THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC AM WITH CHRIS UHLMANN
MONDAY, 5 MAY 2014
Subjects: Indonesia, the Budget, ICAC
CHRIS UHLMANN: Tanya Plibersek is the Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman for the Opposition. She’s recently returned from Indonesia. Welcome to AM.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hello, Chris. How are you?
UHLMANN: Good, thanks. Tanya Plibersek, what do you make of Tony Abbott’s decision not to attend the Open Government Partnership in Bali?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it’s quite concerning. We understand that the President of Indonesia has issued a personal invitation to the Prime Minister and ironically it’s to attend an open government forum but we don’t know the reason the Prime Minister is not attending. It’s not credible to suggest that he is required in Australia for Budget preparation. The Budget would be basically at the printers now unless there’s a great deal more chaos than you’d normally expect around Budget time. So, I think it does put light to the claim that the Government make that the boat turn-backs policy is not affecting the relationship with Indonesia.
UHLMANN: You’ve just come back from Indonesia. How would you describe the relationship?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think overall our relationship is a strong one, but it is absolutely off track at the moment and Labor wants to see it back on track. We still don’t have an Indonesian Ambassador here in Australia. It’s been more than a hundred days since the Australian Government said that they would sign a document with the Indonesians that would set out some terms around our relationship that would get it back on track. It means cooperation is suspended in a number of very critical areas, that’s not good for Australia’s long term relationship with Indonesia, it’s also not good for Australian businesses wanting to do business in Indonesia. It’s an important trading partner for us, it’s an important strategic partner for us, it’s growing and strengthening importance as Indonesian prosperity increases – we need the relationship back on track.
UHLMANN: So, how much responsibility do you take for the poor state of that relationship given that what really annoyed the Indonesian President was the bugging of his phone which took place on Labor’s watch in 2009?
PLIBERSEK: Well, when Vice President Boediono was here just a few months ago, he said to Bill Shorten and I that the relationship between Australia and Indonesia, until a few months ago, had never been better and he gave –
UHLMANN: Of course that wasn’t revealed until after you left government.
PLIBERSEK: Well, what I’m talking about is after we left government, the visit was when we were in Opposition and it was very clear then and it was very clear in the warm meetings that I had in Indonesia, including with the Foreign Minister, there’s a great deal of affection for Australia in Indonesia, that there’s a desire there to get the relationship back on track. I think it does require the Prime Minister to make a greater effort than he’s made up til now to see the relationship restored to what it was.
UHLMANN: People have been talking a lot about broken promises in the lead up to the Budget, but surely the most often repeated promise by the Coalition was to stop the boats, and that’s what it’s done.
PLIBERSEK: You know, there was a substantial decrease in the number of people making the dangerous journey to Australia by boat –
UHLMANN: But they hadn’t stopped.
PLIBERSEK: - after Labor worked with Indonesia to stop visa on arrival arrangements for Iranians transiting through Indonesia to Australia. There was a substantial drop after the arrangements were made with Nauru and Manus Island. And, Chris, if you’re really interested in asking the question about why those numbers didn’t drop earlier, it would be worth asking Scott Morrison when he’s contemplating sending asylum seekers to Cambodia, why the arrangement with Malaysia that Labor proposed, that would’ve allowed asylum seekers to work, that would’ve allowed their children to attend schools, that would’ve allowed people to receive medical attention in Malaysia, was unacceptable. Scott Morrison talks a lot about 1200 people who died trying to make the journey to Australia. 800 of those died after that Malaysian arrangement was proposed.
UHLMANN: Now, just on another issue. There was a report in The Australian this morning that the Government is poised for asset sales in the Budget. What’s your view on that?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think that it’s extraordinary that a week out from the Budget, there seems to be so much uncertainty from the Government about what’s in and what’s out. We hear them ruling things out, the previous story was talking about the mining companies are able to get an assurance that there won’t be an increase to the cost of diesel fuel, but ordinary Australians aren’t able to get an assurance that their health costs won’t go up. I think there’s a great deal of concern that if Medibank Private, which is the one that’s being speculated about for example, is sold, that health care costs will go up. We know that Peter Dutton’s already ticked off on the highest private health insurance premiums increases in a decade, if Medibank Private is privatised, then there is less competition, the Government would have to show how this would improve health competition and prices for ordinary Australians. And my understanding is that it doesn’t hit the bottom line, what we lose is the income from Medibank Private. It’s just an ideological decision if it happens, it’s not an effort to improve the Budget.
UHLMANN: One last thing briefly, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption shining a harsh light on political donations. Should they have limited it to individuals, not business groups or trade unions?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think that the first thing that it’s important to ensure is that there is proper transparency and the reports today about this secretive organisation that is directing money to Joe Hockey’s campaign, I think shows that there’s people making a great deal of effort to get around the rules that already exist. So the first thing is to thoroughly and transparently apply the rules that already exist. And the second thing, Chris, that I think we really have to look at, for Federal campaigns, is looking at the amount that we’re spending on political campaigning. Whileever there’s an arms race, where parties are trying to outdo each other during a campaign, there will be pressure from parties to raise money. So, as well as properly applying existing rules, so that there is transparency and accountability, we should look at what we’re spending.
UHLMANN: Tanya Plibersek, we’ll have to leave it there. Thank you.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you.