THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
SATURDAY, 3 MAY 2014
SUBJECT/S: Australia’s relationship with Indonesia; Budget.
REPORTER: How embarrassing is this for the Government that they’ve had to cancel the visit to Bali?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I'm very concerned that the Prime Minister at this very late stage has decided not to go to Indonesia. This was a personal invitation from the Indonesian President and it does look rather odd that at this late stage the Prime Minister has cancelled the trip.
REPORTER: You don’t believe that that it’s to do with budgetary issues?
PLIBERSEK: Well if they are still working on the Budget to the extent they need the Prime Minister here, this shows it's a government in chaos. The Budget is just weeks away and at this stage should virtually be at the printers. I mean it is an extraordinary claim, if it's true, that the Prime Minister, that the Budget is in such a bad state at the moment or such an early draft that the Prime Minister has to be here to hold the hand of the Treasurer to get it ready for Tuesday week.
I mean I've been around for the preparation of a Budget or two and I would amazed if they are at such early stage of the development of the Budget that the Prime Minister still needs to be here. I mean, phones do work in Indonesia. If there were a few late questions still to be tied down in the Budget, surely they could give him a call.
REPORTER: What kind of opportunity would this have presented, considering Indonesia is to have elections in July, and that President Yudoyono won’t any longer be the President anyway?
PLIBERSEK: I think we have said before that it's very important for Australia to get the relationship with Indonesia back on track. Indonesia is a very important neighbour to us. We've got a good friendship with Indonesia, it's an important economic and strategic partner. The sad fact is that for many months now, the relationship has been under pressure. We still have no Indonesian ambassador in Australia. There are a number of areas of co-operation between the Indonesian and Australian Government that are suspended at the moment. It is very important that we get the relationship back on track. I think in fact it would better to do it with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has been a very good friend to Australia over the years. Any new President elected in these presidential elections will of course in the first instance focus on their domestic concerns. That happens whenever you have got a new Government. The danger is that after presidential election, we will see further delays to restoring state the relationship to the healthy state that it should be in.
REPORTER: Do you think that it was Tony Abbott's office that declined the invitation or do you think it perhaps came from the Indonesians, that they requested he not attend in light of the reports about boat being intercepted?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I can't begin to speculate on that. That is obviously a question for the Government. But if the case is that the Prime Minister's not visiting Indonesia because, as we've seen reported today, it may be that a boat has been intercepted and will be returned to Indonesian soil, it shows that what the Government has been saying about the relationship with Indonesia not being affected by boat turn backs is not true. This Government came to office - excuse me for a second - this Government came to office having made election commitments about what would happen in Indonesian waters and on Indonesian soil without ever having discussed that with the Indonesian Government. Then they claimed that those announcements that they have made had no effect on the relationship with Indonesia. If the reports are correct that the reason that the Prime Minister's not going is because an orange life raft might turn up on Indonesian soil while he's there and that that would embarrassing and difficult, it does show that the claims that the Government has made, that this is having no effect on relationship are simply not true.
REPORTER: The way things stand at the moment, it does show, though, their boat turn back policy is working. Is there any point that Labor would start to support that policy and is it just inevitable that a policy like that, the fact it's working, that there will be Indonesia some strained relations with Indonesia as a consequence?
PLIBERSEK: Sorry, it's the wind. Look, there are several factors that have reduced the number of people attempt to make the dangerous journey to Australia by sea. The first is getting rid of –
REPORTER: Sorry, Tanya.
PLIBERSEK: You tell me when you're ready.
REPORTER: Is there a point where Labor support it in the future and is it an inevitable part of the boat turn back policies are strained?
[Break in audio]
PLIBERSEK: There are several factors that have reduced the number of people coming to Australia by boat. The first is the end of the visa on arrival arrangement for Iranians in Indonesia. The second is of course the weather is particularly bad at this time of year. And of course the offshore processing arrangements of Nauru and Manus Island have also contributed to that.
[Break in audio]
The difference between those earlier things, the visa on arrival and the offshore processing, is that Labor introduced those in cooperation with our neighbours. We didn’t make unilateral announcements about what would happen in Indonesia, we did that in cooperation with Indonesia.
The other question of course for Scott Morrison is that when he says when he sees offshore processing on Nauru and on Manus Island has been successful how does he justify the fact that he opposed the arrangement with Malaysia? Scott Morrison talks a lot about the 1200 people who have died at sea and of course that is the thing that has always driven Labor’s policy, seeking an end to people risking their lives to come to Australia. But 800 of those people drowned after Scott Morrison rejected the arrangement with Malaysia that Labor had proposed.
REPORTER: I’ve just got one more that was texted through to me from Channel 10, are you able to comment on the talk about no dole before the age of 25?
PLIBERSEK: Can I just make one other comment about the trip to Indonesia. It’s ironic that the invitation to Indonesia was to a conference on open government but our Prime Minister won’t tell us why he’s rejected the invitation at this late stage. Indonesia is an important friend to Australia, the relationship is under stress at the moment. Labor has offered bipartisan support to the Government to get the relationship back on track and rejecting this invitation at this late stage really does put extra strain on the relationship. It’s very important that the Prime Minister discloses the reason that he’s really not going because Australians deserve to know why he’s putting further pressure on the relationship with such an important neighbour.
REPORTER: And do you have any comment on the reports that the budget will contain measures to curb the dole under the age of 25?
PLIBERSEK: We’ve seen a lot of budget speculation over recent days and all of it has been pretty nasty. Tony Abbott came to government saying that there’d be no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to the pension and no new taxes. He’s already broken every one of those promises. Now with the Commission of Audit we see that he’s got a lot worse in store for Australians. Today’s reports are of course saying that young people will be left to fend for themselves if they’re unfortunate enough to be unemployed and not studying. Of course we’re concerned, but it’s all in the piece of what we’ve seen in the Commission of Audit. The Commission of Audit’s saying $15 to go to the doctor, higher costs for medicines, it’s saying essentially the end of Medicare for ordinary Australians. More expensive private health insurance that you’ll be forced to take out. The Commission of Audit is also saying higher taxes including a state based income tax system, so you won’t just pay income tax to the federal government, you’ll pay income tax to the state government as well. And of course the Commission of Audit is saying cuts to minimum wages. If the Commission of Audit’s suggestions were accepted right now, a worker on minimum wage would be about $140 a week worse off than they are now. This is Commission of Audit is a blueprint for a budget of broken promises. Thanks everyone.