Minister Shorten interview on Today Show


SUBJECTS: Violence against women in Australia; legal battle over release of images from violent Wakely incident on social media platform ‘X’ 

SARAH ABO, HOST: Well, Australia is in the grips of a gendered violence epidemic. Until recently, an average of one woman was killed a week in 2024. That figure has risen to almost one every four days. Thousands from across the country are planning to march in protest of domestic violence this weekend. Australians have quite simply, had enough. Let's bring in Minister for Government Services and the NDIS Bill Shorten in Melbourne, and Opposition leader Peter Dutton in Dayboro in Queensland. Thank you both for your time. Bill, I want to start with you. The system is failing women. It's plain and simple. How do you see it? What are we doing wrong in this country?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS, AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: It is shocking and frustrating. And it's - domestic violence is not new, and there's been a lot of work done on it by a lot of people. But we're not improving the numbers, as you said. one woman being killed every four days and in many cases by people who claim to have loved them. It's sick. What we are doing is prevention. We are trying a whole range of measures on prevention, early intervention, crisis response and healing and recovery. This government, which I belong to, has invested more than any previous government. But you're quite right. Some men are not getting the message. It is up to men as well as women. It's up to men, in fact, to educate other men. Not all anti-women, misogyny attitudes end in violence, but they all start from there. So, it's just we've got to do more and do better.

ABO: Yeah, it's just those attitudes are you can't understand why they even exist. I mean, Peter, these are mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts. None of them should be dead as we go to air right now. But they are. Instead of getting better, the situation is getting worse. I mean, where have we gone wrong in this country?

PETER DUTTON, LIBERAL PARTY: Well, Sarah, I think in so many ways, and it doesn't, you know, bear thinking about the circumstances that many women are living in now, short of that tragic outcome of a murder, people who are living with coercion around financial controls, obviously the physical and mental health issues that that are part of their everyday life, young girls, young boys who are growing up in those environments, watching that as well. Of course, we don't speak enough about what happens in some Indigenous communities as well. This obviously is a tragic circumstance, but it's one of so many, as you point out, and there's no lack of bipartisanship support. Every level of government wants to come together to do everything we can. There's record amounts of money being put in each year. But the New South Wales government is talking about bail laws at the moment, which I think is part of it, to keep offenders away from committing very violent acts. But there's so much more before that has to happen as well. And there are lessons from Royal Commissions that haven't been learnt, but there's great intent, there's bipartisan support to do whatever we humanly can to resolve the issue. But as you say, society is failing at the moment.

ABO: Bill, as you pointed out before, I mean, your government has poured $2.3 billion into women's safety initiatives and support over the past two years. Yet here we are. You know, I was reading just yesterday about the Westfield Bondi traders saying the centre's empty. Normally it would be packed with mums and kids during school holidays, but it's empty because people are scared.

SHORTEN: Well, we did discuss that there are some public safety measures, including, I think, supporting our police to be able to have a higher presence in shopping centres. But Peter used a word earlier, which I think it deserves to be focused on. It's the issue of coercion. In other words, control. There are. I get that some men are unhappy with their lives. I can understand if their job isn't working out or if they've had childhood trauma, or they've just been brought up poorly not to respect women, but that is not an excuse to try and control your wife or your partner. I think we've got to look at how when women are in a situation where they're being coercively controlled, how can they get out of it? We've got to be able to help our women take their kids to safety. I mean, the ten days paid leave, that's a modest proposition, but at least it lets people deal with some of their issues. Yeah. Um, I think we've got to break the nexus where if a woman is in a hostage relationship with an idiot thug husband, that she doesn't feel trapped, and it's, how do we, the rest of us, reach out when it's got to that stage?

ABO: Do you know what, I just think people. I mean, we're just so sick of talking about it and nothing actually happening. You know, there are calls on the front page of the SMH this morning for a Royal Commission. You mentioned a Royal Commission, Peter Dutton. But the trouble is that's years away, if there are any recommendations, we need action now. I mean, police get greater powers when there's a terror offence. Why can't police get greater powers when there's a domestic violence offence?

DUTTON: Well, I agree absolutely. Whatever powers are required, I'm sure there's, you know, there's a position where the Minns government or whichever government might be would support that. And I think at the moment there are significant powers under the domestic violence laws. It's a question of what happens when people get to courts. It's a matter of what happens with bail, but it's much more fundamental than that. I mean, we've broken down the value of relationships in society, the influence of social media, we haven't spoken about. Violent games that that young boys are playing, those role models that are absent in their lives. The breakdown of relationships. You know, we don't teach enough financial management, I think, at school. And the root of some, you know, significant breakdowns in relationships is financially related because people just can't, you know, balance the books.

ABO: It needs a proper overhaul. All right. Well, you did mention there, Peter, social media, right. In other news, the legal battle against Elon Musk, the E-Safety Commissioner, X I mean, it's all getting really ugly now. We saw the bishop come out earlier and say, keep the video up there. I don't mind it being up there. Where do you stand in terms of this argument? Because I know you've been a bit controversial siding with Elon on this one.

DUTTON: Uh, well, that's not the case, Sarah. My view is that the laws are there. We introduce them when we were in government to take down that sort of graphic, violent video so that it doesn't influence in many ways, other people here in Australia who might watch it. Now, I'd love to say that it could be taken down so that no kid across the world could watch it, but we strongly support the E-Commissioner's position in relation to taking it down so that Australians can't view it. But we can't pretend that Australia can dictate to other countries around the world what people see within their countries, as we wouldn't tolerate that here, that Russia could dictate what content is seen in Australia. So, I just think we need to be realistic about what the options are here. We can't police the whole internet across the world, but we can influence what happens in Australian society. And my basic starting point here is that the laws that apply in real life should apply online as well. So, you wouldn't publish graphic content. You would be sued by the regulators and people would take civil action of defamation against you if you said certain things on Channel Nine. Why is that allowed online? Why does Elon Musk and others allow the end-to-end encryption, which protects the paedophiles and others online who are sharing images and videos?

ABO: I mean, just very quickly, Bill, to Peter's point there about not being able to control the rest of the world, should we just focus on laws in Australia and preventing that kind of stuff being put out on platforms that we can access here?

SHORTEN: Well, there's two issues. First of all, there's our law and the government supports the E-Safety Commissioner. The Coalition created some of these laws. Elon Musk is not trying, he's not a free speech warrior for the world. I think he's conflating issues about trying, an allegation of trying to control the internet globally. We're not trying to do that. But this violent filth shouldn't be accessible. He is contesting our interim orders, and then he's sort of hiding behind another argument. Elon Musk is not a free speech warrior. If he was, he'd allow Twitter to be able to put up the movements of his jet, which he doesn't. If he was really a free speech warrior, what's he saying about his business interests in China, when China disagrees with it? Elon Musk thinks he can tell Australia what to do. And we're saying, no, you don't, Elon. You may run your company, but you don't run Australia and our laws, we're sovereign. And if we want you to take it down, we expect you to respect that. And this argument that he's trying to conflate it with everything happening in the world is just a bit of magician's trickery.

ABO: Strong words there, Bill. And we know Elon loves a fight.

SHORTEN: Well, it’s true.

ABO: Thank you both so much for joining us this morning. Appreciate it.