The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Bill Shorten

Bill Shorten

Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services & Superannuation

14 September 2010 - 14 December 2011

Transcript of 24/08/2011

NO.011

Interview with Neil Mitchell

3AW

24 August 2011

SUBJECTS: Dangerous dogs, gay marriage, Craig Thomson

Neil Mitchell:

Bill Shorten, I was talking to him and he went off to save the Government when the bells were ringing, he's on the line now. Did you save the Government, Mr Shorten?

Bill Shorten:

Mate, when the bells ring you've just got to turn up. It's just what happens in the nation's Capital.

Neil Mitchell:

They were debating the Craig Thomson thing, weren't they?

Bill Shorten:

No. I've been to a number of votes this morning. One of the issues was a debate around some of those issues. There is a lot going on that the nation and the Government is focused on, in terms of getting things done. I mean, for instance, we've just resumed debate on tobacco plain packaging; we've just passed laws improving research and development tax concessions for companies who invest in innovation

Neil Mitchell:

Just quickly if I may, because I know you'll have to get back, the dogs thing, cause we've talked about this earlier, dangerous dogs. You've been to see the family with the little girl who died and we've got another attack overnight of an elderly woman by two, at least part, German Shepherds, what do you want to do Federally?

Bill Shorten:

Well it's a state responsibility but I know the Victorian Government is moving in the right direction. I actually think all states need to have the same laws. I got the Parliamentary researchers some time ago to show me the comparative laws, you know to line up the laws in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and everywhere else, and they're all different and I think they're in insufficient.

Neil Mitchell:

Does that mean pitbulls can cross state boundaries or something?

Bill Shorten:

Well no, what we've done with the importation of pitbulls from overseas is that there's certain breeds, there's five breeds that have been prohibited. Part of the challenge is that some people cheat the system, they don't register their animals so it's an enforcement question as well. What we want to do federally is encourage the states to do what needs to be done to make the system work better, so that other families don't have to go through what this family has gone through.

Neil Mitchell: Do you think we need to look at putting these dogs down, some of them? I don't mean the ones that attack but ones that we consider to be dangerous dogs?

Bill Shorten:

I do not see why you need to own certain types of very dangerous dog. Now of course, each dog is different, and each owner is different. I do think that one, we need to tie the responsibility between the owner and the animal, I think that two, in NSW they do temperament assessments, I don't know if I'd say that dogs I've never seen should be put down, I don't know if it's a bridge too far, but I do know that I cannot see the reason to keep certain dogs. What's happened in Victoria previously is that when you register certain breeds, the animal is, upon registration, desexed, which arguably decreases its aggression and the breed gradually dies out.

Neil Mitchell:

And what breeds would you put in that category other than pitbulls?

Bill Shorten:

I am not a sufficient veterinary expert to make that call, but there have been plenty of people who have thought about this question.

Neil Mitchell:

Ok just quickly, gay marriage, big day for gay marriage speeches today. Where do you stand on gay marriage?

Bill Shorten:

We've been getting responses in my electorate, some people feel very strongly in favour of it, some people feel very strongly against it.

Neil Mitchell:

It's a fence you're sitting on.

Bill Shorten:

Oh yeah, it's a big fence I'm sitting on, because I can see that our, and I'm not a moralist, what you do in your own house really is your business and I really don't mind as long as it's not beyond the bounds of decency, not hurting children or that level, I just don't mind how people organise their lives. Australians have got their families, and this is a bit of a longer answer but, to be fair, your question is a serious question, it's a serious issue so I'm not sure I can encapsulate it all here but that's my first point.

Secondly I don't like discrimination, I don't mind who you hold hands with, I don't mind what relationships you're in, that shouldn't be the source of discrimination. I think the third though is that people of religious convictions, they've got an entitlement to have their views taken pretty seriously too, and there are lots of people who view that the marriage act is about supporting legally a religious based, faith based ceremony, which is between a man and a woman. So, still evolving my position, we've going to debate it at the Labor party conference at the end of the year. I would say to proponents on both sides to have a bit of respect to each other's position as opposed to just advocating your own.

Neil Mitchell:

That's fair enough but you're saying you haven't decided yet?

Bill Shorten:

I haven't come to a final view, I do think that if you were on air in 20 years time and I'm still running around doing what I'm doing in 20 years time I'm not convince this issue is going to be as hot as it is now.

Neil Mitchell:

See I think it's less hot than it was, cause I think the public has moved, the Prime Minister is one of the few who hasn't.

Bill Shorten:

Well I don't know if I'd say that she was one of the few that haven't.

Neil Mitchell:

Yeah, look there's a lot that haven't but I believe that the community feeling has swung on this issue significantly in 10 years.

Bill Shorten:

Yes, and I think the mood will continue to swing, I suppose one question I have is that if you think that gradually people are going to evolve to accepting it, do you move prematurely to force people to accept it?

Neil Mitchell: No, but you gotta make the decision sometime.

Bill Shorten:

That's right.

Neil Mitchell:

Look the other quick thing, cause I know we were talking about it on Friday, Craig Thomson. The Prime Minister said a week ago that she had complete confidence in him and that he was doing a fine job so why has he stepped down? You got complete confidence in him?

Bill Shorten:

Yeah, he does work very hard as a local member, I know he works very hard in his electorate for people. In terms of why he stepped down, I didn't see the full press conference last night, but because the police have said they are going to weigh up whether or not there is going to be an investigation, he has taken a view, and I don't want to put words in his mouth, that he will stand down from that particular position of chairing a committee so he has stood down from some financial entitlements, and he's going to allow the investigation to run its course. I also think that's what should happen.

Neil Mitchell:

You've run a union, you understand these things, do you support him?

Bill Shorten:

Oh, yeah, I believe him.

Neil Mitchell:

You believe him, no case to answer?

Bill Shorten:

I believe him; I know that Fair Work Australia is investigating it. I believe that people are also entitled a presumption of innocence. Labor hasn't made a big deal out of the fact that you've got a Lib MP who's been charged with criminal offences because there's always a back story, there's always detail and Fair Work Australia, who are the industrial regulator, have looked at the matter once, they're looking at it again.

Neil Mitchell:

But I don't know that the Liberal person has had party funds or Union funds given to help defend them.

Bill Shorten:

Oh well, I don't know all the circumstances in that case...

Neil Mitchell:

That's the point, none of us do.

Bill Shorten:

That's right and we've got to let the investigation run its course...

Neil Mitchell:

Okay, thank you very much for your time.

Bill Shorten:

Alright, but I would say that I think you might find in the Victorian Government, there's been Liberal Government Ministers have had support from their party, but again that's a matter for the Liberal Party in Victoria.

Neil Mitchell:

What do you mean?

Bill Shorten:

Well, I understand that some Liberals have had support, and it was raised in Parliament, from their party in terms of legal matters, so...

Neil Mitchell:

Ah yes, I think I know the one you're referring to. I think that's been in the public record. Okay thank you very much.

Bill Shorten:

Bye now, thank you.

Neil Mitchell:

Bill Shorten, Assistant Treasurer, who had to call in late because we were interrupted earlier. And he and Joe Hockey join the program on Friday in debate, left and right, Bill Shorten, Joe Hockey, 9 o'clock Friday.