SUBJECTS: Education; Longman by-election.

CRAIG ZONCA, PRESENTER: Craig Zonca and Rebecca Levingston with you this morning. Of course this Saturday if you are in Longman, well you have to go and vote. It's by-election time and that means you will be deciding the fate of the likes of Susan Lamb, Trevor Ruthenberg and the other nine candidates, there are eleven in total on that ballot paper. And despite many invitations, Susan Lamb has been somewhat media shy but her Federal Deputy Labor Leader, Tanya Plibersek is more than willing to chat. Tanya Plibersek good morning to you.
TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION:  More than willing to chat, good morning Craig, good morning Rebecca. 
ZONCA: How do we get Susan Lamb in the studio?
PLIBERSEK: Oh I don’t know, I'm very happy to be here to talk about the campaign in Longman and anything else you would like to talk about today.
ZONCA: OK so, education forum last night in Longman, about 120, 130-odd people there. Were they interested in engaging in the debate over who is spending what? 
PLIBERSEK: Oh absolutely. I mean a lot of the people who came last night were parents and teachers, principals of neighbouring schools and we talked about the Government’s $17 billion cut from education. What that means at a local level: millions of dollars cut in the seat of Longman. The event last night was hosted by the Catholic school parents and principals and teachers but of course we have been campaigning with public school parents and teachers as well and Independent schools. The Government has managed to do something that no government in the history of the universe before, which is unite all three school sectors against their funding cuts. 
ZONCA: But in saying that and I know you've spoken previously about cuts, I think at Dakabin State School where you accused the Coalition of imposing $460,000 worth of cuts over two years, yet the Education Minister Simon Birmingham has said the schools funding would actually increase from $1.7 million to $2.6 million over a decade...
PLIBERSEK: It’s such a...
ZONCA: It sounds like everyone wants to use numbers to advocate for their own argument here...
PLIBERSEK: It's such a frustrating thing from Simon Birmingham. The state governments and school systems like the Catholic school system had legislated agreements with the previous Labor Government that saw funding increases. Tony Abbott came in, he cut $40 billion from schools. Malcolm Turnbull came back and he put a bit of that money back, so he says "oh it’s a funding increase". If you look at the Department of Education’s own figures they show $17 billion less spent in our schools over the next decade, that’s from Simon Birmingham's own Department. If you look at the briefing document that Malcolm Turnbull handed out on the day that he described his new funding arrangements it shows, in those days a $22 billion cut from our schools, slightly moderated by the Senate when the legislation went through. So the Government’s own documents show the funding cut compared with the legislated arrangements that Labor had in place. In Longman that’s a really serious problem. It means over 2018 and 2019, millions of dollars less for schools in Longman and parents are concerned about that.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON, PRESENTER: Longman is not short of serious problems on lots of fronts, Tanya Plibersek, and I reckon lots of people in Caboolture this morning, who are dealing with a family member with addiction, domestic violence before the kids even go to school, Bribie Island where people are struggling to decide, do I turn on my lights or my heater this week in winter, because I can’t afford it. I wonder whether they are thinking about how much a Labor member can deliver from Opposition to solve some of those very real day to day issues.
PLIBERSEK: Well of course you're right, what we need is a Labor Government to solve those day to day issues and a Labor Government means better investment in our schools, in our hospitals, in the infrastructure, the transport, the links across the electorate. The Liberals have consistently gone after the lowest income people in our community and what's really disappointing is One Nation's helped them. One Nation has voted more than 90 per cent of the time with the Government, when they've been cutting pensions, cutting the energy supplement from pensioners, cutting family tax benefits so that families get less money in their pockets. You look at the tax proposals of the Government - backed by One Nation - the cuts go to the big end of town, 60 per cent of the benefits flow to multinational companies offshore, Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Turnbull voted themselves a $7,000 tax cut and an ordinary worker in Bribie Island 10 bucks a week. 
LEVINGSTON: Well the Prime Minister...
PLIBERSEK: Sorry, just one last thing. Penalty rates, you know the people that you're talking about who are giving up their Sundays to work to make ends meet, had their penalty rates stripped from them, Sundays and public holidays, because of the Government. And One Nation backed that as well. For the people that are struggling to make ends meet, they need Susan Lamb in Longman but they - you're right, they need a Labor Government.
LEVINGSTON: Well that's not what I asserted and that Labor Government, the potential of that well, who knows when or if that may even happen and people in Longman have to vote on Saturday for their issues now. The Prime Minister would say in terms of assistance...
PLIBERSEK: But hang on. Yes they need to vote on Saturday for their issues now so why would they vote for Trevor Ruthenberg whose the guy who backed health cuts, backed education cuts when he was part of Campbell Newman's Government, wanted to sell off the oval from the local school, he's not going to stand up for their interests.
ZONCA: But why would people vote for Susan Lamb who has dragged them through this by-election drama in the first place?
PLIBERSEK: Well just talking about by-elections, we had a by-election where the Deputy Prime Minister of the country asserted that he was entitled to stay the Deputy Prime Minister of the country until his by-election happened. We had a by-election in Sydney in the electorate of Bennelong. This is unfortunate. This citizenship stuff has been terrible for the country.
ZONCA: Bill Shorten was in this studio earlier this year, he sat where you are, Tanya Plibersek, and he said to us that there would be no issue with Susan Lamb's citizenship. That turned out to be effectively a lie. It was tested in the High Court...
PLIBERSEK: Excuse me, not a lie, a misunderstanding of what the High Court has always found which is that if people take every reasonable step, then they don't have citizenship questions. Barnaby Joyce took no steps to fix his citizenship, John Alexander took no steps fix his citizenship, Susan did...
ZONCA: And is was found that Susan Lamb hadn't done the steps required by the High Court.
PLIBERSEK: She did everything that was in her power at the time to do and it is unfortunate that people are having a by-election, it's driving people crazy. I know people are driven crazy by by-elections. Nobody wanted to go through this, I can tell you. I'd love to be campaigning all over the country about the issues that matter to ordinary people, their pay and conditions at work, decent pensions, a good Medicare system, great education for their kids.
LEVINGSTON: Tanya Plibersek, you've been to Longman a couple of times now. Do you get a sense that locals are still angry at Susan Lamb?
PLIBERSEK: No. I get a sense that they're a bit tired of the by-election, I'd give you that much, but the strongest sense I get is that Susan is a great local candidate, great connections in the area, raised her four boys there, worked as a teacher's aid there, knows the local community back to front, and I get a very strong sense that the days of Campbell Newman are not long enough ago for people to have forgotten that Trevor Ruthenberg backed those cuts to healthcare and to education that saw thousands of nurses and teachers lose their jobs. And what kind of local representative is prepared to sell off the oval from the school?
ZONCA: And what kind of local representative isn't prepared to do media interviews?
PLIBERSEK: Well I've been with Susan in lots of media interviews.
ZONCA: Have you?
PLIBERSEK: Yes. We had the ABC at the event last night. They filmed the whole thing.
ZONCA: They might have filmed the whole thing but a sit-down interview with the ABC, will Susan Lamb do that before Saturday?
PLIBERSEK: I'm not her media adviser. You'd have to ask her that.
LEVINGSTON: Can you let her know that I'll be in Longman throughout all of Friday morning, any time between 6am and 10am and I will come to whereever she is.
PLIBERSEK: I'm sure she'll be delighted to see you, but Susan and I actually did an ABC television interview yesterday on pre-poll, so, I don't know, maybe you, I don't know...
ZONCA: Maybe they just don't like our phone number.
PLIBERSEK: ....maybe you ought to have been there yesterday where we had an ABC camera and an ABC journalist interviewing her at the pre-poll.
LEVINGSTON: Tanya Plibersek is our guest, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition federally, in town campaigning ahead of Saturday's by-election, which the Prime Minister is on the record in saying this is essentially a choice between Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull. Can I throw at you a turn of phrase that I heard the other day about Bill Shorten's leadership, because the last time you were here, Tanya Plibersek, we said to you is Labor backing the wrong man, he's not gaining any ground in the polls in terms of preferred Prime Minister.
PLIBERSEK: Well, preferred Prime Minister is not the measure we look at. We have been consistently ahead. Any election, any time in the last two and a half years, we would have won, and we would have won an extra 14 or 16 seats. That's not a bad measure.
LEVINGSTON: And arguably Australia would have a Prime Minister who they don't seem to approve of, that's if you believe those kind of polls. If you're going to believe the polls in terms of parties, you've got to take it with the leader as well.
PLIBERSEK: Well I don't think you do.
LEVINGSTON: Someone said to me Bill Shorten has all the credentials or Bob Hawke and none of the charisma.
PLIBERSEK: I just think that's incredibly unfair. People really like Bill when they meet him. We were at a worksite meeting this morning with transport workers and it was terrific, it was great. 
ZONCA: If Labor loses Longman, is that cause for a leadership spill of the Labor Party?
PLIBERSEK: We're not contemplating that. We've got the best candidate, we've got the best policies and I know people would love us to be talking about ourselves. We're just not going there. We are focussed on what matters to the people of Longman and the people of Australia, which is a decent job with fair pay and conditions, a great school for their kids to go to, a TAFE or university education if they want it, a strong Medicare system, policies that actually bring down energy prices and bring down pollution, infrastructure investment - that's what matters, that's what people want us to be talking about. All voters, all citizens, mark us down when we focus on ourselves. We won't do it.
LEVINGSTON: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for the time this morning. Appreciate it.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you very much.