Minister Shorten interviewed on the Today Show


SUBJECTS: Flood insurance, Queensland Police, Industrial Relations. 

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Picture this folks, you are enduring one of the most stressful times in your life, financially and emotionally. You are exhausted from cleaning up the muddy mess that floods have left you. You don't know when you will sleep in your own bed again and you get your phone call from an insurer saying they will not be renewing your policy at that same time. I mean, come on. Where is the empathy? A resident in Forbes says they've been a loyal customer for years. Another says they will have to move now. All of this while they are cleaning up their own houses. Insurance companies, how low can you go?

Minister for Government Services, Bill Shorten and Neil Breen from 4BC join me now. Bill, good morning to you. First up, what is wrong with these people?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Listen, I thought the insurance industry had been getting better and worked on reforming the definition of floods to sort it out after the Brisbane floods in 2011. Down in Maribyrnong I saw Suncorp knocking on the door to follow up on their claims, so there's good ones out there. But no insurance company should be behaving like this to its policy holders. You don't kick a person when they are down, you don't kick loyal customers. The insurance industry needs to haul these companies into line and say: you are damaging the reputation which they've worked hard to rebuild.

STEFANOVIC: Breeney, we saw this in 2011 - zero empathy from insurance companies. It makes you sick.

NEIL BREEN, 4BC: Sure does, Karl. But insurance companies are in it for profit and they'll always look at the risk assessment of every situation and they'll look at those flood areas thinking it's something we don't have to do. In Queensland you can't get cyclone insurance from Rockhampton or Bundaberg north. You could, but it-

STEFANOVIC: Well, you can, but it's quadruple the price.

BREEN: Yeah. Well, it'll send you broke.


BREEN: It'll send you broke. Unfortunately for Bill and the Labor Government, it always comes down to government reform and it's going to be another thing that'll have to be on their agenda…

SHORTEN: It will.

BREEN: …to bring some sort of order to the situation.

STEFANOVIC: But also, it's just the timing of this stuff. I mean…

BREEN: Yeah. I mean, I -

STEFANOVIC: …these people are in the middle of cleaning their houses and they're already - they don't know where they're going to live and they cop an email or call from an insurance saying: yo, we're not renewing your policy. It's disgusting.

SHORTEN: Yeah, it's the timing. Everyone understands a company's got to make a profit, but, you know, don't kick a customer when they're down. That's short-term gain, long-term loss.

STEFANOVIC: Breeney, you on this one. A report into Queensland Police is fairly disturbing reading. A number of recommendations have been made. Sexism and racism running rife through the force, a culture of fear and silence including officers making jokes about domestic violence cases, ranking victims on their looks. It also found the police need training overhaul to dispel myths such as a woman frequently makes up allegations of sexual or domestic violence.

I'm not sure hour the Police Commissioner, who I think has done an exceptional job over the years in regards to this, I don't know how she survives.

BREEN: We've got an extraordinary situation, Karl. This was an inquiry into police responses to domestic violence and it came about after the deaths of Hannah Clarke and her children, and another lady by the name of Doreen Langham, and another lady on the Gold Coast Kelly Wilkinson. In the latter two, they'd made frequent trips to the police station, even had CTV vision of their ex-husbands and partners trying to get into their house and sent away as pests, basically, only for those husbands to go back and murder them.

So, this inquiry came about. It ended up being widened into all sorts of other issues in the Queensland Police Service.


BREEN: It was the most important piece of work done in Queensland since the Fitzgerald Inquiry and we've ended up where they've found all of those things you just said. The extraordinary situation is, the premier yesterday stood up and backed the Police Commissioner and said: only a woman can fix this, and also promoted the Deputy Commissioner. So, no one's lost their job or been moved side-ways - in fact, people have been promoted. It's absolutely extraordinary and I think there needed to be some change.

STEFANOVIC: She's backed it, but I don't know that she's - I mean, it says here that the Commissioner has been sidelined for implementing the report - 78 recommendations. So, whilst she's been backed, she's not been backed to fix, including those-

BREEN: But that's only because they gave the Deputy Commissioner the job of implementing the report.

STEFANOVIC: That's right. That's strange.

BREEN: She backed her strong yesterday, Karl.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, she did.

BREEN: Very, very strongly, and, so did Cabinet.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. But District Court Judge, Deborah Richards did a good job on it. Let's move on to a political showdown brewing as the Government tries to pass its controversial reforms aiming to give workers a pay rise. Bill, here we go. Get your- dust off your old AWU hat. Can you name a single business in your electorate that supports the IR bill?

SHORTEN: Yeah. I rang up the coffee shop guy this morning and he said he's not losing any sleep. His name's Hech, he's at Phat Milk - he's a very, very good barista too. The reality is that a lot of-

SHORTEN: But you know, let's go through this gotcha game. Peter Dutton's trying - a man looking desperately for relevance.

STEFANOVIC: Well, it worked yesterday. Now you guys have gone and done your research and got it in front of it all.

SHORTEN: Let's put it as plainly as this. Have you ever met a worker who doesn't want a pay rise? Name one of them. You know, these gotcha games insult intelligence. The fact of the matter is that there's a lot of people out there, a lot of businesses who are happy to pay good rates of pay, but they're undercut by scallywags and the fly-by-nighters and the cowboys in the cleaning industry, in the transport industry, in the construction industry, in the care economy. There is nothing wrong with workers getting a modest pay rise.

I think the Liberals are desperately searching for relevance, they're clutching their pearls, they're choking their - you know, they're stroking their chin. The fact of the matter is…

STEFANOVIC: Bill. [Laughing]

SHORTEN: If you want people to have - if you want to see good Christmas this year with retail expenditure, people have got to have money to spend. The fact of the matter is this is not going to make it compulsory for Karl Stefanovic and Neil Breen to join the CFMEU. The chickens will still lay eggs tomorrow.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah. But what about all the industrial action? I mean, there is a fear out there, even at the very least maybe it's in the way that you've sold it?

SHORTEN: Come on. If you look at the history of Australia from 1900, whenever the workers lined up for a pay rise there was someone moaning and groaning. I'm not surprised there is not a conga line of employers doing the cha cha cha, saying: we're happy to give workers a modest pay rise.

But, let's all just take a Bex and a lie down here. It's not going to lead to the rebirth of the age of Aquarius of trade unions. Companies are still going to make a dollar, you know…


SHORTEN: …but let's give low paid workers a fair go. How long do they wait? How long do they wait for, Karl, before they get a pay rise?

STEFANOVIC: Bill, I tell you what. You have got it together this morning. Breeney, what did you think about all that? It was like reading some 1960s great movie with, you know, some of the great stars on the big screen.

BREEN: Karl, on union issues, I can't beat the master. I've got the white flag here. 

BREEN: He would absolutely knock me out and kill me. It's his area of expertise. But what he has to do is get a deal done with the crossbench. We know what David Pocock thinks about it. I read a story in the paper this morning before I came here that maybe Pauline Hanson's the person who might shift here. 

STEFANOVIC: There you go.

BREEN: So, there's one for Bill Shorten. He might have to do a deal with Pauline.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah. Well, then David Pocock-

SHORTEN: Yeah. Well, strangers in the night. This is the Senate. Anything happens there. 

STEFANOVIC: Wait, have you had a few Proseccos - we can't say that anymore. Good on you guys. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.


BREEN: Cheerio gentlemen.