18 November 2021


SUBJECTS: Labor’s Scambuster policy; working with business to take on scammers; Scott Morrison’s do-nothing Government.

MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Boy oh boy one of the big problems we found during the pandemic has been the increasingly irritable number of scams, absolutely.  Unfortunately, many vulnerable people have been sucked in by those who use usually lurk on the dark web, but they've gone almost commercial. It’s just ridiculous.  Anyway, I thought I'd talk about that this morning with the Shadow Assistant Treasurer of Australia, it’s Stephen Jones. Stephen, good morning, welcome to the program. Good morning to you.

STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning to you and your listeners. Good to be with you. 

PAUL: Thank you very much. Scambuster, we need something out there that ensures we're looking after not just the most vulnerable Australians but everybody at the moment. 

JONES: So many people have been caught up in this. It's costing us $33bn a year. Households, small businesses being bombarded with SMS messages, fake calls, emails. We know that scams have quadrupled over the period of the last 12 months. We've got to do much more about it. Last week I announced that Labor would set up a new scam-busting centre in the Commonwealth Government …

PAUL: That’s right, yeah.

JONES: … to monitor and knock these things off in real time. But there's also a role for corporate Australia. Because too often we're seeing legitimate businesses do exactly the same things that the scammers are doing by sending out SMSs with clickable links saying come into this website and fill in your details. We’re priming vulnerable Australians to participate in practices which are frankly dangerous. They're exactly the same practices that scammers engage in and too often people don't know whether they're dealing with a legitimate link or a fraud, a fake, a scammer. 

PAUL: Well, that's right, big business, you say, need to review how they communicate with their customers. Text messages, unsolicited phone calls and the gathering of personal data over the phone might be cost-effective and efficient them but it primes customers for scammers. Because, as you say, you know, the logo looks like it's from the CommBank or it looks like it's from, you know, a reputable business that you deal with, GIO or whoever. And you click on it and next thing, you know they're into your bank account. 

JONES: Exactly. Now, I want to be very clear. I'm not having a crack at businesses. They've been engaging in an efficient practice. But the world's changed and we've going to change business practices to meet that so that the Australians aren't losing $33bn a year through these practices. Two things that I think need to be changed. One is the use of SMSing out links. Some of Australia's biggest companies, including government businesses, are doing it. 

PAUL: Yeah.

JONES: We need to stop it. The second one is, we've got to find a way of dealing with, you know, the I'm sure your customers would have had a phone call from a bank, a power company, a telco. 

PAUL: Yeah. 

JONES: And the first thing a person says to you is I just need to ask you a few personal questions so I can verify that you are Stephen Jones, Marcus Paul. 

PAUL: That's right.

JONES: And they ask you a couple of things. But there's no way for the customer to verify the person calling them is coming from the organisation that they say they're coming from. And after they're verified, they hand over personal information. So we've got a review those practices and ensure that we aren't engaging in exactly the same practices that the scammers, the frauds, the criminals rely upon for their $33bn theft of Australia's wealth.

PAUL: Well, that's right. Absolutely. And we need to protect the most vulnerable in our community, the elderly, those with English as a second language. Some people are just digitally naïve. I've had, with respect she's listening, she won't mind because it's a warning, because my mother, she was scammed. She clicked on something. And I always say to her, Mum don't. And now she checks with me. Marcus, what do you think this looks like? And I’m, no Mum no, don't click on it. 

JONES: We're all worried sick about our Mums, our Dads, our aunts, our grandparents. Worried sick about them, which is why everyone needs to step up. We need the government to jump into this space. They've been virtually silent. We need businesses to change their practices. And we've got to have a conversation with our parents as well. 

PAUL: Yeah, absolutely. I've spoken to your colleagues as I do often. Obviously, Anthony Albanese and your other colleagues. But just a comment or two from you. Scott Morrison “more loaded, dog than underdog” you write on social media, “he’s always there to take credit for other people's success, but never takes responsibility for his own failures.” And you've linked the story, the PM employing a risky strategy to win votes off disaffected Australians. What's all this about? 

JONES: Well, it's actually related to the thing that I've just, Scott Morrison's running around saying we need government to do less. Actually, we need government to do the right things. So cracking down on all these scammers and frauds and online theft is an obvious thing that we need government to step up and do. So, when Scott Morrison says we need government to be doing less, not more, what he’s trying to do is give himself a free pass for not acting on the big things that Australia needs us to be acting on it. And I've just had five-minute conversation with you about one of them, there's lots more. 

PAUL: Yeah, sure. What about the interference that you say is political in relation to the ABC? Again, you say the Liberals are after aunty and that we should be concerned by it, Stephen. 

JONES: Mate, whether it's 2SM, 2GB, the ABC, Channel 9, I want a robust free, fair, investigative, tough media holding politicians to account. And what we don't need is politicians, whether the Prime Minister or people like me standing in our bully pulpit, screaming and trying to cower the media organisations for doing their job, which is holding us to account and telling Australians what they need to hear about. I think too often we've seen from this government, if a journalist tells a story that they don't like, they attack the messenger instead of dealing with the message. 

PAUL: Yeah, Good point. Good to talk to you, Stephen. We will chat again ahead of the big ballot, which is coming up. What do you reckon? March? Or May? 

JONES: My money's on May. But it he could call it any time after Australia Day next year.