TUESDAY, 22 FEBRUARY 2022
SUBJECTS: NSW Government train rail shutdown chaos; NSW public service workers; Morrison Government’s dangerous false claims against Labor over China; Scott Morrison’s lack of leadership.
ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Thanks for joining us this morning. More misery this morning for commuters in Sydney as the impact from that shock rail shutdown continues to be felt. But still, the unions, management and state government are all still blaming each other for the chaos. Let's bring in Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten, who's in Melbourne and here in the studio, 9 News political reporter Chris O'Keefe. Nice to see you both. Chris, it's Sydney so let's start with you. It was absolute bedlam yesterday and everyone blaming each other.
CHRIS O’KEEFE, 9 NEWS: Everyone was blaming each other, and I hate to use Bill Shorten's talking points, but I think the unions in the right here, because essentially what's happened is it was a tricky little industrial negotiation. It's been going on since September. And then all of a sudden, we wake up yesterday morning and the New South Wales government says, you know, enough of this, we don't want to talk anymore. Let's shut the joint down now. They were trying to say that it was some sort of strike action from the union. Well, that's a bit difficult when you've got hundreds of rail workers sitting at Central Station going, Hello, we're here. Give us a train and we'll drive it. So, it wasn't strike action. It was complete overreach by the New South Wales Government. Nothing has changed today yet. We're running trains today, so you tell me who's in the right?
LANGDON: Yeah. And look, I mean, Bill, we've got to train drivers, but we also saw nurses strike last week. You've got paramedics and teachers, they aren't happy. This is a real headache for the New South Wales Premier.
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: At the end of the day, the state government’s paid to make sure it manages its employees well. But if you've got paramedics, if you've got hospital workers and nurses, if you've got train drivers and they're all unhappy, maybe the problem isn't the individual workforce. Maybe the New South Wales Government is just expecting a lot of people, but not giving a lot of love back to its own employees.
LANGDON: But Bill, it was weird that Albo, he didn't really take a position on this yesterday. I mean, is he scared to?
SHORTEN: No, not at all, I think yesterday morning, no one was quite in the picture of what was happening, but as the day went on, it's become clearer. What happened in two sentences is the New South Wales rail workers are concerned that if there's privatisation, they're going to lose their entitlements. For months and months and months. They have been negotiating with the government and the government, I think, has found negotiations too difficult so they just decided to blow the joint up and try and blame the workforce in the unions. And it's backfired because the unions have got some limited pressure, they're putting on the government, but the government locked out the workforce and even worse, locked out the consumers. It was really dumb Rambo politics and the big losers, unfortunately, are the passengers on the train system.
LANGDON: Yeah, absolutely. But Chris, what did you make of it yesterday like? I would have thought that this would have been an opportunity for Anthony Albanese to come out and take a pretty strong stance, but he didn't.
O’KEEFE: Each Way Albo, if he keeps, if he keeps quiet, then he doesn't have to get himself involved in a state dispute. And that's basically what happened. Scott Morrison was on the front foot yesterday morning and probably went off a little bit early. He said this was a strike action. It wasn't a strike action. Nobody was on strike and that was the ridiculous thing. But we've constantly seen this with Anthony Albanese. He's keeping his powder dry. He's giving Scott Morrison enough rope and hopefully, you know, all we know from Anthony Albanese at this point is I'm not Scott Morrison, vote for me. We don't actually know what we're buying from the Labor Party or Anthony Albanese, and yesterday was another example of that.
LANGDON: So, Bill, is that being weak or is that a smart strategy?
SHORTEN: No, well, first of all, Scott Morrison, he's just looking for a fight with anyone at any time, so he's rushed into the issue. Albo was smart, just stayed back. Make sure we gather up all the facts. What we don't need in this country is knee jerk leadership. For Morrison, everything's about bagging Labor and the unions, so he just shoots off at the mouth whenever he gets a chance. But the facts don't bear up what Morrison was saying, so I think Anthony's approach was much more judicious. What we need in our leaders is people who think before they open their mouth, put your brain into gear before you open your mouth.
LANGDON: And Bill, I mean, we've seen the Coalition really trying to jam you guys on China and issues of national security. Do you think some of it is starting to stick?
SHORTEN: Well, I think what people have seen is three years of the Morrison Government. See, in 2019, Scott Morrison ran around and said, I'm just a daggy dag - sorry, I daggy dad and, you know, go Sharkie's and just, I'm a normal bloke. The reality is we've now seen three years of this rooster and what's he done? You know, during the bushfires, he didn't hold a hose during COVID. Our vaccine rollout was slow, rapid antigen tests, he's on the phone ordering them from China and when we should be making them here. So, I think that Mr Morrison is trying to get people to forget the last three years and instead just dreaming up scare campaigns. He's got so many threats that he says are under people's beds. It's too crowded under there. It's just like you got the Reds, you've got everyone there. And Morrison is trying to make us forget.
LANGDON: All those scary monsters.
SHORTEN: It’s like a party underneath his bed.
LANGDON: Ew, I don't think about that. Hey, Chris, I mean, look, the PM is trying to paint Albo as a traitor. Do you think that that is cutting through or is it overreach?
O’KEEFE: I think it's overreach, but it may well be cutting through. But you can't be calling the presumptive or alternate Prime Minister of Australia a traitor without any evidence. The circus that carried on in Parliament last week when the Prime Minister was calling Richard Marles The Manchurian Candidate, like, please. If he if he is now a puppet of the Chinese government, well, show us some evidence and kick the bloke out or throw him in jail. But there is no evidence. It's just rhetoric and it's super, super unhelpful. And we heard from the head of ASIO, we've heard from the former leader of ASIO as well, saying that this kind of staff does nothing for our national security interests here in Australia, and that should be first and foremost our concern, rather than just throwing mud at people. I think Scott Morrison has done a really good job in standing up to China. Nobody else did. Kevin Rudd certainly didn't. He was, you know, best mates with President Xi. Scott Morrison has at least had a go at it. But to start to be blasting your political opponents as traitors, I think, was overreach in the extreme.
SHORTEN: Oh, listen, I think that the Chinese look at Scott Morrison and they see that character out of The Simpsons, Sideshow Bob. I mean, the bloke's just running around, you know, here, there, and everywhere just, you know, making up stuff. I mean, if you're a country who has got negative, the government and other countries have got a negative view of Australia and planning not great things and you want to see who's fronting up as captain of the other team, they see Scott Morrison, Scott Morrison is making stuff up. This guy is making up as he goes along on some of the accusations he makes against Labor. I mean, the Liberals have been in for nine years and they only just sorted out the submarines. When I was Opposition Leader, the Liberals were rushing towards an extradition treaty with China, and we had to say stop. So, I don't buy all this rhetoric that Morrison says that somehow, he loves Australia more than anyone else in politics. We all love our country. We all want to see our Defence Force as well equipped. We all want to make sure that our national interests are promoted. But I, for one, get sick and tired of this bloke saying somehow, he is super patriot, and you know, he's better than everyone else. That's not the way this country functions. We all love our country here. He should focus on the day job rather than name calling,
LANGDON: And we should just all be friends. That's what we're seeing right now.
O’KEEFE: Friends in politics! Get a dog, Ally.
SHORTEN: We don’t have to get carried away with the friendship scenario.
O’KEEFE: We need a houseful of dogs.
SHORTEN: I've got two dogs. I've got two dogs, I’m that keen to have a friend in politics
LANGDON: All right, Bill, Chris, thanks for your time this morning.