Minister Shorten interview on the Today Show with Karl Stefanovic


SUBJECTS: Calls for social media accountability after Sydney incidents; proposed strengthening of knife laws; China’s statements on Australian foreign policy;

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, it has been a week of heartbreak and tragedy in Australia. The shocking scenes of violence in Bondi Junction and an attack at a southwest Sydney church. Breathe, everyone. Both incidents played out over social media. Witnesses at Bondi Junction sharing scenes from within the attack, at Wakely live streamed to the masses. But what also played out was the spread of misinformation, people wrongly identified and falsehoods circulating like wildfire. It is time for social media giants to step up. Their failure to remove graphic imagery and misinformation is unforgivable. To discuss we're joined by Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, morning, guys. Bill to you first up, the events of this week are truly horrific as we all know, what we've seen on social media has exacerbated that tenfold. Are these tech giants being held to account?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: A shocking week. One of the victim’s parents live in my electorate. It's just unimaginable what's happened. Yeah, the social media companies need a big rinse out, frankly. Um, Michelle Rowland is our Minister for Communications, I know that she was onto it straight away, and the E-Safety Commissioner, we were able to the government issued instructions to shut down various footage, which was just graphic and unnecessary. But it's a bit of a shame it takes the government to sort of play whack a mole here to shut down the horrible images. I must admit, though, it was not as - there's some lessons been learned since the terrible Christchurch massacre at the mosque. But social media companies just - they take our money, they've got to just understand there's a social licence, and it shouldn't involve, you know, ministers and safety commissioners telling them what to do. They should just get on and do it straight away. And if it costs more money to catch the bad feed on their platforms, well, they just have to spend the money to catch it and stop it.

STEFANOVIC: I agree. Throw the book at them, Pete, it irks me even more they refuse to pay for legitimate verified news content if it was an attack on democracy as Wayne Swan said a little earlier on the show, then let's run them out of town if they don't shape up.

PETER DUTTON, LIBERAL PARTY: Well Karl, I agree with the sentiment that's been expressed by you and by Bill. The reality is that it's not just in this space as well. When you look at what the companies like Meta are doing, keeping the information from police who are investigating child sexual abuse, the images that are shared online in between those, those groups of men, they're making decisions right now to make it harder for police to get access to all of that data. And I think it's shameful. And there is technology available to them where they can screen through AI and through all the algorithms that they've got, these images. And when they have that red flag, they should take it down. And if there's a hesitation in putting it up, if it's an innocent graphic that they've caught, well, they can rectify that. But at the moment I think they've got complete contempt for families, for kids who spent a lot of time on social media, and the influence that they exert needs to have that social license, as Bill says.

STEFANOVIC: All right. Another big issue this morning and it's running pretty hot, ironically on our social media. Bill, New South Wales Police are now asking for tougher knife crime penalties, parents could take the rap if they allow their kids to have knives. They're suggesting maybe we lock them up. How do you think about that?

SHORTEN: Well, as the Prime Minister said, we'll support what the states and territories want to do here. But as a parent and as someone who shops in Westfields, we do need tougher penalties. We need nationally consistent laws. You know, when I say tougher penalties, it should be if you're carrying a knife and use it, that's aggravated, that's aggravated. And so, you need to have tougher penalties. I also think - I mean there are seize laws currently there for the police. But if someone does get caught, you know, the courts have got to enforce the laws. But also, I get that, you know, knives are a part of, you know, recreation. People collect them, people use them recreationally. But there's some very long knives available. And I'm just not convinced that they should be for sale. But it's not just the knife laws. It's not just being safe. It's also the reassurance. The Westfield shopping centres of Australia, you know, we all go there, we all go there all the time. They’re like the high street of old. So, I think we need more soldiers and police officers actually patrolling Westfield's and perhaps even the big shopping centre companies who make a lot of money can actually be asked to co-pay, so we have a stronger visible police presence. I mean, it's great that the Prime Minister has given the security guard citizenship. That's fantastic. But we do need trained police officers -

STEFANOVIC: 100 percent.

SHORTEN: - and the shopping centres who make a lot of money could perhaps co-pay.

STEFANOVIC: Agree, get out in front of it. Pete, you'd support all that, wouldn't you?

DUTTON: Look Karl, I think you should look around the country. There are different approaches from different police forces, and that's because of the laws that they operate under in Queensland they've got the ability to use the, wave the wand over people particularly. It's not just shopping centres, you know, nightclubs and precincts, particularly after dark. You've got, you know, all of this gang violence at the moment where people are breaking into homes and stealing keys for cars. A lot of those kids are carrying knives because they can't get access to guns, thank God. But I think we've got to be realistic about what you can do. And I think the vigilance - I think the other really important point here is, you know, the warning signs early on, whether it's from your mates who see big changes in your behaviour because you're spending a lot of time online, whether it's in your workplace, people just think, you know, something's really changed here. Just people taking more notice, caring more, and alerting the authorities if they think that somebody has, you know, a real issue or an obsession with knives and guns and they think that that's going to play out, you know, there are different forms that it can take. But the thought that we can take every knife off the street is a nice one. But I think we've got to be realistic as well.

STEFANOVIC: Look, some of it does start at home too. And this idea about parents taking responsibility for some of that, as difficult as that might be to put into practice, is, at the very least, engaging parents with their kids at home, is probably a good start. Lots of reaction to that. Let's move on quickly. Beijing has hit back at Australia, telling Canberra to stop buzzing about China, following criticism of increasingly aggressive military behaviour. Bill, China's foreign ministry says they're committed to the peace and stability of the Asia Pacific region. So, you don't believe them, huh?

SHORTEN: Well, I don't know whether it was last week or the week before we were accused of being too soft on China. Now we're being accused of being too hard on China. I think the government is pursuing the right policy. We'll obviously always promote our national interests. We'll cooperate where we can, but we'll always make sure that we promote our own interests. The Defence Minister, Richard Marles, has announced our defence strategy. We're putting extra resources into our defence. We intend to always defend our country, to deter our enemies and contribute to stability in the region. We'll do that regardless of what other countries say.

STEFANOVIC: All right, Peter, look, Labor a little late with the rhetoric on China. I mean, you've been stoushing with China for years.

DUTTON: Well, I just think it was nice to see a sighting, a single sighting of Richard Marles during the week at the Press Club. Um, I mean, he won't turn up on a Friday. He's got an aversion to coming on the Today Show. He's been bounced by Bill. And Richard should be here arguing his corner. I mean, but, you know, if you have a look at what he said, he said, okay, well, we face the most precarious period since the Second World War.

STEFANOVIC: Kept going. Pete.

DUTTON: Well, the more you talk, yes. Uh, so the situation is that he explains that we live in the most precarious period since the Second World War. Everyone agrees with that. And then he says, we're not going to do anything about it. They're taking $80 billion out of Defence spending. It's just, it's crazy. I mean, we need the capability now. If we're to keep peace in our region, we need to be strong, not weak, and we need to have deterrence there so that bullies in the region, whoever it might be, aren't going to cower, make us cower, or step back from our resolve. And I think that's it's a really important debate.

STEFANOVIC: Pete, we were going to finish on whether you guys are hard workers or vibe guys. It's the thing that we're talking about today on the show, which I love, but we've run out of time. Pete 10 seconds on something important you're doing today.

DUTTON: I just kind of give a sort of an unscheduled plug to a wonderful cause. Riders who are leaving Brisbane today for Longreach for they raise money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Just incredible people. Good. And please, if you've got a few dollars, jump on the website, and donate to a really wonderful cause.

STEFANOVIC: Good on you guys, thanks for coming on. Appreciate it. Very strong.