Minister Shorten interview on the Today Show with Sarah Abo


SUBJECTS: Peter Costello’s altercation with journalist; eliminating rorts and fraud in the NDIS; Minister Andrew Giles; Greens political party position on Gaza conflict

SARAH ABO, HOST: Thank you. Well, the NDIS has been rocked by a $4 billion rort this week. Dodgy providers exposed for spending taxpayer money on holidays, cars, even illicit drugs. The detainee saga continues and rare unity between the two major parties. A bit to get through this morning. So, let's welcome the Minister for NDIS and Government Services, Bill Shorten and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton. Thank you both so much for joining me this morning. Bonjour, Bill, just helping you get ready for that potential posting as ambassador of France. Right, right?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Oh, no. That rumour wasn't correct, but is there a job going at Channel Nine? Is there a job going at Channel Nine as the chairman?

ABO: Wow. He's gone early, Bill.

SHORTEN: Too soon?

ABO: We were going to get to that. But you know, you've mentioned it. So, what do you make of it, hey?

SHORTEN: I don't know. I don't know. I guess we'll leave it for others to sort out. I don't know what happened there.

ABO: Is it a bit troubling to see the former Treasurer involved in something like that at Canberra Airport?

SHORTEN: I'm going to leave it to others to join in the pile on. I'll focus on my day job.

ABO: All right

SHORTEN: Which is the NDIS.

ABO: Well, we'll get to that. But, Pete, what do you think, while we are on Peter Costello?

PETER DUTTON, LIBERAL PARTY: Well, I think firstly, Bill was a bit quick to deflect this rumour that Anthony Albanese wants to punt him and send him off to France. So, interesting that Bill doesn't want to talk about that. Look, in relation to the Peter Costello matter, I don't know –

SHORTEN: Sorry to disappoint you Peter, I’m not going.

DUTTON: Okay. We're actually happy for you to stay. Bill. It was Anthony Albanese wants to get rid of you, so. But we can come to the NDIS in a minute.

ABO: Wow. You guys are off -

DUTTON: In relation to Peter Costello.

ABO: Yes.

DUTTON: Yeah, yeah. Well, it's - in relation to Peter Costello. Firstly, I don't know Liam, but he's obviously an excellent journalist. And the most important thing is that I hope that he's okay. Secondly, to be honest, I'm probably not the best person to ask because Peter's been a friend of mine for over 20 years, and I’ve never seen any act of aggression from him. There are obviously other camera angles which I haven't seen, so probably best for those that have seen all of that to be able to comment. But the Peter Costello I know is somebody who doesn't have an aggressive bone of that nature in his body, and I hope that the matter can be resolved amicably, and we move on. But obviously when there are cameras around and the rest of it, there's extra pressure.

ABO: All right. Okay. Well, let's see how that plays out. Let's come back then to the NDIS Bill, seeing as you so desperately wanted to. A $44 billion scheme, of course, that you are in charge of the question everyone's asking is have you lost control of the scheme?

SHORTEN: No. The very fact that we know about the rorts is because I set up the investigations to get to the bottom of how the scheme is going. When I became the Minister, I discovered that the back door of the scheme was non-existent, that there is no proper oversight of payments, that we have lots of unregistered providers, many of whom are very good, but there's no proper scrutiny of the invoices. So, the evidence, which was revealed as the result of the investigations, which I commenced. And just on what Peter said, no, Peter, I'm not going to become the ambassador to France, mate. Sorry, but I do note that the Liberal Party did propose abolishing my seat in the last redistribution. So, you know, I appreciate your ongoing efforts to move me on.

ABO: Not for all the croissants in the world, Bill.

SHORTEN: No. Anyway. But thank you.

ABO: All right. Well, I mean, this is a serious issue we are talking about here with the NDIS because there are so many Australians, as you know, who rely on this system and the fact that they're hearing about millions, billions being rorted, its troubling for the for the whole population of this country. How do we get this right?

DUTTON: Well, it's very troubling. Firstly, obviously, because the scheme is designed to help those who are profoundly disabled and those who are most in need, and we all support that cause. And by money being wasted, it means that we're not spending the money on those who are most in need. Secondly, Australian taxpayers at the moment, under the Labor Party's cost of living crisis that people are going through, interest rates have gone up 12 times, people are paying through the roof for their electricity and for their gas and groceries, etc., etc. They don't want to see their hard-earned money being wasted. And we know that over $2 billion has been wasted on drugs and other services that just aren't acceptable, I don't think to the Australian community. Don't forget that Bill was the architect and he's, you know, trumpeted this on a number of occasions in the Gillard government, he was the architect of the NDIS when we were in government, we tried to change some of the settings. The Labor Party completely refused to support that. Bill has now been the minister for two years and as we saw in that train wreck interview with Ally Langdon on A Current Affair the other night, Bill doesn't have a clue. So, he's chasing his tail at the moment. And unfortunately, the Australian taxpayers are the ones that are picking up the tab for Labor's gross incompetence.

ABO: You did seem a bit aggro in that interview, Bill. I guess this is frustrating you as well.

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, with what Peter said, you know, it's pretty cute, the Liberal Party of Australia is the human blame factory. It's never their fault. Apparently, when I was in opposition, the NDIS was my fault and now I’m in government, it's still my fault. I tell you what, the NDIS is changing lives, and this is the first thing we've always got to say. There's hundreds of thousands of people who are being helped by the scheme. There's hundreds of thousands of great workers, but unfortunately the scheme hasn't been sufficiently scrutinised at the back end. So, in the last two years I've doubled the number of investigators. We've got 500 compliance investigations underway, 220 investigations, 20 prosecutions in the courts, another 12 on the way. None of this was happening until we turned up. But the scheme is a good scheme and I just want to say to people on it, we'll get it right and we'll work with you. But, you know, we acknowledge that it is doing good as well as some of the scandals we've seen, and we'll just clean up the dirt.

ABO: All right. Immigration Minister Andrew Giles is also under pressure this week, of course, as he promises changes are coming to the visa of detainees. Bill, Mr. Giles has promised to cancel visas, sex offenders among them. But gangland boss Tony Mokbel's friend apparently isn't. Is enough being done to keep Australians safe?

SHORTEN: For this particular matter, the Minister cancelled Mokbel associate/s visa and then the court overturned it. I know the minister is now immediately looking at what he can do about the court's decision, which we don't think was the correct in all the circumstances.

ABO: Pete, you'd know all about it -

SHORTEN: Yeah, we are policing it.

ABO: Yeah. I mean, and there was also the false claim that drones were keeping track of these people on, these detainees. You'd know all about being misled by the Home Affairs Department, I guess.

DUTTON: Well, I just don't understand how this guy's still got his job. Australians are less safe because of Andrew Giles being in that portfolio. And yes, he's a factional supporter of the Prime Minister, but he's an incompetent minister. He's released 153 hardcore criminals into society that didn't need to be released. He spoken this week about some fantasy drone program that, as it turns out, never happened. And I don't believe his story that the department advised him that there was a drone program. He went out and said that, I just think he's made it up, which again shows the gross incompetence.

ABO: Oh, I don’t think so, I think it got through a few people before it reached him.

DUTTON: And if you can't control the borders, you can't control the migration program.

ABO: All right.

DUTTON: Well, I mean, he's the Minister. How could you how could you get that so wrong? It's just inconceivable. And I mean, the other point is that the Direction 99, which Anthony Albanese watered down, they've promised to change it. We're a week later, nothing has happened.

ABO: All right.

DUTTON: And I just think the government has this is another bungle along with the NDIS along with housing and the economy we see on this government’s watch.

ABO: I need to move on to the next topic, guys, because we are running out of time. Thank you. Now, fiery scenes in Parliament this week. You were both involved in this particular you Pete, with Labor and the Coalition ganging up on the Greens over their stance on the Israel-Gaza conflict. Bill, the question for you is are you going to put the Greens last?

SHORTEN: Oh, that'll be a matter for the administrative wing of the party. But the Greens political party do need to understand that they don't have the luxury of being in the Parliament but acting as if they're not a political party. When politicians of any stripe. But that includes the Greens say things which damage and attack the reputation of others merely because other people don't agree with their particular view of the world, they either have to, you know, grow up - they can't pretend that there are these sort of student radicals running around campuses and yet want to be taken seriously as a political party. So yes, the rest of the Parliament did unite to condemn, you know, to condemn what these people are doing.

ABO: All right, guys, we have run out of time, unfortunately. Thank you so much for joining us. And have a good weekend.