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18 March 2022


SUBJECTS: Morrison Government’s closure of Centrelink shopfronts; visiting communities across Victoria’s northeast; Labor’s plan for a National Centre for Disease Response; election timing
SANDRA MOON, HOST: On ABC Goulburn Murray, here he comes, the coffee as I said, must have been absolutely beautiful. Bill Shorten is the Shadow Minister for the NDIS and for Government Services, good morning.

BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Good morning, apologies for being late.

MOON: Well, we’ve got a couple of minutes, let’s see if we can use them wisely, and Nadia David who is the Labor candidate for Indi, thank you for your thoughts there. I did want to ask you, Bill Shorten, you were in Benalla yesterday and I know that you tweeted at the Benalla Centrelink, with that closing, that the Morrison Government has closed 28 Centrelink shopfronts. And you've said only a Labor Government will stop closing Centrelink. Will you stop closing them or will you reopen them.

SHORTEN: Two or three things, one is I think we need to stop closing and both sides of politics should just declare that. Secondly, if we get elected and if I'm the Minister, I want to look under the hood to see what we can do to expand Centrelink services. I also think that part of opening new services or delivering new services has got to be employing more people for Centrelink, not just relying on privatisation, and contracting out of jobs.

MOON: In terms of the people that you've met so far, Beveridge with Bill in Beechworth, which has got great alliteration of course. What sort of things have people been bringing to you?

SHORTEN: People love living in the Northeast, it's a great place to raise a family. But there is a deficit of services. The stories which frustrate me or break my heart the most are when people have to pay big gap payments for services in Medicare, they can't get the same bulk billing which people in the cities get. In addition, it's getting allied health professionals into the region. Your health shouldn't be compromised because the Federal Government doesn't know how to get the skilled workforce to be.

MOON: Well, I mean, skilled workforce is exactly one of the big issues that we've been hearing about. The independent member for Indi, Helen Haines, was talking about it yesterday about the challenges of getting those skilled workers. But what's the answer?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, you've got to pay them properly. I think secondly, you've got to have longer term contracts for people so that they can justify to their family moving here. Also, the reason why people come and live in a town isn't just the job. I think you need to invest in the support services around it - good schools, good quality health care, a vibrant artistic life. I mean, the Northeast ticks a lot of these boxes and there's a lot of really exciting things happening here. I actually think the Federal Government hasn't worked out what's happening up here. I think they don't realise a lot of potential good news stories here. I think they need to back it up with making sure the work force is here, so that people don't have to drive long distances to get basic health care or basic physiotherapy or speech pathology or things which actually when you do need them, are pretty fundamental to the choices of where you want to live.

MOON: On ABC Goulburn Murray You are hearing from Bill Shorten, the Shadow Minister for NDIS and Government Services. Already a lot of people are talking about this as the end of the pandemic. We know that's not the case, so we don't want to push that too far. But is there a need for a national approach to where we go to from here? We're going to be in winter very shortly. 

SHORTEN: Well, Labor has proposed that we create a National Centre for Disease Response, this is a bit like what the Americans have. That would make sense, various parliamentary inquiries listeners won't be surprised to know have proposed this, but nothing ever happens. So, if Labor gets elected, we'll set that up so we can sort of future proof us. I also think that we need to, for example, in the world of disability, if we get elected, we want to create some reserve supplies for people with disabilities because they were at the back of the queue during the pandemic getting vaccines and other support. I also think Australia needs to start making more things here. I mean, you've got a lot of good manufacturing traditions here, from Wangaratta right up to Wodonga. What we found during the pandemic is that we depended on the rest of the world to supply us with essentials and be it vaccines, be it, you know, the masks, the rapid antigen tests. I think it just highlights we should be making that stuff here.

MOON: Alright, we have less than a minute to have a final chat and it would be remiss of me not to ask do you have the inside edge on when this election is going to be called?

SHORTEN: Oh, it'll be on a Saturday [both laugh]. No, more seriously -

MOON: Why is it - why are we not getting the transparency?

SHORTEN: Well, you'd have to ask Mr. Morrison that. I think he wants to bring down an election budget, that'll be in a couple of weeks’ time, then I think one or two Sundays after that he'll drive to Yarralumla and tell the Governor-General he wants to have an election. So, I think it'll be May 14th or 21st, probably May the 14th, but he won't tell me. We'll all find out together.

MOON: We'll put it in our book. Bill Shorten, Shadow Minister for NDIS and Government Services and Labor candidate for Indi, Nadia David, thank you for your time.

DAVID: Thank you.

SHORTEN: Good morning, thank you.

MOON: That's it for me on ABC Goulburn Murray. Have a great weekend.