Minister Shorten interview on the Today Show with Sarah Abo



SUBJECTS: Foreign Minister’s comments on two-state solution; Dutton comparison of Opera House protest and Port Arthur massacre; Labor’s Future Made in Australia policy; energy independence

SARAH ABO, HOST: Well, Foreign Minister Penny Wong sparked a political firestorm this week, accused of damaging Australia's relations with Israel after she suggested that the government could recognise Palestinian statehood. To discuss, we're joined by Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten and Opposition leader Peter Dutton in the studio with me. Good morning to you both. Peter, I'll start with you. Very strong accusations from you this week on this saying that it's a massive shift in policy, perhaps the wrong shifting policy, but then your comparison with the Port Arthur massacre and the Opera House protest. Did you go too far there?

PETER DUTTON, LIBERAL PARTY: Well Sarah, when you speak to the survivors of the Holocaust who have lived in our country since 1945, they've lived here peacefully. They've contributed incredibly to our country. For the first time, they are saying that they feel unsafe to live in our country. And that is post October 9th. And what we've seen in Caulfield and elsewhere, the rise of anti-Semitism. The point I was making, which is absolutely a legitimate one, is that I thought this was a time for the Prime Minister to show leadership and to step up. Instead, we've had crickets. And you've got a contrast, I think, with John Howard, who stood up at a point of national importance for our country, demonstrated leadership and changed the course of history for the better. The Prime Minister has allowed this rise of anti-Semitism in our country. Penny Wong never went to cabinet with this proposal. It's not agreed to by the Palestinian leaders here in Australia. And we know that there is a split in the Labor Party about the approach. She has damaged our relations.

ABO: But there's also a split within your own party. You've been criticised within your own ranks about this call, saying you've gone too far.

DUTTON: Oh, by one, one backbencher whom I respect but has a different view on many issues and that's fine. But the most important thing here is that we've got kids in schools today who are there with armed guards out the front. We've got people who won't go to synagogues, people who won't go to Jewish supermarkets. And I just don't think we should tolerate that sort of conduct against anybody, against any religion, against any Australian. And at the moment, the rise of anti-Semitism that we're seeing on university campuses is the doxing of people. It's completely unacceptable.

ABO: Yeah, but I think you do have to be careful conflating the issues here. I mean, Bill, the PM argued that Labor had long supported a two-state solution. But, you know, Peter Dutton is saying this is a new policy. It isn't, is it? I mean, is there even a formal government plan here or just empty words from the Foreign Minister?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Now there are three points that you and Peter were just discussing I'll very quickly address. One is, Labor has had as its policy for a very long time. The whole time I've been a member of the Labor Party, a support for a two-state solution. There will be a day after this immediate war in Gaza. I mean, I'm very clear that there is an unacceptable rise in anti-Semitism. I came on your show the morning after the Opera House and called it out. Hamas’ terrorism is what's triggered this war in Gaza. But having said all of that, there will be a day after. And the dreadful scenes of the harm caused is in part going to be solved by having a two-state solution. But then we get to the issues, which I think Peter has I think, probably if he had his time again in the privacy of his own head, he would probably not do. One is, appropriately, he's calling out the rise of anti-Semitism, but so is Anthony Albanese. So is Penny Wong. No one has any time for this 2000-year-old stain to creep out of the drains of history. And I do agree that Jewish people feel, some Jewish people do feel, unsafe in this country for the first time and it needs to be called out. But I think that one thing that Mr. Dutton has made a mistake about, and I think it is a mistake Peter, is conflating it with Port Arthur. They're two separate issues. Port Arthur was a shocking, murderous, evil act in Australia, and John Howard certainly spoke up about it. But interestingly, Mr. Dutton has forgotten to mention that Kim Beazley, the then Opposition Leader, had a united position about stamping down on this act of evil. I think Peter's, you know, he's got to make his points. That's his job. But I think that he should work with the Prime Minister -

ABO: Yeah.

SHORTEN: - to call out inflammatory language here, rather than throw, sort of, kero on the bonfire of hate.

DUTTON: So, Sarah, just let me deal with that because I want to be very clear. The point that I made was that John Howard stood up for our country at a time when we needed moral clarity. He did that, and he changed the course of history with the gun laws. That's them that's the parallel that I'm making to the absolute absence of leadership from the Prime Minister at the moment, which has given rise to those in the Jewish community talking about feeling unsafe in our country. I don't resile from that at all.

ABO: No, and no one wants to see that.

DUTTON: And I think, and I think the Prime Minister, if he had his time over again to use Bill's words, he would have actually shown some spine, stood up for the Jewish community. At the moment, there is a lot of fear in our country, and we need to stare it down.

ABO: We need we need to ease tensions, that's for sure. All right. Let's just quickly move on now. And a big announcement from the government yesterday, Australia, to offer incentives for clean energy and manufacturing under the Future Made in Australia policy. Bill, the PM has been criticised for this, the Productivity Commission chairman, chairwoman rather handpicked by the government, saying it's not a long-term strategy, concerned about sort of the ongoing costs involved and the diversion of resources. So, are you on a good thing here?

SHORTEN: Yeah, I think absolutely. I think it's about three decades late for, overdue for Australian political leaders to say that we've got to make things in this country. One of the lessons we learned from COVID -

ABO: But you don't want big businesses reliant on subsidies, do you?

SHORTEN: Well, welcome to Australia. There's been government intervention in the economy since European settlement. The point about it is that the rest of the world, they laugh at us when we don't back ourselves. You know, under the Liberals, we wave goodbye to the last two car companies and the other countries who support their industries making cars, they didn't think we were economic geniuses. They thought we were economic mugs to wave goodbye to making things in Australia. Green hydrogen, green steel, solar energy, investing in manufacturing critical minerals. We need to be more sovereign in this country and sometimes that will involve government assistance. If you just leave it to the market, all this country will be, will be a bank and a quarry.

ABO: There are some who are concerned, Bill, that the horse has already bolted on those things, right? I mean, we had independent Dai Lee on the show earlier saying that your government is out of touch. She represents constituents in Western Sydney. You need them on side with this, don't you?

SHORTEN: I've represented Australians all over the country and I would challenge any independent or Liberal, and I'll go toe to toe in a debate with them in any forum in Australia, in any club or any town hall, to say that our policy of backing in Australian jobs, investing in Australian manufacturing, is the right way to go. If there's some people who want to put Australian manufacturing in their museum, well, I think that's just a complete mistake and sells our future and the apprenticeships and the jobs of the future short. The rest of the world's competing for jobs now, there's a global opportunity. We can either put in the too hard basket and be sort of be that sort of lazy, conservative approach that just, you know, we're okay and we won't worry about the future, or we just roll up our sleeves and get on with Aussie made.

ABO: Yeah, look, it’s about the taxpayer fund during a tax, during a cost of living, you know, issues that we're facing at the moment. But do we think though Peter, I just want to get your -

SHORTEN: I think that – oh, sorry.

ABO: - just what you think about the Product Productivity Commission Chairwoman's comments here.

DUTTON: Well, the Productivity Commission chair was handpicked by Jim Chalmers, the Treasurer. She's been very critical of what the government's proposing here at the moment. The fact is that over the last two years, manufacturing businesses have gone into, into bankruptcy. Uh, it's gone up by 300%, right? So just to put that into perspective, under this government's watch, Australian manufacturing insolvencies are up by 300%. We know that the energy system is broken. The government's renewables only policy is driving up the price of your electricity bill at home, but it is for business as well and that's what's fuelling inflation. And you won't have an environment where businesses can't have green, cheap, and reliable energy. And at the moment we've got 90% of reliable energy going out of the system by 2034. And this wing and a prayer stuff from the government, business won't invest in that uncertain market. In the United States or Malaysia, they're paying half or a third of the electricity costs than they are here, and they won't stay here if there's not a stable energy market, which is why we've started the debate about the transition to a new energy system with, with zero emissions.

ABO: Well, we've got to incentivise big business somehow to invest in this country. Thank you both for your time. We are out of it.

DUTTON: Thank you.

ABO: Appreciate it. Thank you.