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21 September 2021


SUBJECTS: CFMEU protests; Victorian construction pause; Christian Porter’s future; reports Queensland to remain closed until 90% vaccination.

ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Thanks for joining us this morning. More now on those violent protests on the streets of Melbourne, demonstrators turning on their own union over vaccine mandates, and last night an extraordinary response from Daniel Andrews shutting down most of the state's $22 billion construction industry for two weeks. There is plenty to unpack. The Shadow Minister for Government Services, Bill Shorten, joins me now in Melbourne and in Brisbane 4BC's Scott Emerson. Nice to see you both this morning, Bill. What did you make of that yesterday?

BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: I was shocked. I reached out to a couple of people I know who work in the building unions to find out last night if they were safe and what happened. And I noticed in your introduction, you said these were workers turning on their own union. There were some construction workers in the crowd, according to my sources, but there are a lot of other just professional troublemakers. I never thought I'd see a scene where you have people who call themselves Nazis using encrypted message systems to bring in a rent a crowd. I mean, some of those people in the crowd were construction workers, but others, I'm reliably informed, were fake tradies. They'd been down to the Reject Shop and got themselves $2 high-vis hoodies so they could pretend they were construction. This is all because the construction unions have been responsible, have been running radio ads, have been encouraging people to get vaccinated, and that doesn't suit the hard right or the extremist agenda of some troublemakers. It was shocking violence against people who've been showing leadership in the construction industry.

LANGDON: Look, I mean, you make a good point there, Bill. There were a lot of ring ins in that crowd, but there are also a lot of legitimate union members who were part of that and part of what happened yesterday.

SHORTEN: Well, I can only go off what people told me who were trapped in the building by this crowd. Yes, there were some who were construction workers. But I'm saying and I think I'm sure the police are aware of this too, that there is a very small group of people, not just in Melbourne but around the country, hard right extremists who are trying to weaponise the COVID lockdown. I can understand that there are some genuine people who don't want vaccinations. I can understand that there are many people frustrated by lockdowns. But what I'm saying on your show is, according to my sources who I spoke to yesterday, who were imperilled by this mob, just like the police were the previous day, there is a network of hard right man-baby Nazis, you know, just people who just want to cause trouble, these man babies, they want to complain about the vaccination, and they deserve to get the full force of everything that's coming their way.

LANGDON: Alright, so the actions of this group yesterday, and we're hearing again, they're going to meet at 10am this morning. You're saying, you know, most of it was from those outside of the union. It is now shut down the entire industry across the state, 300,000 workers. Do you support that decision by Daniel Andrews overnight Bill?

SHORTEN: No one wants to see the industry shut down at all. No one. I'm sure, not the Government, not the construction workers and businesses, and not the unions, either. But we do have a small number of people within construction who are making it impossible and intolerable to function properly in the short term. I mean, there was that - it was sort of amusing at one level where you had some construction tradies and people saying they were tradies sitting out in the main street, having their lunch because they couldn't meet in their tearoom. Well, we haven't seen the nurses and the doctors and the vaccinators out there, you know, carrying on like this.

LANGDON: So, did Dan make the right call last night, Bill?

SHORTEN: I don't know what other choices he had. I mean, you've got organised - this is a serious issue. We now have in Australia, some people seeking to impose extreme views and extreme tactics. I'm not talking about Liberal versus Labor, or the Nationals. I'm talking about a small minority of highly organised troublemakers. And the fact that they were coming after the union because the union's actually been showing leadership and saying, we want to have a safe workforce and we want to have safe worksites and we want a safe population, the union was targeted because it wasn't following the extremist ideology of a few troublemakers. 

LANGDON: Well, the result you’ve got, if you're a tradie now in Ballarat, you can't go to work for the next two weeks. That's the reality of it. And Scott, I mean, if you worked in hospitality, retail, tourism, or any of the industries that have been shut for months now, what would you be thinking seeing those scenes?

SCOTT EMERSON, 4BC: Well, extraordinary things, Ally. I have to say, I don't think I'll ever say these words previously, I felt sorry for John Setka yesterday. Under that, look, the union has been doing the right thing. Look, I think Bill is downplaying how many genuine tradies and unionists are involved in that march and protest yesterday and extraordinary scenes, but if you’re not in one of those industries and you're into those hospitality industries that have been shut down doing all the right things, you just think how selfish, how extreme, how out of control those people are, with no insight and understanding of the impact it's having across Victoria now. People want to get out of lockdown. They want to do the right thing. And look, there is an element there of people who are clearly radical, who want to disrupt, and they've infiltrated many organisations. And for sure, I have no doubt that some of them were in that protest yesterday, but they were horrible scenes out there.

LANGDON: Oh, look, it was horrible. And you just felt for all the staff who were inside that building and for the police who are having to deal with it. We're going to have John Setka on the show in the next half hour too, he’s going to be talking to Karl. Now let's talk about this man, the man temporarily in charge of our nation, Barnaby Joyce, who says Christian Porter has done nothing illegal excepting anonymous donations to his blind trust, and that he should be allowed to return to the frontbench in the future. Bill, Barnaby Joyce. He is the comeback king, as we know. Can you see a way back for Christian Porter?

SHORTEN: Well, Barnaby never leaves you in any doubt what he's thinking, and that arguably is part of his appeal, if you like what he says. But in terms of Mr Porter, getting a million dollars anonymously and not declaring where it's from, I don't see how you can move beyond that until you deal with that issue. If you or I or anyone got a million dollars and you're in public life, you've got to show where the money's coming from, this is just a – look, forget Liberal and Labor for a second. A million-dollar donation, and you don't know anything about it? I mean it isn't sustainable, is it? You've got to deal with that issue. You can't go past that issue. A million bucks anonymously given to you. Why? Why do people give people a million dollars?

LANGDON: Well, I mean, it's a big question, isn't it? And look, Scott, I think the issue here is, how is it not - it's not okay for a Minister, but then it is OK for him to accept that money if he's a backbencher - it doesn't sit right.

EMERSON: No, look. Look, I feel some sympathy for Porter in this case, because he's got the blind trust there. But the trouble is, and Bill makes a valid point there. Why does someone give you a million dollars? Look, look, I don't think Barnaby is right. He might be the comeback king himself, Barnaby Joyce. I can't see Christian Porter coming back. And despite what his comments were at the weekend about running again for federal election, I don't think he will. I think that's the end of his political career. I can't see him returning now after the next federal election.

LANGDON: It's going to be tough, isn't it? Hey Scott, I want to ask you about these two because there is speculation growing that Premier Palaszczuk may not reopen borders until the state achieves a 90 per cent double vaccination rate cut. [boos]. Karl, as you can hear, he ain’t happy. I mean, no country in the world has reached this, I think Malta has got the highest vaccination rate, which is sitting at about 83 per cent. What do you reckon of how the Premier is playing this?

EMERSON: Oh, look, we saw as part of this story that there was some polling apparently distributed to Cabinet showing that Queenslanders love the fact that we're locked down, that we’re safe from southern states, but 90 per cent… Look, the ability to get to 80 per cent is going to be hard for Queensland, that's last of all the states at the moment in terms of first jabs. To get from 80 to 90 per cent, it's incredibly hard. We're seeing the vaccination rates even slowing down in New South Wales in terms of getting those higher levels. I think this would be an extraordinary blow to so many in particularly the hospitality area, the tourism sector, the economy. But politically, you know, some Queenslanders just love the idea is still, that we are shut off from the rest of Australia

LANGDON: Bill just a thumbs up or thumbs down to this decision.

SHORTEN: I don't believe it'll be 90 per cent, it'll be less than that. I just - I've got Queensland family. We want to see them at Christmas. They want to see us. 90 per cent, I find that hard to believe. I just do.

LANGDON: Well, I'm not sure anyone's going to Melbourne. Look at the weather. Look at the difference. Bill, the weather behind you, Scott, it's sunny and I mean, you just you just keep kicking don’t you, Queensland?

EMERSON: Just let Karl know, the beaches on the Sunshine Coast at the weekend were sensational.

LANGDON: Yeah. Get lost. 

SHORTEN: That’s no good.

LANGDON: Get lost. We don't want to talk to him anymore. Do we, Bill? Have a nice day guys, we'll talk to you both soon.