Interview with Ross Stevenson and John Burns from 3AW, 6 January, 2012

09 January 2012

Please read or listen to my interview about the young parents program.


120106 - 3AW Mornings interview

MALE COMPERE 1:  It’s eleven to ten.  Nine six, nine hundred, six nine three.  If you’re outside of Melbourne, thirteen, thirteen, thirty two.

MALE COMPERE 2:  Thank you, well I'm all fired up now.


MALE COMPERE 2:  Now – and good, we’ve got Bill Shorten in here, now and we can fire up with him, as well.  The Federal Government has decided it will no longer use the term teenage mums when talking about its programs forcing young parents into study and work.  Bill Shorten is the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.  He joins us now.  Good morning and happy new year to you, Mr Shorten.

BILL SHORTEN:  Good morning, happy new year and can I just recalibrate or just restate – what we’ve made a decision to do is to help young parents,
teenage mums, people who are in their teens who have had kids, that’s the yarn.  It’s not whether or not you call them teenage mums or young parents.

MALE COMPERE 1:  It’s about the participation plan with Centrelink.


MALE COMPERE 1:  How does it work, Minister?

BILL SHORTEN:  Well, we’re going to help four thousand people over the next four years.  It - it starts on the first of January.  What we want to do is sit down with each of the teen parents and work through how they can get into skills or schools or training.  Having a child is a big – it’s a big learning curve at any age, but it is important that teen parents don’t drop out of the system all together and then become part of a cycle of poverty and lack of opportunity.

MALE COMPERE 2:  I understand all of that and I think that’s admirable, but why change the name?

BILL SHORTEN: Listen, in terms of the story in The Australian today, I don’t mind what language you use to describe teenagers who have kids.  Okay?  Provided it’s nice.

MALE COMPERE 1:  So the actual tenet of the argument that they get offended or they’re discouraged by that, that’s…

BILL SHORTEN: No.  Well, what that it is the Department of Human Services has advised us that talking to teenagers who have kids is that they like to be referred to as young parents.  I really – I was a bit surprised when I saw The Australian story that that was the headline.  This is about not stigmatising people.  I don’t know about you guys, I don’t make judgements about people very much of the time and if you’re a teenager who’s had a child and you’ve decided to have the child, you’re going to raise the child, you should be supported.  You know, there’s plenty of people who may want to make moral tut-tutting noises about whether or not they should have had the child in the first place.  Well, that’s not my job.  My job is these are facts.  People deserve help.

MALE COMPERE 2:  But what I’m trying to get at is do teenage mums feel stigmatised by being called teen mums?

BILL SHORTEN: I’m advised that the feedback that we get is that young parents is a term which is inclusive, doesn’t seem to carry as much stigma.  For myself, it’s all about respect.  You know, if you like to be called Nick or Justin or Mr McCallum or…

MALE COMPERE 1: He got called far worse about four minutes ago.

MALE COMPERE 2: Yeah, that’s right.

BILL SHORTEN: Yeah, I heard that.  I didn’t think that was necessary.  You know, the Cats did beat Collingwood which is still ripping me to bits.  You know, and they’re a pack of pussies, but they managed to beat us.

MALE COMPERE 2:  They did okay, didn’t they?

BILL SHORTEN: They did, so I’d be careful of choosing…


BILL SHORTEN: But no, my point, though, is really, there are people – you know, life doesn’t go quite in the set steps and trick is how do you make sure they get a year twelve education, how do you make sure they’re getting support they require and for me to debate about the nomenclature, the names is a – it’s a second order issue, but to be fair to people, if we’re getting feedback that they feel being called a young parent is more respectful, what does it hurt us?

MALE COMPERE 2:  Minister, there is a feeling, though, isn’t there, that – not a – I wouldn’t go as far to say it’s a stigma, but a feeling that if a woman, a girl, has a child when they’re a teenager, their life almost ends.  That, you know, along comes the baby and they’re now a mum and their chances of education, their chances of employment are finished.

BILL SHORTEN: Well, our research shows that in some cases, once the parent has the baby and if they haven’t finished school, they just drop out of the system and we all know that in the twenty-first century, you’re just smart to make sure that the teenagers get through year twelve or equivalent skill set.  You just need education to survive in this world.

MALE COMPERE 2:  Okay and Mr Shorten, we’ve just spoken to Douglas Wood.  He has suggested – this is on another issue, he has suggested the Australian Government get involved in trying to maybe fund a school or a medical centre in the Phillippines regarding trying to get the release of Warren Rodwell.  Is that a feasible suggestion?

BILL SHORTEN: I don’t know.  We’ve got a foreign aid budget.  I know that we do provide plenty of aid and assistance all around the world, already.  I’m not going to start second guessing those negotiations or Government policy on it.  I mean, Douglas Wood, you would listen carefully to what he has to say, but we already fund a lot of foreign aid.  So I don’t know the short answer.  I could pass it on to relevant ministers.

MALE COMPERE 1:  A complicated problem.  We did want to ask you about another one, if you don’t mind.  The Government has copped a little flak in the papers today about ANZAC Day and holding a focus group in – for want of a better term – marketing ANZAC Day.  Did you manage to see that story?

BILL SHORTEN: No, no.  Tell me – just go through what the…

MALE COMPERE 1:  Well, the guts of the story is that the Federal Government is trying to brand ANZAC Day and a couple of groups have come out and suggested, well, you don’t really need to brand ANZAC Day.  It takes care of itself.

MALE COMPERE 2:  It’s the centenary of ANZAC Day, the brand.

MALE COMPERE 1:  Yeah, for two thousand and fifteen.

BILL SHORTEN: Well, the centenary of ANZAC is an important event and I know that the Government’s been working on making sure that we do celebrate that appropriately.  We don’t own the ANZAC.  The Government of any persuasion don't own that, the ANZAC tradition.  It belongs to the people of Australia.  You know, asking them what it means to people is, sort of – is smart.  How we should acknowledge it’s important, asking people how we should acknowledge it’s an important milestone is the right thing to do.  We want the – we want ANZAC Day to resonate widely.  There’s no ANZACS living any more.  We don’t want our children and our grandchildren to forget what this meant.  Especially, it’s important for our living veterans and defence force members that we get this right.  In terms of talking to people, talking to ex-service organisations, consulting with them, focus groups…

MALE COMPERE 1:  Just all part of the…


MALE COMPERE 1:  All part of the deal.

BILL SHORTEN: …think just doing your homework, isn’t it.

MALE COMPERE 1:  Yeah.  Just before we – well, thanks for responding, but just before we finish off, two thousand and twelve.  What have we got to keep an eye on this year?

BILL SHORTEN: Well we want to make sure we advancing the debate about the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I want to make sure we pass our superannuation legislation from 9 - 12% in the Senate.  In workplace relations, which is another area I've got,we want to make sure people have got safe and secure jobs, make sure people go to work and come home safely . That employers feel like they are getting a fair deal as well. We don't know what the opposition thinks about workplace relations. They keep saying "do something" but they don't tell us what they want to do.  Jobs is a big issue too. We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to get people into work. These are all big things this year and are ceratinly on my radar.