KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Welcome back to the show. The corruption scandal engulfing the Daniel Andrews Government is deepening this morning. A third Victoria State Minister accused of branch stacking, while the whole affair has now forced federal leader Anthony Albanese onto the defensive. Plenty to discuss. I'm joined now by a Shadow Cabinet Minister and former Labor leader Bill Shorten and Stellar Magazine’s Sarrah Le Marquand. Good morning, guys. Nice to see this morning. OK, Bill, you’re first up, you must have been aware Adem Somyurek was stacking the books.
BILL SHORTEN: No, not at this sort of conduct. First of all, let's be clear. Shocking. Reprehensible. I just feel for the millions of people who vote Labor and they just say, what's going on? I feel for Daniel Andrews, also my leader, Anthony Albanese. Look, we’re all trying to get the message out about what we want to do for people. And then you get this quite amazing and stunning conduct revealed on video and you just go, how self-indulgent and thoughtless.
STEFANOVIC: You led the Australian Labor Party from 2013 to 2019. Did at any point you hear or have misgivings or hear of any rumours or gossip about this kind of activity happening in the party of Victoria?
SHORTEN: No, the party's been trying to clean up branch stacking across Australia. And I think we thought it had, but clearly it hadn't in Victoria in this case. No. Most people wouldn't have a clue of this sort of conduct. And you saw by the nature of the video, it's not something which is done in public in front of people. I mean, it is interesting, I'm not sure any party can throw rocks here of course, I think Malcolm Turnbull's just released a book where he boasts about stacking his branches. But that doesn't make it right. It's no good for the people of Australia. No wonder they hate politics some days.
STEFANOVIC: I agree with you. You didn't hear anything though?
SHORTEN: Not like that. No way.
STEFANOVIC: What did you hear then?
SHORTEN: We always hear that people are trying to organise pre-selections in terms of, the factions have arguments, but no, not this illegal conduct. Absolutely not.
STEFANOVIC: So how does a man in such a position of power, in such a position of power, so blatantly abuse that power and no one know?
SHORTEN: Well, what we see from this footage is that he wasn't doing it in front of a whole lot of people. So I know Daniel Andrews has done a good job during COVID-19 and a good job for Victoria. And I'm sure the Victorian Government is just feeling deeply embarrassed and frustrated that this person behaved in this way. It is shocking. It is reprehensible.
STEFANOVIC: Sarah, I think the problem is going to be that a lot of folks in Victoria and right around the country would say how do people, how do our politicians in power not know about this?
SARRAH LE MARQUAND: I think that's a problem. I mean, the ALP quite rightfully have taken swift action here and are obviously being quite vocal in in condemning and putting measures in place to clean things up. But a lot of voters will think, well, why does it have to be exposed and how is it not being exposed until the media gets involved? I mean, Bill, used the word self-indulgent. I think that's exactly what it is. It taps into the worst sentiments and the preconceptions a lot of people quite wrongly have about politicians. We said that they're only in it for their own gain. And branch stacking is politics at its worst, because there's no principle, there's no notion of public service. It's just about getting in there for little factional deals. And there's no public appetite for that.
STEFANOVIC: Do you reckon, Bill, it's a case for politicians of okay, I kind of know it's going on, but I'm just going to look away from it.
SHORTEN: No, I wouldn't underestimate a lot of the people who work in politics who work hard morning to night. I think whenever you find wrongdoing exposed in any organisation, it could be harassment, it could be bullying, it could be stacking like this or this sort of conduct. But I think a lot of people who work in that are often quite surprised, you say it's clear now, but I'm not sure it was totally clear to everyone. But having said that, there's going to be a proper corruption investigation. I will put a plug in, I think this is why we need to have, another reason why we need to have a National Anti-Corruption Commission in Australia, because the voters don't trust the system anywhere near like they used to. This is just another brick in that wall. And I think the more that we can have institutions and watchdogs to make sure that this stuff can’t happen at any level, the better we'd all be off.
STEFANOVIC: So what should happen then? If you're in a position where you can change Victorian Labor, what happens from today, from 9:00 a.m.?
SHORTEN: Well, Dan Andrews has said it and so has Albo. But top to bottom, every person's credentials need to be checked again. You know, did they pay for their own membership? They're aware they're in a party. They haven't been brought in by a friend to be paid for. So top to bottom, you’ve got to have a full spring cleaning of the joint. Which is what they’re doing.
STEFANOVIC: Did you like Adem Somyurek?
SHORTEN: I knew him. I'm obviously incredibly disappointed with this. Well, disappointment’s not right actually, it's much more than that. People, myself included, work very hard to stand up for working people. And then you see this sort of behaviour where it's just some big game about personal power and patronage. You just - people feel let down. But there's a lot of party members and MP’s who feel it down here, too. We work hard. And then you get conduct like this and then everyone gets tarred with the same brush.
STEFANOVIC: OK. Let's move on. Front page of today's Daily Telegraph. Federal Government accusing Labor for failing to support a proposal for mandatory minimum sentences for child sex abusers. Sarah, people want tougher sentences.
LE MARQUAND: They do. You know, I have actually taken a long time to come around to support the notion of mandatory sentencing because there is a little bit of evidence that it doesn't actually do anything to deter crime. And sometimes it can actually have a counterproductive effect. But I think speaking on behalf of the average voter, we have come to lose faith in our judicial system. And we've seen too much soft sentencing. And I think most Australians agree that child sex offences and paedophilia is the most abhorrent of all crimes. And really there can be no punishment that is too harsh. So I actually support the Government on this.
STEFANOVIC: Why did Labor, Bill, oppose this?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, everyone I speak to in Labor from Anthony Albanese down, we think child sex abuse is just abhorrent. I personally can see a bit of what Sarah is saying about lock em up and throw away the key. A lot of experts have said, as Sarah mentioned initially, that mandatory sentencing may make it harder to catch and convict crooks. But just to shortcut the debate which was in the paper today, there's a lot of good stuff in this law. If the Government doesn't want to accept the Senate amendment, Labor will not oppose the bill again when it comes back up to the Senate. We think, the Labor people think, that this improves the bill. If the Government says, no, we don't agree to the amendment I just want to say to Australians watching this show that Labor will support the bill when it returns to the Senate in the event that the Government doesn't agree with our amendment. We're not going stop this law getting through.
STEFANOVIC: All right. Just quickly, there are calls for the iconic Aussie cheese brand Coon Cheese to change its name this morning, again, because of its racist connotations. For background, the cheese was first produced in 1935 and is named after its founder, Edward William Coon. We asked you at home what you think? And thousands of you have responded to our Facebook poll. Five percent of you said, yes, it would change its name or should, and a massive ninety five percent say no. Keep the name as it is. Bill, does it offend you?
SHORTEN: If the name was born out of racism, then you should change it. But if it's just their family name, I mean, a lot of Australians have got family names, which you mightn’t – I don’t know. No, I probably wouldn't change it at this point.
STEFANOVIC: OK, Sarah?
LE MARQUAND: I’m in the five percent, I think we should change it. I know the majority of Australians clearly disagree with me, but I just make the point this is not to me about being politically correct, which I'm sure a lot of people like yelling at the TV. I think this whole debate over statues and, you know, pulling classics like Gone With the Wind temporarily down, I think that's absolute madness. And there's nothing to be gained by that. This is a different issue. It's not so much about being politically correct. It's about good manners. If people are saying to this name is causing me offence, and a lot of indigenous Australians do say that about this word, then I think it's time to listen to something.
SHORTEN: Yeah, there’s something in that.
STEFANOVIC: It is his name, though.
LE MARQUAND: It is his name. And that, you know, he's had his name on the label for decades now. And that's great. But like I say, times change. And I think that the sensible thing for Coon Cheese would be to reconsider. Can I just say this debate actually came up in 2008, and as a consumer, I have actually not bought that brand of cheese ever since.
SHORTEN: That’s interesting. But I mean, on that bigger issue of the statues, Karl and Sarah. I reckon it's going too far. You know, we don't like burning books, and I don't think the tipping statues over has helped one First Nations person. But you know that I think we've just got to get positive in this debate and see how we can give our First Nations people, Aboriginals, Torres Strait Islanders, a better future.
STEFANOVIC: Very big day today. Thank you so much for joining us. Always appreciate it.