences are. It will hear from those communities that are affected, and then it will make a decision as to whether this legislation should go ahead or not. But quite frankly, this is just continued incompetence on border security from a Labor government.

AZZOPARDI: Bill, can you explain the rush here? Because no one in government really has explained why this had to go through so quickly.

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, are the Liberals in the lower house of Parliament voted for the law on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday, the Liberals in the upper house or the Senate voted against the legislation and yesterday morning are they've said that maybe they'll vote for this in May. And yesterday afternoon they said they'd like us to come back to Parliament in April to vote on it. The real issue here is that the High Court.

AZZOPARDI: Bill, but sorry, surely they need to – 

SHORTEN: No, sorry, there's detail here-

AZZOPARDI: - they need to know what they're voting for. Surely, you know it is appropriate to ask questions.

SHORTEN: Jane, I've just listened to the Liberal spokes lady there say that somehow the wine deal is all Labor's fault. Somehow we're rushing this. I mean, every time you ask a Liberal a question, they just vomit out anti-Labor rubbish. The point about it here is the High Court made a decision. The High Court, under the separation of powers in our democracy, if the High Court makes a decision, we've got to adhere to it. So we're updating our laws to deal with what the High Court said. You know, I've sat in Parliament for the last three months, listened to Liberal hot air merchant after Liberal negative attack, saying Labor's not doing enough. And then when we do something they decide to, you know, do a bit of a go slow. Like, the Liberals are going to end up voting for this law and its substantial format. But for whatever reason, the Liberals have decided to do opposite day and vote with the Greens. What Australians want to know is that our borders are safe, and that if you've got people who shouldn't be in Australia, are we doing everything we can to move them out of Australia? Listen, this is just unfortunately the political games that go on. We just want to make sure that people who shouldn't be in this country aren't in this country. And if the Liberals want to make us jump through more hoops, I guess that's part of the political rubbish which turns people off politics

AZZOPARDI: That’s extraordinary rhetoric Bill, that's so unnecessary. I was going to say that I would have thought that had you had been Prime Minister, this wouldn't have happened because quite frankly, this has been a demonstration of extraordinary incompetence..

SHORTEN: Well, you should have voted for me!

HUME: Oh. Good luck. 

SHORTEN: You are charming.

HUME: I've got him with that.

SHORTEN: Flattering.

AZZOPARDI: Guys, before we go, Bill, I do want to ask you.

SHORTEN: But it’s flattering, thank you. Jane, you should be leading the Liberals, Jane.

HUME: God bless you.

AZZOPARDI: I'm assuming you're talking about the other Jane, not me. It's a bit confusing when there's two of us here, but, Bill, I'm-

SHORTEN: Sorry, Jane H, not Jane A.

AZZOPARDI: Before we go, Bill, I do want to ask you about the proposed changes to the NDIS, because that is your baby. It does seem as though some of the state governments are put off side by these changes. Concern that you haven't been up front enough, and they're saying it means they will face higher costs or some families will miss out. What is your view on that?

SHORTEN: Well, I've been talking about fixing up the NDIS for the last 650 days and we are making some progress. We want the people who are ripping off people on the Scheme and the price gougers, we want them to stop. We want to get rid of some of the frauds. One of the big challenges is that the NDIS can't be the only lifeboat in the ocean. We want to make sure that all Australians with disabilities are getting support, but if the NDIS is the only option then that makes, puts pressure on, the Scheme. I listen, we'll talk to the states. I think they are having a little quiet panic attack that somehow they might have to do more for people with disability. We'll work with the states, but for me, what's most important are the participants on the Scheme. The Scheme's going to keep growing. We want to keep looking after people. We just want Australians with disability, if they have a disability, to be able to get the right support. And if that's on the Scheme, that's good. And we need to build better supports in our schools and health systems. We'll work it through with the states.

AZZOPARDI: Well, for the sake of all those people, let's hope you do. Bill Shorten and Jane Hume, thank you both for your time this morning.