Minister Shorten interview on ABC Melbourne Drive with Ali Moore


ALI MOORE, HOST ABC MELBOURNE DRIVE: Earlier in the week, though we did ask the question about whether security guards and shopping centres needed to be better armed and better trained. That, of course, was after the events at Bondi Junction on the weekend. Well, the NDIS Minister, Bill shorten, has weighed into that conversation today. He says there should be more patrols at centres and tougher penalties for knife crime. Minister, welcome to the program.


MOORE: You have called for more soldiers and police officers and then, depending on which report I look at, did you also say soldiers?

SHORTEN: No, I didn't say soldiers.

MOORE: That's right. I did wonder if you thought that the Defence Forces should be out in our shopping centres. I didn't think that was what you would really be thinking. But take us through the more soldiers and police officers. How do you think that would work?

SHORTEN: Well, I've got two big shopping centres, Airport West and of course, High Point is in Maribyrnong and I'm in charge of Centrelink. And we've had, assaults in Centrelink. So, I've been looking at this question of security guards in Centrelink and we've increased the security for our staff and we're increasing penalties for assaulting Centrelink workers, uh, because a lot of Centrelink’s are in shopping centres. But I've had constituents approach me of observations and I see it as a parent when I do the shopping at High Point or Airport West, that these shopping centres are really the modern high street, aren't they? And whilst we have police stations in the modern high street because they were there historically, we I think there's an opportunity to have a discussion about PSOs who I think are doing a great job on our railway stations. And the constituents said, how about we get some PSOs doing more patrols through shopping centres? Ultimately, this is a state question. So, I guess like all opinions that are free, you pay. It's worth what you pay for. And I acknowledge that the best experts are actually the police.

But I've had constituents raise it, and it seems to me to make sense that you've not only got to be safe, but you've got to feel safe. Uh, and I'm not saying that a police patrol will stop the evil that we saw, um, at Bondi. But the other thing I've said, which you'll probably get the shopping centre owners annoyed, is I think that if we were to have more police patrols there, the biggest beneficiary, um, and at the moment, I think a lot of Australians feel the shopping centres are soft targets. Uh, I was at High Point the afternoon of Bondi, and I just think a lot of people thought, well, if something bad was going to happen, this is where you'd come and do it. And I think the shopping centres probably I mean, I'm sure they'll be ringing up upset already, but they should put their hand in their pocket. They make a lot of money out of shoppers. I'm not talking about the leases, but the actual, you know, the property investors. Anyway, it's an idea I've my constituents have raised with me. I think it makes sense.

MOORE: Minister, can I ask you so the idea the PSOs, is the thinking that they would be a step up in terms of training and ability to deal with weapons than a security guard.

SHORTEN: Yeah. I mean, security guards were very brave upon her, and they're good people and we use them in Centrelink. But there's training that security guards don't have. And there's different levels of accreditation for security guards. So, by all means, that's a really sensible conversation to have, but suppose they're trained, they're armed. I do think they're making a difference across our railway network, I think the state governments pulled the right rein there. And I think, you know, that is improving. I'm not pretending everything's perfect there, security at stations. But I think that's been a step up. And I think now the conversation is if we think they work there, uh, and we have thousands of people every day going to shopping centres, you know, a lot of the big chains of the shopping centres do have CCTV in the car parks, but not all of them. You know, I think at the end of the day, the property investors who own the shopping centres, they make a lot of money. That's great. I think they need to perhaps help invest in making people feel safe with the government. Ultimately, it's up to the States. Ultimately, the police do know what they're doing, so I'd be guided by them. But I think more patrols will make people feel better.

MOORE: Well, I guess the shopping canters have a self-interest because they want people to keep coming. And if people do start to feel unsafe, they may not keep coming. That doesn't address, though, I guess, this this issue of I've got a text here just saying hi, High Point aka knife point. Uh, I don't know how fair that is, but there is a big problem with knife crime. We know that we've just seen incidences at shopping centres and Melton just lately as well. What's the answer to that and how do you stop particularly young people getting hold of these things?

SHORTEN: Well, a lot of people are a lot more expert than me. But, um, what I hear from constituents is that police do have certain powers now to seize knives. There are some very long knives, which and I should also say before the people who like knives sort of get too hot under the collar. There's a lot of legitimate reasons. Recreation, fishing, you know, but one reason not to carry a knife, one reason that if you think it's a reason to carry a knife is not a reason. It's self-defence. That's rubbish. Um, so I know that the state governments put legislation in to deal with some aspects of knife- of some of the bigger knives. Yeah. So, the state government hasn't, you know, they haven't been ignoring the issue, but the really long weapons, you've got to wonder why? Um, another observation a constituent made to me is that sometimes at the big homeware stores- I mean, if you had someone who was not well, I could just go and grab them from the homeware stores. Maybe some of the more complicated knives should be behind, uh, locked display boxes. But I do think that nationally consistent laws penalties are important. I think if you're carrying a knife and you do something wrong, the book's got to be thrown at you. It's not just, you know, it's not just, um, carrying a bad joke with you and saying it to someone. These are weapons.

MOORE: Minister, can I ask you, because you are Minister for the NDIS and having that hat on. And from that perspective, do you have a view on the decision to declare the attack on the bishop at the church in Sydney's west, a terrorist event? And I asked that in the context of a teen who's now being charged, uh, he's been remanded in custody, but his defence barrister has made some comments around his history of behaviour. Uh, there was a very speedy decision.

SHORTEN: If you're asking the context that we have people with psychosocial disorders on the scheme, uh, mental health is challenging, and it's, it may well be an overlay or a condition present with people who break the law. But if the police have said this is a terror event and, you know, the implication of some religious motivation, then I'm not going to second guess them from the cheap seats. But there's no doubt that, you know, the challenge for mental health generally are..Is investing resources- i mean, the NDIS is supporting nearly 100-supporting nearly 60,000 or over 60,000 people who have a very serious diagnosis, among which impacts their daily living. We've just got to do a lot more in the community generally, uh, between not just relying on emergency wards or families at breaking point or the NDIS, and again, it's building up clinical services to be of assistance to people. But that's a far more generalised answer than talking about. \

MOORE: Sure, and I get that. And I guess that in the wake of Bondi in particular, that conversation is being had. I mean, it seems that we just I don't know, you know, how there is never any bottomless pit of money, but it does seem that so many people fall through the cracks and you hear parents and parents have said it to us since the weekend, you know, wit's end, can't find anywhere. What do I do?

SHORTEN: Well, NDIS is now supporting more people than it expected to. Uh, and there's been unmet need, which it's helping. But the NDIS can't be the only lifeboat in the ocean. Uh, and we've just got to the nation and people and everyone make a decision that mental health is important or it isn't. I know our government's doing a range of initiatives, but yeah, I don't think, um, the problem is too hard. I don't think it's enough to simply say, shrug our shoulders and say, oh well, mental health is an epidemic and almost be, uh, cowed into learned helplessness. I just think we've got to day by day just have the conversation invest and support.

MOORE: Which brings me to the other issue that we're talking about today in terms of men's violence against women, which the Attorney General describes as a scourge, everyone seems to agree that we need to do more. I wonder what you think more looks like.

SHORTEN: Hmm'hmm. Again, a lot of good, brilliant advocacy is done. I think people are aware of it, but it's still happening and it's terrible. It's just shocking and terribly unacceptable. Um, it's all about respect. It's all about teaching little boys to respect little girls. And then it's about when we see it, see the poor behaviour not just of violence, but just misogyny or sexism. We've got to call it out constantly. It's got to be just made so unacceptable. And not all misogyny or sexism leads to violence against women by men. But it's a prerequisite. And, you know, I think we've just got to call it out all the time, constantly. And I think we are doing I think Australians now don't necessarily turn up the TV and, you know, pull the blinds down when they hear it outside or next door. But we've got a long way to go.

MOORE: It does seem that we are more reactive than proactive though, having this conversation, and we're having it because of recent events.

SHORTEN: I think it comes to the fore. Um, and I think there's frustration that it still occurs and shock and upset. But there's been a lot of a lot of advocates have managed to shine a light from Chantel Contos through to Rosie Batty through to, you know, the national Action plans. But yeah, you're right. It's it's not finished business. It's still shouldn't happen. It does happen. And it's shocking and unacceptable. But the job is on men to call it out as well as women.

MOORE: Bill Shorten, just a final question, because you made the point just before regarding the NDIS, a point you've made many times, which is that that is not the only lifeboat in the ocean. And indeed, you now have an agreement with the states to take over some of those people who you feel shouldn't be in the NDIS. Ah the States, seem to have had a belated recognition of the size of the problem that they've taken on. How are negotiations going with the States around what this new look NDIS is actually going to be?

SHORTEN: I we'll get there. I mean, the States quite rightly say, well we put money into the NDIS so we don't want to be taking people who should be on the NDIS. That's fair enough. I think it's not a matter of taking people over, but rather increasing the menu that's available for people to get support. Not everyone needs the full NDIS orchestra, but if it's either that or nothing, well then you understand why people flock towards the full orchestra. Because we need to give- it's not just a state issue, it's a education schools issue, It's a health department issue, it's a hospitals issue.

MOORE: But it's about building that whole ecosystem that's going to be required for the other.

SHORTEN: So, listen, it's slow work. The states are you know, they want to make sure they're not getting signing up - they're not getting conned. Or the wool pulled over their eyes as they would see it. That's their argument for me. It's important, though, that all levels of government aren't seen to be just finger pointing because then we're talking about people talking about Aussies. We're talking about any of us or any family member. So, I just want to reassure people with disability that our reforms aren't aimed about people not getting support. It's a matter of making sure they get the right support. And it's also for me about tackling all the other issues in the scheme, which is, um, overcharging the fraud, you know, the people trying to make a quick buck off the NDIS.

MOORE: Bill Shorten. Thanks-

SHORTEN: Work in progress.

MOORE: Yes. Well, we hope that we can, uh, keep, keep in touch with you as that work does progress. Bill Shorten. Thank you.

SHORTEN: Thank you. Have a lovely afternoon.

MOORE: Bill Shorten there, Minister for NDIS and also the member for Maribyrnong.