Minister Shorten interview on Sky News on the Hour with Kieran Gilbert


SUBJECTS: Western Australian home invasion; detainees in the community; greater protections for frontline public servants; violence against women

KEIRAN GILBERT, HOST: Let's go live now to the Minister for Government Services, Bill Shorten. We've got a lot to talk about. I know you've made a significant announcement to make workers, frontline workers at Services Australia, safe. I want to get to that. But before we do, just to pick up on Olivia's story there, the Prime Minister says it's the community safety board that made the call to remove the ankle bracelet. Olivia's got this statement from Andrew Giles office saying, no, no, it's a delegate of the Minister on the basis of advice from that board. Where does the buck stop in all of that?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Well, I hope we can get to what I wanted to talk about, but obviously this is something you guys want to talk about, so we will. I think it's splitting hairs. I think the Prime Minister's right. We set up an independent protection board because they're the experts. I understand, I'm informed that they said that this this alleged offender didn't require an ankle bracelet. And so, the government's gone with a recommendation, the decision of this independent panel, I mean, if they'd gone the other way and, you know, the government contradicted it, you'd say the government shouldn't have stepped in.

So, we've set up an independent board. They're the ones who make the recommendations. We'll go with what they say. But I think the Prime Minister is right. Hindsight 20/20, and you wish they hadn't made that recommendation. The other thing I've noticed, people say, and I heard Simon Birmingham fudge the separation of powers, we are in this cluster because the High Court changed its interpretation of a law which both Labor and the previous Liberal government worked on. The High Court gave us, didn't give its reasons for 6 or 8 weeks now we've had to put in place laws, put in place the expert panel. I think what happened to Nanette is just shocking. I think the people who did it, one who was a detainee, the other two were old fashioned Australians. You know, I know we're not allowed to comment, but it looks like a pretty animal assault to me if these people did it, of course, they've got to have a court case and due process. But the court system, the High Court gave us this situation, and what the government's been endeavouring to do then is make the best of this unexpected decision.

GILBERT: No, absolutely. And a lot of that, it's hard to disagree when you look at the timeline of events. However, there are things that I know you're scratching your head like I am, like many of our viewers are, as to why the presumption of bail goes in the favour of the alleged perpetrator. And it happens in DV cases a lot as well. And again, we can get to that in a moment. But in this case, I know you were saying why was bail not opposed by the federal prosecutor? I guess, is there more I want to ask you, is there more the Attorney General? Is there more Mark Dreyfus in the federal government can do to toughen those bail laws so that it doesn't err on the side of the alleged perpetrator?

SHORTEN: To be fair to our federal prosecutors and indeed state prosecutors. They are independent of government. And I, for one, don't want to get into contempt. You know, I love the Libs. They just want to blame a particular minister or prime minister for everything. But they know that the public prosecutors, that they that they have a much-cherished independence. I wish, though, that, you know, as an individual, that they had opposed the bail they, or whatever facts they had, they didn't, and I just, you know, I just think the assault on Nanette and her husband, Phil is just shocking. And it's just incredibly frustrating, terrible for them and frustrating for the rest of us to see what happened, because it should never have happened.

GILBERT: Yeah, 100%. Yeah. That is, it is shocking in every sense of the word. And I know a lot of, a lot of the front lining when it comes to social challenges. And domestic violence and violence against women is really carried out by a lot of the workers that are in your Department, Services Australia. They've got to deal with payments and people under pressure. You've announced a major commitment to provide greater safety security at these various offices around the nation today. Can you explain that to our viewers?

SHORTEN: I'm at the Airport West Services Australia office where there was a shocking assault on an absolutely outstanding team leader, Joanne Cassar. She was stabbed with a knife. She suffered an incredibly serious injury. I went to visit her in hospital after it happened. We made a decision, there's unacceptable levels of aggression. And it's not just about keeping our frontline public servants safe. It's about keeping the 10 million visitors who come into Services Australia. So, we have put in more security guards, we've improved the security technology, we're increasing the penalties for assaulting frontline public servants, making it the same standard as judges and police because everyone deserves the same standard of protection.

I must say, though, that the cohort of people doing these aggressive incidents is a relatively very small number. But I have the view that if you come into a Centrelink office, a Medicare office, you have the right to be safe and the workforce have the right to go home safely. So, we've announced $314 million over the next two years, which will make millions of members of the public safer and the tens of thousands of public servants safer, too.

GILBERT: Yeah. And I know you're proud of the work that a lot of - you know, that your public servants, the people do. They just want to go to work and go home safely. It's not something where they should face any sort of risk at all. So, I think everyone would support you in that initiative. The other thing is that it's a cultural challenge we're facing more broadly right now, where we are facing really just this spike in deaths, and everyone's trying to come up with an answer. But it's just there is no there is no simple solution to what we're seeing right now with a woman dying every four days, Bill Shorten.

SHORTEN: It's shocking. It's evil. I, like I think a lot of people, thought we were getting better, that there's less inclination just to lower the blinds, turn up the TV and not listen to what's happening next door. But there's still a bunch of men out there, preponderantly, who haven't got the memo that women are not their property. They're not their chattels. If a relationship breaks up, you still don't get to own the woman. If you're in a relationship, you say you love someone, you don't love them by financially coercively controlling them. Yeah, there are a lot of reasons why this is happening, I get that, but sometimes society generally says, well, there's this big problem and that big problem, and it almost gives us a mental leave pass not to try and roll up your sleeves and tackle it. I know the government has been, I know previous governments have been. What I'm doing with Centrelink is we are just going to make it safer. And that's, you know, you can let, if you like, the total jigsaw overwhelms you. But when you got your piece, just make it fit in. And that's what I'm trying to do here. And we are moving ahead in this area, I hope.

GILBERT: We appreciate your time as always. We'll let you go. Thanks.

SHORTEN: Cheerio.