Minister Bill Shorten Interview on the Today Show

ALLISON LANGDON:    This is the face of six-year-old Austin Facer from Broken Hill in regional NSW. Now, back in 2019, he collapsed at school with chest pain, became unresponsive and had to be resuscitated. He arrived at hospital at 12:30 - an hour later, doctors were still debating whether to airlift him to Adelaide, Sydney, or Melbourne. By 3pm his father became distressed, but it wasn't until midnight that he was finally evacuated. But it was too late, he went into cardiac arrest again and died.I'm joined now by Minister for Government Services and the NDIS, Bill Shorten in Canberra, and Editor in Chief of Stellar and Body+Soul, Sarrah Le Marquand. Bill, so much confusion here in this story over where to send him and the result, a little boy lost his life.

BILL SHORTEN:    As a parent, the details are just heartbreaking. The idea that he was waiting in hospital, he was watching Spongebob Squarepants, the parents are getting more distressed. I mean, the inquest will tell us what's happened and it does appear to have been poor coordination between hospitals. But this is just a disaster for this family and this little boy. I just think it's really shocking and upsetting news.

ALLISON LANGDON:    Just reading the articles about this this morning, Sarah, too that this is not the first time that something like this has happened. I mean, it really puts the spotlight onto our regional hospitals and the care that patients receive?

SARRAH LE MARQUAND:    It absolutely does. I mean, I agree. I actually struggle to read this story and to just imagine the agony of that family and then this horrendous outcome. That it even happened once is a travesty for us as a first-world nation. As you say, Ali, that it's happening repeatedly is completely unacceptable. We have to fix this. I know we've so many competing priorities as a country, but we just can't let something like this happen again.

ALLISON LANGDON:    Bill, is there anything further that your Government can do? I mean, this is where it comes down to that debate of where- who's in charge of health.

BILL SHORTEN:    First of all, we need to find out exactly what went wrong. Sure, I've got no doubt our Government would want to do anything we can to help stop this happening again, we have to find out what went wrong. But for me - it is heartbreaking to read this story, as Sarrah said - but for me, I couldn't help but ask myself as a parent: what would I do if my child was in hospital for 11 hours? I don't want those parents second-guessing themselves at all. It's not their fault at all. But sometimes it just reminds me that you've got to almost be just not accepting what people are saying, and you've just got to- I don't know. I don't know what I would've done in that circumstance, I won't say. But it's really, really stressful for that family.

ALLISON LANGDON:    Yep. Cannot imagine for a moment what they went through. Hopefully they do find answers.Now, the Aboriginal Land Council says the Prime Minister has cheapened the debate for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament by using Shaquille O'Neal to push the cause. Bill, do you reckon he has?

BILL SHORTEN:    No, I don't. The Voice is important. For viewers who are not sure what it's all about, it's about including our First Australians in the Constitution, our nation's birth certificate. Shaquille O'Neal was very famous, especially for Generation Xs, for basketball fans. If he can get people thinking about this topic, well, that's good. I mean, I did see that it's-

ALLISON LANGDON:    [Interrupts] But Bill, you've got the land council- the Aboriginal Land Council coming out here saying that: Albo is more interested in the glitz and the glamour than sitting down with Aboriginal people. That's a bit of a slap.

BILL SHORTEN:    I don't think that's true, though, about our Prime Minister. I think you'll find he spent a lot more time talking to First Nations people than Shaquille O'Neal. I mean, the images- I have to say I took a slightly different slant on it. I mean, Shaquille O'Neal, he is a tall unit, and as someone said, it was like watching Gandalf meet The Hobbits. He's just a…[Laughter]

ALLISON LANGDON:    A little off-topic, but you know. Alright. Hey look, another issue I want to talk to you both about this morning, Meghan Markle making headlines again. This time for an in-depth interview with a magazine. It's a little strange, because I know at one point she asked the journalist to interpret the sound she was making because she couldn't find the words and just started moaning. She also addressed Harry's relationship with Prince Charles - Harry said to me: I lost my dad in this process. It doesn't have to be the same for them as it was for me, but that's his decision. And this one, which I thought quite strange when meeting a cast member from Lion King, she says this person said to her: when you married into this family, we rejoiced in the streets the same way we did when Mandela was freed from prison. Sarrah, your thoughts on that.

SARRAH LE MARQUAND:    Oh, Meghan. She makes it hard for me because I am one of the very rare defenders of her. Yes, I think she is a self-promoter, and do I think she and Harry are making a lot of, you know, fairly blatant and shameless grabs for cash? Yes, I do. But I do think that a lot of the commentary surrounding her, particularly coming out of the UK, is actually very regressive, it is racist, and it is sexist. So, a lot of the time she has a point and I'm actually on side with her for calling out some of the archaic institutions surrounding the Royal Family in Britain. But the moment that you compare yourself to Nelson Mandela, you cringe reading it.


SARRAH LE MARQUAND:    And I think what's interesting from a media perspective is that most things that Meghan says are firmly aimed at the American market. She knows that she's never really going to get the majority of the British public on side. And I think invoking the name of Nelson Mandela, she's probably going to lose the Americans on this too.

ALLISON LANGDON:    What are your thoughts on that one, Bill? Was it a little tone deaf?

BILL SHORTEN:    Yeah, probably. I've had the chance to meet Harry and Meghan, they're really lovely people. So I guess I'm in Sarrah's declining band of supporters of Meghan. But listen, I think the big story in it is that Harry's found his polo team in Santa Barbara. You know, there's an upside to Megxit. I didn't know they had polo in Santa Barbara.

ALLISON LANGDON:    Didn't he fly there on a private jet or something though?

SARRAH LE MARQUAND:    [Talks over] Of, of course they do. Yes. Yeah.

ALLISON LANGDON:    [Talks over] And you know, [indistinct] people because of that.

SARRAH LE MARQUANT:    [Talks over] I think all they do in Santa Barbara is play polo, Bill.

ALLISON LANGDON:    It's a nice life.


BILL SHORTEN:    Well, I'm never going to find out. Never mind.

SARRAH LE MARQUAND:    [Talks over] In our Ralph Lauren tees.

ALLISON LANGDON:    Alright, nice to see you this morning. Sarrah, Bill, thank you.