THURSDAY 18 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Melbourne lockdown lifted; Pfizer vaccine; Facebook shuts down Australian news; Independent Assessments; Rally for A Fairer NDIS; Labor leadership.
KEIRAN GILBERT, HOST: Let's bring in now the Shadow Minister for the NDIS and Government Services, Bill Shorten. Thanks very much for your time. You're about to head back home today, but exactly the sort of result we were hoping for in Melbourne, no new cases again today.
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Yeah, a great result. Dan Andrews moved quickly. Last Friday the mood was perhaps down, here we go again. But I think most Melburnians and Victorians thought, well, I'd rather have five days than 120 days. And it seems to have worked out. But it's been tough for small businesses and for a lot of my fellow Victorians.
GILBERT: And it certainly has been the mental health component is huge. And there's a sense of optimism now with Monday, first Pfizer vaccines rolling out. It's huge, isn't it, in terms of confidence and all the rest of it?
SHORTEN: Yeah, I think Australians want to go back to normal, and I don't think we want anything to get in the way of that. I think with the vaccines, Australians have sort of got two conflicting views in their heads. On one hand, they don't seem to want to make it compulsory for people in the workplace. But on the other hand, they don't want to go to public events and sporting events unless everyone else has been vaccinated. So, we'll have to work through it. But I would recommend to people that vaccination is the way to go.
GILBERT: Then let's talk about the Facebook news today.
GILBERT: Basically shutting down news sites, but at the same time, a whole heap of other sites, including disability support services and charity groups as well,
SHORTEN: At least 10 disability sites representing people and advocating for disability and information that people with disability and their carers need, were shut down. This was a massive overreach by Facebook. They’ve misused their market power. They’ve behaved like thugs, like bullies. But I think Facebook's been itching for a fight for a long time. I mean, the reality is they've perpetuated conspiracies and fake news. We're now in a fight where the government can't back down. To quote Tom Petty, won’t back down. The rest of the world is now watching what Australia does here. And I think the stakes are much higher than just today's shutdown now.
GILBERT: It's interesting because Australia has been taking on an assertive giant in in the region in terms of China and sort of leading the way in that, but now very much at the vanguard of this thing as well, up against the tech giants.
SHORTEN: Well, I think the misuse of market power by Facebook has been there for some time. So, what Facebook did today is I think they revealed, they showed their true colours. The overreach, shutting down sites which provide COVID health information, disability, community information, health. But I think that the problem is that the tech giant has grown so big that it doesn't respect our laws, it doesn't respect our democracy. I mean, they cut off political parties’ Facebook sites. This is a challenge which the whole world's going to have to take on. And like it or not, Australia is now in a fight. And I know people just want this solved and we want the government to solve it. But I have to say that we can't back down to Facebook now, because if we do, then we are surrendering, I think, our national sovereignty. And these are strong words, but I think it's a big issue.
GILBERT: You’re also Shadow Minister for the NDIS, there's a new process coming in for Disability Services known as Independent Assessments. Up until now, NDIS recipients have been able to have a health professional of their own choosing -
SHORTEN: That's it.
GILBERT: - do their assessment. Now, it's going to be independent. What's wrong with that?
SHORTEN: Listen, the government's proposing a radical overhaul for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the 500,000 people with disabilities on it. What's happened is people have already had to prove that they have a disability or their child has a disability. Now they're going to be asked to effectively re-audition for the same money they're already getting, with a complete stranger. I think this is just cost cutting in drag, I think the government wants to wind back the level of support in the NDIS. I mean, if you've got a disabled child with significant autism, why do you need to have to prove it again to a complete stranger, when you've already got the evidence and you've already got your package? This is cruel.
GILBERT: And it's evidence from accredited professions
SHORTEN: Treating professionals
GILBERT: It’s not like they're using -
SHORTEN: Let's just be human beings here and imagine put ourselves in the shoes of these carers and the people with disability. You've got a child who is 14 or 15, pretty far along the spectrum on autism. This family's finally got a package of support from the NDIS.
GILBERT: They've got to go and do it all again.
SHORTEN: But then all of a sudden they've got to go through the ordeal by a stranger and not even listen to the treating professionals. This is crazy. The government should just get their hands off the NDIS. There's going to be a rally on Saturday, which I'm speaking at in Melbourne. It'll all be COVID safe I suspect.
GILBERT: I’m sure it will be.
SHORTEN: Groups of 20.
GILBERT: Thanks for your time today. And just before you go, Anthony Albanese, his leadership, how do you think he's going?
SHORTEN: I think Labor's going well, I think he's going well. I think the challenge is that the Morrison Government is approaching March 31st and they're going to cut JobKeeper off. And this government won't even tell people how many people are going to lose their jobs. For a whole lot of people in the Australian economy, this virus isn't over. The travel agents, the live events industry, tourism - until we open our borders internationally, some sectors still need JobKeeper and I think Labor's really going to prosecute that case.
GILBERT: Can Anthony Albanese win the next election?
SHORTEN: Absolutely. As we've seen, every election is winnable by any side.
GILBERT: Bill Shorten, thanks, talk to you soon.
GILBERT: Appreciate it.