Minister Shorten Interview on ABC Melbourne with Virginia Trioli


SUBJECTS: MH17 Murder Convictions, Data Protection

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Bill Shorten is the Minister for Government Services, that important international meeting underway. Good morning, Minister.

BILL SHORTEN: Good morning.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: We’ll talk in just a moment about the conference that you’re at, but we’re talking at a time just after we’ve heard that two Russians and a Ukrainian national have been convicted of murder over the shooting down of MH17 back in 2014 over Ukraine. I think you’ve got some staff members there from your Department talking to some of the next of kin. What are they telling you?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, it’s been a really painful day for the next of kin. I’m sure that they all absolutely wish to the complete heavens that they weren’t there. But for the last few days, the Australian Government has been supporting about 80 next of kin. But today the verdict’s come in, and I’m fortunate – I’ve got three Services Australia social workers, brilliantly-trained grief counsellors. The view from the people I’ve spoken to is that there is some relief that the three have been found guilty. They’re still taking it in.

Some of the families, after eight long years, this is the most significant moment since their loved ones were killed – plucked out of the air and murdered. They’re still processing it. They – there is frustration amongst the families that the guilty still walk free. But with that mixed emotion at least, if nothing else, there’s now an accurate record of what happened to their loved ones. And that - that's something.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Bill Shorten, you’re there in Brussels for a pretty major Data Protection Congress - a whole number of government members and companies and others attending there at a time when a place like Australia and other nation states have never been more under cyber attack. And we’re of course dealing with some very high profile ones here. Are they doing it better in Europe and in America? Are they ahead of the game when it comes to Australia on governments protecting their own and companies protecting their own?

BILL SHORTEN: We do a lot of things well in Australia, but we should never be complacent. And I have formed the view that the Europeans are ahead of us on contemporary approaches to how a citizen’s data should be respected. It’s been a very brief visit. Estonia - it's a small country - but they went through the first ever cyber war in the history of the planet in 2007 when their hostile neighbour, coincidentally Putin and the Russians, really bombarded them.

They’ve set up a digital system for their citizens, which at the backend is probably superior to what we have, even though they’re much smaller. Ninety-nine per cent of Estonia get their services online, which is secure. I mean, things which when we stop to think about it in Australia should be seamless, aren’t. For example, you ring the doctor, you get the prescription online. You put your – you just go down with your digital identity and you just get your prescription.

I mean, we’re getting there but other countries are actually ahead of us. I think that we need to use what we’re doing well but also reframe our debate about digital identity. You shouldn’t have to waste hours and hours online moving between government apps. You should be confident –

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: That’s true. But at the same time that kind of confidence has been smashed by the fact that we’re learning now that so many private companies are hanging on to details of ours that they don’t need to.


VIRGINIA TRIOLI: What’s your government going to do about requiring those companies to either safely divest themselves and to shred that information, to stop them holding on to it so that if there is a data breach it’s sitting there waiting to be taken? Will you make that requirement?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, that’s what the Europeans have. It’s called the GDPR, or the sort of general duty to protect people’s information. The first step we’re already doing. My colleague, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, is introducing with Clare O’Neil, the Home Affairs Minister, tougher penalties for breaches. But I think we're going to have to have - go the next step.

Governments should - or private sectors should - only store what they need. Secondly, people should have the right to be able to, when they’ve stopped dealing with these corporations, withdraw their information. I also think that we have to make sure that when it comes to, for instance, government, that if someone - that you don't have to tell your story to five different agencies.

Now, these are unicorns which previous ministers no doubt have said we need to do. But in the 'year of cybersecurity', it’s lazy to leave big pools of data in multiple areas and not have the citizen have a line of sight on who’s accessing it and why do they need to keep it. So I think we can get there. And, to be honest, the Europeans have moved ahead of us in terms of regulating for the rights of citizens. And we’ve got to look at it, absolutely, and as a matter of urgency.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Bill Shorten is with you, Minister for Government Services, speaking to you from Brussels where there’s a large international Data Protection Congress going on, and we’re talking about the protection of your data and the changes the federal government might make.

Just before I let you go, Bill Shorten, I did want to ask you about the government’s ambition to get its IR legislation through parliament before Christmas, before parliament rises. Is that looking like a hope that’s lost as well?

BILL SHORTEN: I haven’t seen what’s happened in the last four days while I’ve been overseas. But I would just say to the – some of the politicians who are saying – who are against the legislation that somehow what’s been proposed is all surprising. This has been the subject of multiple elections – 2016, 2019, 2022. And the problem with not passing the legislation is that we’ve got a lot of people who work in feminised industries, low-paid industries, who basically missed out for the last ten years. Why do they have to wait because people who’ve never liked industrial relations reforms want some more time before they arrive at a position where they are going to oppose them anyway?

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Bill Shorten, thanks for joining us. Thank you.