24 May 2022




TUESDAY, 24 MAY 2022


SUBJECTS: Federal election result, NDIS, election results in Melbourne, Josh Frydenberg, Liberal Party leadership


STEVE PRICE, HOST: We've spoken a lot this morning about the incoming government. I spoke to the incoming Treasurer Jim Chalmers on The Project last night. I put it on him about petrol prices. He made it clear that the former government legislated for that discount of the fuel levy to finish by the 28th of September. I didn't get a definitive no though from the Treasurer about whether they might indeed leave that discount in place given the cost of living pressures that are on Australians at the moment. Bill Shorten. He clearly won his seat at the weekend. He is the incoming NDIS Minister, I think. He joins me on the line. Good to talk to you again.




PRICE: Good. Congratulations to the party. I note you said, I hope this is a direct quote, that you felt like a weight's been taken off your shoulders. My interpretation of that, rightly or wrongly, is that after the loss in 2019, you've carried that loss around with you because you believed you should have won that election, and now that's no longer the case. Is that the correct interpretation of that quote?


SHORTEN: Perhaps you're looking for more science, in my words, than exists. You're like the therapist on the couch.


PRICE: I'm just hoping, you know.


SHORTEN: What I mean by that is that, in 2019, I couldn't have predicted how disappointing Morrison would be. I didn't agree with his policies. But now I feel relief for all the people who I will hopefully represent, people with disabilities on the NDIS. I mean, I know listeners listening to your show will have voted right across the spectrum, but I do say very seriously that when it came to the NDIS and the half million people on that and their families and the people who love them, this government or the outgoing government was really bad at it, running the NDIS. So I just felt tremendous relief because I became very concerned that if the Government, Mr Morrison snuck back in, the scheme would be trashed. So, you know, I'm not trying to increase the blood pressure of people who feel that Scott Morrison was a genius, but when it came to the NDIS it was definitely a wreck. And that's why I felt relief. That's why I felt a weight off my shoulders.


PRICE: Trashed is a strong word. I mean they support the NDIS, they look at the costings of it as you're now going to have to do. You will be Minister for NDIS? Do we know that? Do you know that?


SHORTEN: We're going to wait until - I don't completely know it, but to the hundreds of people who've already written to me, can you just hang on with your emails until that gets sorted out.


PRICE: Yeah. Right.


SHORTEN: Yeah I assume so.


PRICE: So they wouldn't have trashed it. I mean you recognise there’s problems, right?


SHORTEN: Yeah. But it's the way you deal with the challenges. I mean the reality is that they were - you know, there's 5000 people currently with matters in court where they're taking the government to court just to get their funding package. That's not a way to run a scheme.


PRICE: No one should have to go to court to get that.


SHORTEN: No. And I accept periodically some people will be aggrieved, but the number of people going to court was just increasing by hundreds of per cent in recent years. So that's what I mean by trashed. I don't know who was running the scheme but I didn't feel it was the Government.


PRICE: So if you are Minister, how will you sort that problem out? You've said to me before that you think it's become a bit of a lawyer's picnic.


SHORTEN: Yeah. Probably the first thing I’d do in the event I’m Minister is I'll ask the agency, what's our COVID preparedness actually. Because for people with disability, we're not out of the woods. You know, if there's new variants, I just want to make sure that we're not caught with our pants down. Because that's about keeping people alive, making sure they've got the right gear and the booster shots. We all know the story there. But probably the second thing by, you know, a very close a very close second will be saying what's going on with all the court cases? What are the matters that can be resolved? What are the matters that shouldn't be tied up in court? How do we have alternative dispute resolution so we can take the anxiety off people?


PRICE: Jim Chalmers is going to come to you at some point and say, look, this is this is a great scheme. It's Labor heartland. We're the ones that introduced it. We were the ones that brought it into being. But it is putting a lot of pressure on us financially. How can we how can we make it stop ballooning in terms of cost? What's the answer to that? Is there an answer?


SHORTEN: Yeah, I think there is an answer. First of all, I don't automatically view it as a cost, I view it as an investment. For every dollar spent in the NDIS it generates $2.15 in the economy. But having said that, I think there is money being wasted there. That's my suspicion from the outside looking in, we've got to look under the hood and see what's really going on with the finances. But I think that this habit of some service providers charging if you don't have an NDIS package, there's one fee. If you've got the government money, they double the fee to charge you. And I want to stop that. I want to make sure that the people providing services in the scheme aren't cowboys or unqualified. I want to make sure there's no criminal activity or any organised defrauding of people with disabilities. I want to see also how we reduce the use of consultants, bring the skills in-house because the contractors are very expensive. Again, the legals, I want to get the legal bill down. So I think there are measures where we can decrease waste, but we'll have to see once we can lift up the hood and see what's under the bonnet, so to speak.


PRICE: You've been around politics a long time. Did you ever think in your political career that you would look at the map of Melbourne, metro Melbourne and see one at best two only Liberal seats across that big swathe of Melbourne?


SHORTEN: Yeah, it is amazing. The Liberals have been on retreat in metropolitan Melbourne and the provincial cities now for some time. Even at the last election we had 22 of the seats. But now I wouldn't have predicted though that Kooyong and Goldstein would go independent and I would not have predicted Higgins, there’s more Liberal Party members in Higgins per square mile than just about anywhere in the world. And for that to go Labor is quite remarkable. And Deakin, we've won in the past, but we'll see how we go in there. But no, it is remarkable that basically if you live within 20 to 30 kilometres of the GPO of any city in Australia, the chances of you voting Liberal is increasingly rare.


PRICE: It looks like you'll probably get 76, maybe 77. So you'll have a majority. How important is that to be able to rule, at least in the House of Reps, you’re going to have to rely on the Greens in the Senate -


SHORTEN: You'd rather a majority government, clearly, but, I'm sure we'll make a go of whatever the electorate has given us. We're the largest party in the Parliament and be it 74, be it 75, 76, 76 and 77 seats are better. There's more certainty. But on the other hand, I'm sure with Anthony and the team, we're capable of governing with 74 or 75 seats.


PRICE: Do you think we're headed in the future, and I was talking to Waleed Aly about this off air last night, do you think in the future we're headed toward probably we may, this government, yours, the incoming one, may be the last majority government we see, given how fractured politics has become with this teal movement in particular, but also the Greens and One Nation.


SHORTEN: I mean, we've had the Greens nipping at our heels on the left for, you know, the best part of 20 years now, or 15 years. The Liberals are now having that experience, too. Labor's capable of forming majority governments. I hope that when they see us in action for three years, we get more primary votes. And that's, you know, that's the game where that's that's our strategy to win trust of people. I mean, perhaps one of the motivating things for the teals has been an anti-corruption commission. We're committed to that, tick. You know, there's one reason they had which is done. More action on climate. We'll do that, tick. So you know better treatment of women and in society, tick, we're up for that. So I think some of the undergrowth which set off the teal bushfire, I think we will tackle some of those issues.


PRICE: You won't really have to deal with them if you do have majority though, will you?


SHORTEN: You deal with everyone if you're sensible, you deal with everyone. The reality is that one of the things I thought Mr. Morrison was foolish when he was in government on was, you know, they'd never pick up the phone, the government ministers. It was only really in the last three months did a couple of them reach out in my portfolio as to work with us. But you know, you always try. When I've been a minister, the first people you try and talk to is the opposition to see if they're on board. Now, if they go all ideological and funny or want to score points, then you talk. But you always talk to people. The art of politics is the art of give and take. If you just take all the time, then you'll get your comeuppance, as I think we saw in this election with Mr. Morrison.


PRICE: You worked in the Parliament with Josh Frydenberg for a long time. Is he a loss to Australian public life?


SHORTEN: Oh, I think he's an okay fellow actually. So you know, some people have come up to and said they're very excited he's gone. I feel for him as a person. So yeah, I think the Liberal Party and therefore the Parliament is the poorer for his absence. Having said that, he was also the Treasurer where we've racked up a trillion dollars debt. So I'm not going to. Yes, I feel sorry for him at a human level. Him and Amy and the kids. Yes. I think he was one of the brighter Liberals in the Parliament. Absolutely. But I'm not sort of going to rewrite history and say that we're all sitting, holding hands, singing Kumbaya. I mean, they did some things which I didn't agree with. But I do respect him as an individual.


PRICE: Yes. What will the Liberal Party be like under Peter Dutton?


SHORTEN: I think they'll still be tough or formidable.


PRICE: What do you think of Dutton?


SHORTEN: I think he plays politics pretty tough, pretty hard. I'm not sure what his appeal will be like in the southern states, so I don't know. We'll wait and see. I guess we're focused on forming our own government and focused on the people and to some extent what he's like, it will only be important really if we're not doing our job, but if we do our job and in my case, in the areas I'm most passionate about, then they're the people I've got to keep happy. Not Peter Dutton one way or the other.


PRICE: Just finally to the important issue,, reporting a couple of days ago that you did it again with the sausage sandwich? Is that true?


SHORTEN: My daughter encouraged me and you know what, I thought, I'm not going to be a slave to convention. Let’s chuck the chains off. Last time around, it was because the bread roll, you needed the teeth of a great white shark to eat it from the end. In this case, I thought, no useless carbs. Let's just get into the juicy middle.


PRICE: I think you might have set a new trend just quietly. Good luck with your new ministerial career. Great to catch up again. Thanks a lot.


SHORTEN: Cheers Steve, thank you.


PRICE: Bill Shorten there, the federal Labor MP for Maribyrnong, soon to become NDIS Minister.