TUESDAY, 25 JANUARY 2022
SUBJECTS: Issues with the NDIS; Morrison Government’s failure on rapid antigen tests; Peter Malinauskas’ call to end election donations; 2022 election.
LEON BYNER, HOST: Well, Bill Shorten, the Shadow Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme is in town, and it's a good reason to ask why. Bill Shorten, good morning to you and welcome.
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Good morning. Great to be in Adelaide.
BYNER: What brings you to town?
SHORTEN: Well, at 11 o'clock I'm going to be in Collinswood with Louise Miller-Frost and Steve Georganas, talking to people involved in the National Disability Insurance Scheme, hearing the good news and the bad news, and sharing what Labor would do.
BYNER: This is an issue - I mean, there are so many issues clouding the nation at the moment, but the National Disability Insurance Scheme is one. What areas do you think are being neglected at the moment that a Labor government would change?
SHORTEN: I think participants in the National Disability Insurance Scheme are drowning under the red tape. If you’ve got a lifetime disability, you shouldn't have to keep proving that you're blind or that you've got a quadriplegia or that you've got, you know, very serious autism. So, I think there's too much red tape, and as a result, people are going and getting reports written, and you wonder if the decision makers in the bureaucracy are actually reading them all. So, I think we put the person with a disability and their immediate people, you know, give them more control and a better voice. And people will follow their own self-interest and work to a more efficient scheme, which is fairer and also more cost effective. There's too much price gouging by some scallywags and unscrupulous service providers. Many are great, but there's a few just charging an arm and a leg for very minimal service.
BYNER: We're speaking with Bill Shorten, on another issue you've been critical of the Government's handling of the slow rollout of rapid antigen testing. That doesn't appear to be changing.
SHORTEN: No. Listen, I know this Government shouldn't surprise me with their incompetence, but let's, you know, let's tell it straight as it is, they're now saying to people with a disability, sure, you can use your disability plans, which are for other things, to pay for rapid antigen tests. Now what's wrong with the old Medicare system? You know, if you go and line up and get a PCR test that's free under Medicare. So why are some of Australia's poorest and most vulnerable people being required to pay for their own rapid antigen tests? It's just… I don’t know, it's just absurd, isn't it? But they only announced that yesterday, [illegible], but they're not very bright.
BYNER: The PM went on the record a couple of weeks ago, I think, saying that the Government couldn't afford to make RAT tests freely available to all. Do you have an opinion on that? Do you think that is not the case?
SHORTEN: I just think he's making an excuse because he - like, I get that COVID has been hard for governments, and we've all got to pull together. But I always feel with Mr Morrison that he's a day late and a dollar short on every issue when it comes to COVID. Like why are other countries able to send out these rapid antigen tests in the mail? But the point is he acts like the price of the rapid antigen tests, it's either the government pays it, or the person pays it. But if a person can't access these rapid antigen tests or if you're working in hospitality or you're a teacher or you're a logistics worker and you've got to go through several tests a week, this is just a tool of the trade, you know, the Government's saving pennies, but wasting pounds to use the old saying.
BYNER: There was a recent Flinders University report suggesting that issuing rapid antigen tests free would actually be very cost effective.
SHORTEN: Yeah. I don't know, this Government, they were happy to give multi-millionaires JobKeeper payments when they were making massive profits but when it comes to, you know, Joe and Jill Average on the street who are battling to pay the school fees at the start of the year and get kids ready for school, somehow sending them a $10 test in the mail is beyond the wallet and the wisdom of the Government. This is literally a case that a stitch in time saves nine.
BYNER: We've just been speaking with the Leader of the Opposition in South Australia, Peter Malinauskas, who's very keen to see the end of political donations. Do you have a view on that?
SHORTEN: Well, it's not federal policy. I have an opinion as a former federal leader that big money is distorting elections. Every time you drive past a big yellow Clive Palmer billboard, that’s one man using $80 million to $100 million to change the outcome of the nation. People with the deepest pockets shouldn't be able to buy elections. And so, I think Peter Malinauskas is onto something. Also, you know, some people say freedom of speech to be able to - that's true. So, you've got to get that balance right. But I do think that big money is distort elections. We are very close to American style politics in Australia already, and for many people, they can't afford to pay for big billboard signs and get their views out there. So, I worry about the undermining of our democratic nature of the country by the ability of the super-rich to spend super money to get their own super views up.
BYNER: Do you have a view on when we'll go to the polls nationally?
SHORTEN: Listen, that's up to Morrison, we've got to have it. I guess he'll go in May. May the 7th or the 14th, only a certain number of Saturdays you can call an election for. So, you know, I just think this government has given up governing. Anthony Albanese is today at the National Press Club, outlining further good ideas for the future of the nation. Positive ideas. The biggest story in town is COVID and the impact it's having on people, and we should just be better prepared than we are.
BYNER: Do you see the impact of COVID affecting the election? I mean the lead up to it in terms of campaigning, you know, normally….
SHORTEN: Yeah, I think it'll be a bit different. Normally you get out and shake the hand, knock on the doors. A lot of people – don’t worry about the anti-vaxxers who march up and down in the middle of the street, I think a lot of people are nervous to go out. And so, I think it'll be a lot more online. There'll be perhaps, I think, digital campaigning and the internet, it’s going to be a big impact. It's going to be a big influence anyway. But I think it'll be pretty significant. It'll be a lot more remote campaigning.
BYNER: We live in interesting times. Bill Shorten, thanks for your time today.
SHORTEN: We certainly do. Thank you very much. Have a good day.
BYNER: Bill Shorten, federal Shadow Minister for the NDIS.