Minister Shorten Interviewed on the Today Show


SUBJECTS: Flooding and Medicare rorts.

ALLISON LANGDON, TODAY SHOW: So many people are hurting and in other parts of the state, that anguish is turning to anger. For more we are joined by Local Member for Maribyrnong and the Minister for Government Services and the NDIS, Bill Shorten, and 2GB's Chris Smith. Nice to see you both this morning. Bill, I tell you what, it's been a tough few years for Victoria and this is really testing people.

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Well, as I was walking around the mud drenched streets in Maribyrnong yesterday and on Saturday, people were making that point. My goodness, we've had COVID and all sorts of things and now we've had this. But it was quite heart lifting and heartbreaking at the same time. Heartbreaking to see all the damage here, but very heart lifting, watching just people getting on with it, you know. It's quite unbelievable, the volunteers. But gee, there's a lot of work to do once you've had floodwater through your house. It's really tough and sad.

LANGDON: We're just looking at pictures now. I mean, it's that thick mud, isn't it, that is so hard to get rid of once that flooding goes through. But Bill, you would know, there's a lot of anger around the Flemington flood wall. Locals saying it is redirecting water from flood plains into their homes.

SHORTEN: I'm aware of this argument. When you have a look at the photo images, you see the pristine racetrack on one side of the flood wall and then muddy brown waters on the other. This wall was built 2006, 2007, to my memory. I know at the time I was a resident, I actually questioned whether or not the wall was going to- it might protect the racecourse, but I was one of the people who said, hey, hang on, maybe this wall will cause problems in that when you have parkland near rivers, they're sort of natural flood basins where the water can flow. But if the water can't flow there in these one in 50 year events, then it backs up and goes into houses.

I don't know if the flood wall caused that. I really don't. The Labor Government in Victoria has announced that they're getting Melbourne Water to review the impact of the wall. I think that is appropriate because as you said, residents- some residents are concerned that, you know, is the racetrack more important than people's houses?

LANGDON: Yeah, we're talking to a lot of the locals there. They would argue not. And it's hard to disagree with that.

SHORTEN: That’s right.

LANGDON: Chris, I mean, just looking at those pictures there too, you've got- it is lovely to see the kids out sandbagging. We always see communities come together, but we've seen this in northern New South Wales, we've seen it in Queensland, and once again we're all going to feel the impact of this because- we're going to see fruit and veg, we're going to see prices soar.

CHRIS SMITH, 2GB: Yeah, it's a wonderful part of the world, that central and northern Victorian area. I was a reporter there for a while at the local television station. And it's always been the food bowl of Australia, you know, and you've got that web of great rivers, big rivers, you know, the Goulburn River, the Campaspe leading on to the Murray, and they're all just taking turns right now in flooding. And you've got Kerang cut off for two weeks, you've got Mooroopna without power for probably a week, you've got all of these little- not just towns, but great villages and communities who'll go through it, and that will have the lead on effect, a domino effect of prices. We're about to pay big time for mother nature.

LANGDON: I want to talk to you this- about this morning, too, the $8 billion Medicare rorts scandal. That is the front page of the SMH and The Age. Doctors supposedly billing dead people, charging for services that aren't necessary or never even happened. Bill, we are talking about fraud here and it's significant. Are you going to crack down on this?

SHORTEN: Yeah, I do think- the people- payments integrity is a problem. This story clearly reveals that. People love Medicare, it's the envy of the world. But I think it drives taxpayers to despair if they think that some people are opportunistically rorting the system, the vast majority of GP's do the right thing. They're the sort of entry gate into the scheme. But wherever there's government money, you've got to be vigilant about making sure that on one hand the right people are getting it, and on the other hand the wrong people aren't taking advantage - wherever there's government money. And I do think payments integrity has been neglected over the last few years.

LANGDON: Okay, so we get then, the system's sick. How do you fix that? What do you do about it?

SHORTEN: Oh, I think you've got to put more effort into the back office of the payment system. In other words, Medicare pays people when people present invoices for providing health care, what you've got to make sure is that the back door of the scheme, the payment system, that you are detecting unusual behaviour. So it's a resource question. If you don't put enough effort into payments integrity guardianship, then you will get rorts, and it's not just Medicare.

So I think it's important that on one hand we have a proper scheme which gives people a safety net of support. On the other hand, I do think payments integrity has been a bit of a neglected area of policy under previous governments, and it's time for it to be tightened up.

LANGDON: Yeah, I mean, Chris, I think people get really angry when they hear stuff like this. You've got so many people who can't afford to go to the doctor, try and find a doctor that actually bulk bills these days is really tricky. And then you hear this - $8 billion a year being wasted.

SMITH: I'd go as far as to say there should be a full scale audit of Medicare. Like, this is a red hot story. Every Australian should read it today. I've just finished reading it. We're talking $8 billion. 30 per cent of the money we throw into Medicare is being rorted and wasted. Like, we need a full audit of stuff like that. And, you know, you've got Jim Chalmers, razor gang; Katy Gallagher and Catherine King looking for ways to cut down leading from the budget. Well, there it is on a plate today. They just have to read that. And there should be a full scale audit of Medicare.

LANGDON: Fair call there, Bill. You agree to that?

SHORTEN: Well, I think there needs to be tougher payment integrity checking. Whether or not it's Medicare, I- Chris, I want to say, I suspect wherever there's government money, it's not just Medicare, you've got- governments have to lift their game in terms of payments integrity. I look after the NDIS and I'm concerned that there's fraudsters and con artists there and that there's over overcharging in that system. So I do think getting different government departments to talk with the tax office better.

I'll tell you what about crooks, they do leave footprints. They did it in the private sector, Vet Education, in the TAFE sector. They are- do it in the long day-care. There'll be directors who phoenix themselves. You know, they're- one day they're running, you know, business A, billy blogs, and business- and it's rorting the system. And the business may close, but these directors turn up like a bad penny. So anyway, I think the story is important. I'm not sure it's just a Medicare challenge, but obviously we've got to make sure there's complete confidence in that system. But we need to put the crooks on notice that you will get caught.

LANGDON: Okay. So a message from Bill this morning. He's on to you and he's coming for you. Nice to see you, Bill. Thank you. And you too, Chris.