Transcript of ABC TV interview Capital Hill with Greg Jennett

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Transcript of ABC TV interview

Capital Hill with Greg Jennett

2 APRIL 2014

PERTH

E&OE

Subjects: WA Senate Election, party reform, free trade agreements, diplomatic appointments.

Greg Jennett: Tanya Plibersek let’s start with the Western Australian Senate election campaign, what does it matter to  the balance of power in the Senate if Labor gets one or two seats? Doesn’t the ultimate fate of things like carbon or mining tax hinge on the assembly of cross-benchers there?

Tanya Plibersek: Well, Tony Abbott’s said that he wants to be the same sort of Prime Minister as Colin Barnett is a state Premier and I think sending a very strong message to Tony Abbott that the cuts that have happened here in Western Australia are not just unpopular here in Western Australia but are a bad thing for the rest for Australia as well, would be a good thing at this Senate election on Saturday. It’s important for Labor to have a strong showing and we’re working very hard to make sure we get good voter turnout. The biggest risk of course on Saturday is poor voter turnout. So I’m here and my colleagues have been here reminding people to vote.

Jennett: Now while this campaign is underway we’ve seen the emergence of a national conversation in Labor about its ties to the union movement with contributions coming from David Feeney and Simon Crean and others. What’s your view? Is there room to loosen those ties and make union membership for example optional?

Plibersek: Unions I think still have a very important role in the Australian community and the role that they play in the Labor Party is an important one too. But I think that there’s always room in the Labor party to talk about how we can modernise and how we can democratise and how we attract people that are not the natural constituency of unions.

Jennett: Alright let’s go to some issues that broadly relate to your foreign affairs portfolio. We’ve seen at least 500 job losses announced today at BP and at Phillip Morris all of them linked to Asia in some way and this comes at a time when the push for more free trade deals is intensifying. Is there a point at which these should be slowed down in the interest of Australian jobs?

Plibersek: Look I think a better trading relationship with our neighbours has actually been in the long run very good for Australian jobs, but it does mean our economy goes through readjustments and the government has a responsibility to help with those readjustments. To make sure that we’re looking into the future and we’re looking forward to see what sort of jobs Australians will be doing in the future.

Jennett: And just finally, the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program has reported that Alexander Downer had discussed but never actually received or asked for a $60 000 Success Fee for trying to get Australian property executive Matt Joyce out of jail in Dubai. Does that show sound judgement in your view? The decision not to accept it I suppose rather than the contemplation of it.

Plibersek: Well I haven’t read those reports I’m afraid, so I can’t comment on the detail of it and I’m not going to make any comments about the Matthew Joyce case for that reason. But what I would say about Alexander Downer is that it’s pretty extraordinary that we’ve seen very experienced former state premiers recalled from both New York and London to make way for Mr Downer and Nick Minchin.

Jennett: And do you suggest that Alexander Downer is not the best person for this London post?

Plibersek: Well, I think others can make that determination. But I’ve got to say, when Mike Rann and Steve Bracks were recalled from these posts it looked very much like it was very simple politics.

Jennett: Alright, Tanya Plibersek, we’ll leave it there and let you get back to campaigning in the West. Thank you.

Plibersek: Thank you.

 

 

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Transcript of Sky News Australian Agenda with Peter van Onselen, Paul Kelly and Simon Benson

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Transcript of Sky News Australian Agenda

with Peter van Onselen, Paul Kelly and Simon Benson

E&OE

Subjects: The Speaker, knights and dames, Racial Discrimination Act, Medibank Private, intelligence gathering, Russia, party reform, plain packaging

Peter Van Onselen: We’ll discuss some of this in a moment, right now in fact, with Tanya Plibersek, the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party.  Thanks for joining us.

Tanya Plibersek: It’s a pleasure.

Van Onselen: Is it a serious issue, the Bronwyn Bishop situation? Because I put it in that package after the knighthoods and dames, which we’ll no doubt talk about as well, but Labor was accused of a stunt on this but Tony Burke was quite clear in his comments that this was something that your side took very seriously before moving the motion that you did.

Plibersek: I think it’s very well worth listening to Tony’s speech or reading it because it does lay out in quite a lot of detail why we took the action we did. We didn’t take it lightly. As your package showed there had been, I think, 98 people thrown out on one side by that stage, and 0 on the other side.

Van Onselen: But is the point there that you just needed a couple of token members of the Government thrown out and then it looks much like what a lot of parliaments have been like on both sides over the years.

Plibersek: Look I have to be very careful not to reflect on the Speaker of course. I think it’s fair to say that it has been a Parliament unexpectedly rowdy. We thought, in fact, that once Tony Abbott became the Prime Minister that some of the very hard behaviour would evaporate. We thought once he achieved his goal perhaps things would settle back into a more normal kind of Opposition-Government relationship, but that hasn’t happened.

Van Onselen: But Liberals would say it’s your side that is being rowdy, because of whatever reason. There was even accusations of misogyny of Labor men on the frontbench against Speaker Bronwyn Bishop.

Plibersek: I don’t think Bronwyn Bishop would claim that for a moment and I don’t think anybody in the Parliament would for a minute suggest that that in fact is the case. It is important that Members of Parliament don’t reflect on the Speaker in the Parliament or outside the Parliament. But it has been an unexpectedly rowdy Parliament. We’ve seen very many members from the Opposition thrown out, none from the Government. And it is unusual for the Speaker to participate in debate in the way that this Speaker has chosen to. In the past for example, Speakers have also chosen not to attend party room meetings because the role of the Speaker is by tradition always one that is independent, that doesn’t intervene in debate, that doesn’t take the side of a particular political party. And they go in of course with the support of their party but then they remove themselves from the day to day rough and tumble of political life. That’s the historical position.

Paul Kelly: But isn’t the truth here that Labor doesn’t have clean hands when it comes to the Speakership given that it traded the job for votes in the last parliament? I mean you’re hardly in a position to be holier than thou here.

Plibersek: Well, Paul I think you understand that when the numbers are as finely balanced as they were in the last parliament, having a Speaker from another party or from the crossbench makes it frankly, easier to govern. If you remove one of your own number from the count every single vote-

Kelly: Wasn’t it a mistake to make Peter Slipper Speaker? Didn’t Labor get that wrong given what happened to Slipper? Surely you’re not defending that.

Plibersek: No, I think if we all had twenty-twenty foresight as clearly as we’ve got twenty-twenty hindsight it would be a very different world, wouldn’t it?

Kelly: But it was a mistake though?

Plibersek: We had very, very finely balanced numbers in the Parliament, a hung Parliament, and having someone who wasn’t taking a vote away from the Labor Party every single time we stood up to vote. We passed 500 pieces of legislation in the last Parliament and in part that was because we could rely on each Labor vote to be a Labor vote.

Simon Benson: Do you expect now that you’ve made your point about the Speaker, and I understand you can’t reflect on the Speaker, on the Chair, Tony Burke reflected in depth the other day–

Plibersek: It’s a great speech, people should watch it.

Benson: It was an interesting speech, it led to an interesting outcome in the Parliament after that, but what do expect to achieve out of it? What’s going to happen now? You’ve made you point about it. It’s unlikely to change anything. What did you achieve by raising that in the way you did?

Plibersek: I think it’s very important that we have a Parliament where both sides feel that they can be heard and both sides feel that they are treated equally and that if they behave the same way they’ll be treated in the same way and I hope that in future our Parliament will be like that.

Benson: But it looked, from the look on the Speakers face after that speech, it’s unlikely that that will occur, I would have thought. You might be in for a rather cool winter, I would have thought.

Van Onselen: Yeah, I would have thought Bronwyn Bishop’s personality is not the kind where she’ll now take the six week break to reflect on her own role after you’ve tried to knock her out in a show of dishonour towards the way she’s done her job till now.

Plibersek: Well, what’s the alternative? Just sucking it up? I mean the alternative is just allowing the current situation or the way the House of Representatives has been functioning to continue and I don’t think that is an alternative.

Van Onselen: Well, I guess the question is, if she doesn’t change is the Opposition prepared to do it again?

Plibersek: I wouldn’t want to speculate now.

Van Onselen: I was just going to move to knighthoods and dames. I don’t know if you were going to do that Paul, but I just want to quickly ask you–

Plibersek: I think you mean Sir Paul, don’t you?

[Laughs]

Van Onselen: Knighthoods and dames, do you consider it anachronistic to go down this path? Are you upset or are you just ridiculing?

Plibersek: I’m not upset. It doesn’t make me angry, it doesn’t make me sad or worried. I find it perplexing. I think it’s an odd choice to make. I think it’s an odd thing to do particularly without the Prime Minister speaking to his Cabinet. The Cabinet had apparently met the day that the announcement was made and he hadn’t mentioned it to his Cabinet colleagues. So I think if you want to get support from your own side for something like that it’s a wise thing to raise it with your Cabinet colleagues. And I guess the other thing I’d say is the people who are upset by it I think are upset because, you know, truly the highest honour I would think you can get is the citizens of the country that you serve to bestow an honour upon you. No matter what you feel about the Queen, she’s a long way away and she’s not engaged in the day to day political or social life of our country. If I were thinking about the greater honour I would think that having the citizens of this country support you for an AC, for example, would be a greater honour.

Van Onselen: What about the idea though that if a man is knighted and becomes a sir, his wife becomes a lady –

Plibersek: I hope not for the first time.

Van Onselen: Well said. But if he’s in a de-facto relationship there’s nothing, if he’s a homosexual there’s nothing. I mean there would be a distinction between Justice Kirby being knighted and another justice being knighted.

Plibersek: I think you’re pointing out a few of the range of things that’s wrong with the proposal but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. We have said that this is a distraction, it’s a side issue –

Van Onselen: You’d reverse it?

Plibersek: Yeah sure, but I’m not going to spend any more time thinking about it, campaigning against it, talking about it, it’s not going to keep me awake at night.

Kelly: I know that Labor Party has had a lot of fun with this issue but it does raise another question and that is for how long will the Labor Party run dead on the republic?

Plibersek: I don’t think we are running dead on the republic –

Kelly: Of course you’re running dead on the republic. You hardly hear anything from the Labor Party about the republic for the last six to seven years.

Plibersek: Well, I think the republic is a very important issue. Is it as important today as the one job being lost every 3 minutes, or the cuts to education or the cuts to healthcare? No, it is an important issue and we have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, but our focus, the focus of our work, the vast majority of time that we spend in public debate will always be on those issues of jobs, health, education, infrastructure… We should have a republic. What are you doing to support that? You’ve got a voice that’s stronger than most in this country Paul, if you write your next leader on it then I’ll come and support you.

Kelly: Let’s just come back to the Labor Party, we’ve had six years of Labor Government, they ran completely dead, will Labor in Opposition try and crank up the issue more?

Plibersek: I think our main focus will always be on jobs and health and education. But I don’t think there is a single Labor Member of Parliament who is not a republican. The question is, do we throw ourselves at an issue that is not a huge one for the Australian public at the moment or do we focus on the things that are our bread and butter? We are in Parliament to build a strong economy and a fair society and a republic I think is an important symbolic issue but it can’t be the main game for us. But I’m delighted to hear that you’re going to be backing it in The Australian and that you’ll be cranking it up as an issue.

Kelly: We always back it in The Australian.

Benson: One issue that isn’t bread and butter but is a big issue is 18C which we’re going to talk about later. Labor were accused of starting a class war with the Coalition when in Government, do you think that the Coalition now are trying to deliberately start a culture war with Labor over 18C and the knights and dame ships feeds into that as well, do you think it’s a deliberate attempt to start a class war over this issue? A culture war, I’m sorry.

Plibersek: I think it’s hard to say any of the last couple of weeks has been really deliberate. I think the Government has lurched from one mistake to another. I think the changes to the Racial Discrimination Act are designed to deliver on a promise to a very narrow sectional interest, you know a few journalists and a handful of commentators that have said that this is a terrible impost on free speech in Australia. We haven’t heard from the Government who has been so terribly imposed upon by the Racial Discrimination Act that their rights have been curtailed up till now.

Van Onselen: Andrew Bolt.

Plibersek: Well, we haven’t heard about anyone other than Andrew Bolt and I don’t think one instance makes their case for them.

Van Onselen: Is your biggest concern here a process one rather than necessarily the outcome? The fact that there’s one case that wasn’t appealed that this seems to be based on.

Plibersek: No. My concern is not mainly a process one, my concern is that Andrew Bolt versus some other person who’s got an ability to make their case in public, who can access the newspaper, who can have their voice heard in the public debate. I’m not concerned about those two people having a public argument and who gets in trouble there. What I’m concerned about is sending a message that racist speech, or bigoted speech, in public doesn’t matter anymore. It’s all within the bounds of what’s perfectly acceptable. You know, if you’re two strong people having a debate through newspapers and Parliament and so on, that’s one thing. If you’re the person being abused on the bus, if you’re the school kid being abused in the playground, if you’re the person who’s being shouted at on the soccer field, it’s a very different thing. Those people don’t have the ability to protect themselves, they don’t have as clear access to the law and they certainly can’t put their point of view in a newspaper column as Andrew Bolt can or on TV, or anywhere else.

Kelly: But what’s wrong with saying, as the Attorney is proposing in the changes, that community values be the test?

Plibersek: Well, I think community values are critical of the idea that it’s the racists that need protection, not the people that are the subject of racist speech. And I think it’s true to say that community values should be one of the most fundamental tests of any law that they keep in this country-

Kelly: But they put them in the statute. That’s the proposal now, that it become part of the law. The community values, that what an ordinary member of the community deems to be the situation be the test. What’s wrong with that?

Plibersek: I think that that’s a very generous interpretation of what this exposure bill does. I think that your panel will be speaking about it later, but the exceptions that this new approach allows will mean that almost nothing will be out of bounds to say.

Kelly: I understand the point about the exception. I understand that point and I think you’re right on that, but let’s go back to the community values test and I know we don’t want to proceed with this too much.

Van Onselen: No doubt our panel will have some strong views on this as well, but from your perspective?

Plibersek: Well, from my perspective there’s nothing wrong with saying community values govern our legal approach in any situation, but the practical application of the changes to this law as they were proposed mean that you can basically say anything to anyone in any circumstance. The protections become so narrow and so limited almost nothing is out of bounds. So cases like the Tobin case where you’ve got a holocaust denier saying that people who object to his holocaust denial are of limited intelligence would not be picked up by this new law from the legal advice that we have.

Van Onselen: We will come back to this issue on this program. Let me ask you about Medibank Private.

Plibersek: Yep.

Van Onselen: You were Health Minister.

Plibersek: Yep.

Van Onselen: Labor could have taken this off the agenda. The Government is able to do this without legislative change as I understand it because it’s been sitting there as an available mechanism for them, which Labor could have adjusted but you never did.

Plibersek: Are you suggesting we should have changed the law to make it harder for them to sell Medibank Private?

Van Onselen: Well, if you had a problem with it, it would have been prudent planning given where the polls were at for the last few years.

Plibersek: I don’t think that governments should try and circumscribe what following governments are going to do in that way.

Van Onselen: It would have put it back to the Parliament. I mean, I think that’s what’s interesting here. It would have meant that a new government would have had to receive Parliamentary support to sell Medibank Private, whether you agree or disagree.

Plibersek: I think it’s a curious proposition that we should be legislating for the next government. We are perfectly happy to defend the fact that we didn’t sell Medibank Private. I think the reasons for doing it are that it’s short sighted, that the capital they’ll realise is only a few years’ worth of receipts from Medibank Private, so it’s a short term approach to Government finances. But also I’m concerned that any reduction in competition in the private health insurance market means premiums rise. The last lot of premium rises when Peter Dutton became Health Minister were the largest premium rises I think in a decade, but certainly much higher than anything that any Labor Minister approved during our time, my time and Nicola’s time as Health Minister. You already see the private health insurance industry putting up premiums as often and as much as they can and you take Medibank Private out of the equation, reduce competition, I see that situation getting worse.

Benson: Could I just take you to one of your portfolios as foreign policy? In a nutshell, should Russia be coming to the G20 later this year in Brisbane?

Plibersek: Well, I think that’s a decision the international community has to make together. It’s not something that Australia as host should make on its own.

Van Onselen: But you must have a view?

Plibersek: Yeah and I’m not going to –

Van Onselen: You’re not going to share it with us?

Plibersek: No, because I think that foreign policy is an area where you don’t freelance and it’s an area where there is a large degree of bipartisanship and the only time when we haven’t had bipartisanship it’s because I think the Government has been freelancing.

Benson: That sounds like an accusation that Julie Bishop may have been freelancing, has she and on what issues?

Plibersek: Yes she has, but back to your G20 thing. That’s something the international community has to decide together. I think that we do have to have stronger sanctions on Russia than we’ve had at the moment but you don’t make it up as you go along in foreign policy you have to have a national position and then an international position that you negotiate. We’re in a very good position to do that as a member of the Security Council now, as a host of the G20, I think there is a degree of leadership expected from us but we need to make decisions like that, very serious decisions, this is a serious decision, not just for the next year or two but for the next decade or half century. The decisions we’re making now will be very significant for Europe in particular, but also if Europe becomes a zone of greater conflict, then the United States pivot to Asia comes under pressure, obviously. So these are significant issues for Europe but also for us in our region.

Benson: Can I ask you a question with your other hat on, I’m not sure that everyone knows that you’re also a member of the Security and Intelligence Committee at Parliament. The US only last week are introducing laws for data retention on surveillance and intelligence gathering, specifically around telcos retaining data for eighteen months. It’s very similar to a debate we were having a year ago, the intelligence agencies here wanted extensions to powers they already had. We shelved it, should we be looking at that again? Especially in light of the radicalisation of Australians over the Syrian conflict which is obviously a concern to intelligence agencies. Should we be revisiting that bill?

Plibersek: I think that there is a misconception in the Australian public about the sort of data that’s retained in these circumstances. I think some people imagine that security agencies can go back and listen to the phone call you made to your mum eighteen months ago about what time you’re going to be home for dinner. The information that is kept in these circumstances is basically you could describe it as the envelope that the message comes in, who called whom and when. That kind of information.

Benson: Metadata.

Plibersek: And I think that it is important to be able to- people describe it as keeping the haystack so you can go back and look for the needle afterwards. We have disrupted some very serious terrorist plots in Australia. We’ve done it because we’ve got a strong intelligence community here. They do a good job. There continue to be threats. Those threats may increase for reasons that you’ve described and I want to give those agencies the maximum ability to do their job well within the bounds that people would expect.

Benson: It sounds to me as though you don’t have a problem with that concept, extending those laws to require mandatory retention of metadata by telcos for a certain period, whether a year, eighteen months, two years.

Plibersek: I think we always need to balance the expectations people have of living in a democratic and open society. But I certainly want to make it as easy for security agencies to do their job of protecting Australians from threat as we can.

Kelly: Can I just move to the Labor Party? Is it your view that Labor members need to be trade union members?

Plibersek: I think a lot of Labor Party members aren’t trade union members.

Kelly: Are you trade union member?

Plibersek: I am, I’m a member if the CPSU, and I have been for, I don’t know, 20 years at least.

Kelly: Do you want a formal change to the rules or not?

Plibersek: I think that we need to recognise that there are plenty of people working in jobs, self-employed people for example, for whom union membership isn’t easy – there’s not a natural union for some people to join.  I’m a proud union member, and I’m happy to be a member of the union, and I always have been since the day I started working.

Kelly: But you want this nexus broken do you?

Plibersek: Well, I think we need to be a party that welcomes new people in, and if the only barrier to someone joining the Labor Party is that there’s not a natural union for them to join, then that’s a crazy reason for not welcoming them into the Labor Party.

Kelly: So are you happy to see Labor MPs who are proudly not members of a union?

Plibersek: I can’t imagine a Labor MP who proudly stood up and said I’m not a member of the union – and I’m the exact opposite.

Kelly: Wouldn’t that be a good thing though for the Labor Party?

Plibersek: No, why would it be a good thing?

Kelly: It wouldn’t?

Plibersek: I think unions have done so many important things for our country:  we’ve got the eight hour day, we’ve got extra pay for working anti-social hours, we’ve got the minimum wage, we’ve got a range of protections because of the union movement.  And the union movement was key to defeating WorkChoices.  The union movement in Australia does valuable things every single day, sticking up for workers who’d otherwise be kicked around.

Van Onselen: But it’s not a slight on the union movement, you just simply think that you should be able to have people join the Labor Party, also enter parliament, without being union members if they so choose.

Plibersek: Well, I’m not going to make that pronouncement now.

Van Onselen: But you’re the deputy leader of the Labor Party.

Kelly: But I thought you just said that?  Isn’t that your position?

Plibersek: No, I said that people, if there’s not a natural union for them to join should still be able to be members of the Labor Party – that saying someone can’t be a member of the Labor party because of the job they do – if they work for themselves, if they’re unemployed, if they’re pensioners – there’s a whole range of times when it’s not natural for someone to be a member of a union, and should that bar them from being a member of the Labor Party?  No, I don’t think it should, because we’re interested in increasing membership, opening up to people.

Kelly: I think that’s pretty clear.  That’s sort of an indirect way of endorsing the change.

Plibersek: We had yesterday for example, the Newtown state seat pre-selection, where we had half of the votes from Labor Party members, and half from community members, so basically like a primaries pre-selection – a lot of those people they’re not  members of the Labor party, they wouldn’t be members of their union, they’re just people who are interested in their community, and who’s going to be the Labor candidate for their community – those sorts of opening up of democratic pathways for people who are outside the Labor Party to participate in Labor politics. Our new policy proposal in the lead up to the next conference will be open to members of the public making submissions, and coming along to public events – that’s all good, that’s great.

Benson: It is important to make a symbolic statement though I suppose, and this is where the leader Bill Shorten is going to go in a couple of weeks I believe, we reported it this week in the Telegraph, that that’s the road he’s going to go down – remove this kind of anachronistic requirement that you need to be a member of the trade union movement to be a member of the Labor Party.  Now a lot of branches don’t enforce that, of course, so you do have a lot of members of the Labor Party that aren’t members.  But isn’t it an important symbolic message to send to the broader community that the Labor Party wants to broaden its membership? So, would you agree with the leader then?

Plibersek: Do I agree with the leader?  [laughs] Yes, generally [laughs].

Kelly: You could disagree with him though if you wanted to.

Plibersek: I think it’s important that Bill makes the announcement that he wants to make when he wants to make it.  We are an open and democratic party and the more ways we have of showing that and behaving that way, the better.

Van Onselen: Tanya Plibersek we’re almost out of time, but just one left-field final question. Indonesia is taking Australia to the WTO over plain packaging. That was something that obviously as health minister you had oversight for taking over from Nicola Roxon. They’re one of our biggest trading partners, is that an embarrassment?

Plibersek: No, I think it’s a strong symbol that what we’re doing is working. The countries that are fighting us in the WTO about plain packaging are doing it because they’re worried about sales of tobacco products. I’d be delighted if it means that Indonesian tobacco products are selling less, because it means people are smoking less, it means they’re getting sick and dying less. I’m very confident that our legislation will not be defeated in the WTO because we’re treating everyone equally, there’s no issue of trade here. Their issue might be one of intellectual property, and we’ve had plenty of legal advice that says that we’re on strong grounds here. This is a really important measure for people’s health in Australia and I’m proud of it. I think it’s one of the best things we did in Government.

Van Onselen: Alright, Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, we appreciate you joining us on Australian Agenda.

Plibersek: Thank you.

ENDS

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Transcript of ABC 702 radio political forum with James Carleton

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Transcript of ABC 702 radio political forum

with James Carleton

 31 MARCH

SYDNEY

E&OE

Subjects: Party Reform, housing and homelessness funding, the Budget

James Carleton: Tanya Plibersek, the Shadow Foreign Affairs spokesman with us.  G’day Tanya. In studio, in your electorate as well I might say.

Tanya Plibersek: That’s right.

Carleton:  Mike Baird, NSW Treasurer, not far from your electorate. Caught the ferry across?

Mike Baird: Not this morning James, but it’s a very good commute that one.

Carleton: It’s a beautiful commute – one of the greatest in the world. Look, let’s start with an important topic – homelessness – because the Federal Government’s extended homeless funding for another 12 months. This was an issue because the money was running out, there was like three months to go, and a lot of the homeless service providers were worried it would run out by July, Kevin Andrews, the Federal Social Services Minister pledging $115 million.  There’ll be a lot of relieved residents and staff in your electorate, Tanya Plibersek, as a result of this.

Plibersek:  Well there will be a lot of relieved people but there’ll be some who are disappointed as well, because $115 million is an effective $44 million cut. It should be $159 million which is the funding this year that’s helping 3,400 staff across the country assist 80,000 clients at any one time and about 180 programs so it’s a big demand on services. We had, obviously when we were in government, a target of halving the rate of homelessness by 2020 and to continue the trajectory that we’ve got, which was a very successful trajectory, we do have to keep up the investment.

Carleton: Was there a successful trajectory?

Plibersek: Yes, there was. We certainly saw the rate of homelessness coming down and we also saw very importantly a very dramatic change in the way that homelessness services were delivered. So, we took an approach that made housing permanent in the first instance and then tried to give people the assistance they needed to stay housed. So quite often as you know, James, people who are homeless may have or may have had a mental illness, they might have had family breakdown, all sorts of trauma in their past. I know Mike’s family have been very involved in assisting people who’ve been incarcerated and as they’re coming out of gaol as well. And it takes more than a roof over someone’s head, that is a necessary first step but you also need services that go with that roof that deal with some of the underlying causes of homelessness. And that’s why this national partnership is so important and it’s why it was so successful because we started to address those underlying causes.

Carleton: Mike Baird, NSW Treasurer, the Federal Minister says he does intend in time to have a four-year funding plan so he can get all those sort of long term ambitions in a coherent sense. But at the moment there’s missing this capital component, this forty-odd million dollars in capital spending which as a State Treasurer is something you know all about – declining capital expenditure whilst maintaining you know, the services component.

Baird: What I think is important is, James- the positive news is that the Federal Government has committed to the extension and as Tanya said, it seems to me they’re reviewing the capital position before they bring forward a comprehensive plan. And one of the problems with the national partnership agreements is it creates this huge uncertainty when you get to expiry dates and I think a better funding model is to roll it into the base or a much longer term agreement so people get much more certainty. And listen I agree, I was pleased to see the extension, one of the service areas that I’ve spent time with is those working with those in the homeless sector and listen, it is a very tough sector. There are many stories that break your heart and the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, he did make it his signature goal, if you like, to halve homelessness – we didn’t get there. Tanya might have different numbers than mine but I understood that the numbers are still increasing and they’re just the reported numbers, and of course they’re far larger when you start to include things like couchsurfing and others. And I also think we need to look at where the money is going, and is it making an impact, the sort of outcomes where we actually start to see the numbers coming down and which part of the service delivery we’re providing that’s improving it. That’s one of the things that government don’t do well, the assessment of the programs. So my hope is that the Federal Minister is doing exactly that and going to bring back a sustainable 4 year plan or if not longer term plan.

Carleton: And a new cohort amongst the population that we haven’t seen much of before – older people who simply get price stabbed of the housing market, especially in Sydney, because they’re on old age pension.

Plibersek: One of the largest groups that was entering homelessness when we took government in 2007 were older, single women, so often women who had experienced marriage breakdown and their husbands went onto continue to be employed and on higher incomes. And the women couldn’t, with what they had left the marriage with, afford to buy and found it tough to rent. And obviously women also generally had smaller superannuation balances even when they’d been in the workforce because they had often taken years out to care for their children or other family members. And the biggest single difference actually to that group was the very substantial increase to the age pension that Jenny Macklin oversaw when she was the responsible minister, biggest single difference. And we were talking about the capital component of the homelessness program, building in our capital cities Common Ground facilities where you had half homeless people, half people on low income, fantastic new facilities, like one we built was Mission Australia in Redfern $16 million facility for frail, aged, homeless people and of course the big investment in public housing that came out of the stimulus, the National Rental Affordability Scheme that Mike’s friends in Canberra are trying to destroy the reputation of now, it’s 14,000 new homes built and 24,000 in the pipeline and they were all big investments but really, really needed in Australia, James. Because you’re pointing out quite ordinary people are also feeling housing stress and falling into homelessness as well.

Carleton: And your former colleague David Borger, who was NSW Labor Housing Minister, he used to be very keen not just on blending homelessness services with public housing but then blending the public housing with normal market private housing so it would integrate communities in a way that didn’t ghettoise populations or areas-

Plibersek: Absolutely vital to do that. It’s really important for the people who live in the public housing because if you’re mixed right throughout the community, you’ve got better opportunities for jobs, transport, all the services that people rely on. But also very important for our community as a whole not to be the sort of cities that we see in other countries where wealthy people can live in the centre of town and the further out you go, the worse the services and that’s where we put people who rely on social housing. I think that’s a very poor model for the design of cities.

Carleton: But it’s one we necessarily have with housing prices the way they are I guess. Mike Baird, I mean, is there anything apart from the interest rates not going up tomorrow if the reserve bank predictions are to be believed that can prevent Sydney’s housing prices continuing at their rate?

Baird: I think the challenge for every policy maker is to bring supply, supply, supply, I mean that is the long term solution to housing affordability. Unfortunately, in Sydney for the best part of fifteen, twenty years, supply has not kept up with demand which is why we have the affordability issue. But I’ll also come back to the point with the existing federal government. I mean, the pleasing aspect to me is that a lot people are depicting the federal government as mean and tricky and all types of words but the fact that Kevin Andrews has extended this Homelessness National Partnership, albeit looking at the capital side, I think it’s a good sign because ultimately you need to have a sustainable budget to look after those who are most vulnerable and it has to be part of your priority measures in any fiscal setting. And it seems to me they’ve done that here.

Carleton: Fifteen months guaranteed with a view to a four year plan following it.

Baird: And that’s a positive despite obviously the budget challenges they’re under.

Plibersek: I can’t let that stand. Budget challenges- we’ve got a government that is claiming that there’s a budget emergency so that they can make all these sorts of cuts and in fact, more than half of the four year projected total deficits are because of parameter changes that the government’s made themselves, or because they gave a big, fat, almost nine billion dollars to the Reserve Bank, that the Reserve Bank didn’t need. So sixty-eight billion dollars of projected deficits are of the Government’s own making and they’ve got rid of the debt cap. They did a deal with the Greens to get rid of the debt cap. So they’re out there saying “budget emergency, budget emergency”, but they’re adding to debt, they’re adding to the deficit and they’re softening up for some very nasty cuts and this homelessness, the National Rental Affordability Scheme, the cuts to health, the cuts to education are all done in this context where they’re trying to convince people that unless we cut hard and we cut deep, you know, the whole economy is going to fall to pieces. It’s just not the case.

Baird: But I think, just a last rebut on that point, is that, I mean I was with the Treasurers last Friday and federal treasury, Martin Parkinson and team presented the economic picture, presented the fiscal picture and those deficits are reality. They’re presenting them hundreds of billions of dollars that are coming in the foreseeable future. So you have to be in a position that, yes at the moment structurally the budget is in significant deficit.

Plibersek: And this government has added to debt and added to deficits since coming to government very substantially and they’re using that to soften people up for the nasty cuts that are coming.

Baird: Well, the only point is, and I make this in order to look after those most vulnerable, you have to have a sustainable budget position in the long term.

Plibersek: I agree with that. I think we all agree.

Carleton: Let’s look at this proposal that’s been mooted to abolish the rule in the ALP that you no longer have to be a member of a union before you can join a branch if you’re working. This has been a rule that’s been there for as long as the ALP has been around. What’s your reaction to this Tanya?

Plibersek: Look, Bill Shorten’s raised this and other suggestions at the National Press Club last week and I certainly think it’s something we need to be open to. I’m a big supporter of the union movement. I’m proud to be a union member-

Carleton: If the rule is removed would you resign from the CPSU?

Plibersek: No. No, they’ll carry me out of there in a box. But I think our society has changed. Now, we’ve got a lot of people who work for themselves, the jobs of today are very different to the jobs of yesterday. We want to appeal to people who are students and pensioners and-

Carleton: Well most ALP members are concessional members.

Plibersek: Indeed.

Carleton: So you have no problem appealing to students and pensioners in the ALP.

Plibersek: But I think it’s terrific that we’re talking about how we can increase our membership because it’s about broadening the appeal of the ALP. We had, on the weekend, two community pre-selections where we had not just ALP members voting for who would become the Labor candidates in the seats of Newtown and Campbelltown but also just interested members of the public being able to vote. We’ve got a direct election for the leader by the ALP membership. We’ve had a lot of democratic reforms in recent years. I noticed today in the paper, Mike, and you might be able to comment more on this, the Liberal party are still fighting about whether local branch members should be able to choose their local candidate.

Carleton: What’s your position on that, New South Wales plebiscite? This is the idea that local Liberal party members get to choose their candidates for federal and state elections.

Baird: Yeah, Tanya can’t get away with that, the Liberal Party is considering real reform and I absolutely support that. Providing members an opportunity to be more engaged, to participate in the election of Parliamentary Members is absolutely a sensible thing. The reform process is underway. But you know, I’ll say this, far be it from me to tell the Labor Party how to run their business, but it seems to me this is just window dressing because it’s only going forward, so at the moment the unions still dominate the executive, they still dominate the conference floor. I think the bigger problem that they have is this leadership, what they’ve done with the federal leadership, because I know that everyone is now desperate for Tanya to take over-

Plibersek: [Laughs]

Baird: And they can’t do it under their rules so they have to wait till Bill loses the next election before Tanya can get in. So that’s the bigger problem.

Plibersek: Mike, I think last time you had democratic reform in the Liberal Party, Mike, you ended up in the Supreme Court didn’t you? Not you personally of course, I’m not suggesting that.

Carleton: Well there’s nothing wrong with availing yourself of the judicial process.

Baird: But on a serious point, I think that’s what- the Liberal Party is trying to do it in a considered way and I think what the Labor Party did was a knee jerk response in an election campaign in terms of that Federal leadership issue.

Carleton: Which never would have got up unless Kevin Rudd was there, mind you, and now that he’s gone. But seriously, does Mike have an important point, Tanya, when he says that allowing non-union members to join ALP branches is window dressing while so long as unions control executives and conferences lock stock and dividend stream.

Plibersek: I don’t- I really don’t think that’s the case. We’ve got a policy development process underway at the moment where branch members, union members and members of the public can contribute.

Carleton: Policy, but not machine. The machine remains in control of the factions. No non-aligned members of the National Executive. No non-aligned members of any state administrative committee. No non-aligned members get a say in any Senate or upper house vote in any jurisdiction.

Plibersek: And how is the leadership of the Liberal Party selected, James? It’s the same small group of people making the same decisions.

Carleton: Mike Baird, two wrongs make a right.

Baird: Well, Tanya didn’t answer the Labor party question. I didn’t even notice that but I mean-

Carleton: Well, Labor has its union problem. The Liberals have their lobbyist problems. Well, you’re State President, when he’s not being honorary president, is the head of the Wagering Council the Chief Lobby for corporate bookmakers.

Baird: I mean, what we have said across the Liberal party, is it’s time that we reform the party, and from beginning to end, and that’s exactly what we are looking at, and it’s in relation to lobbyists I mean, the O’Farrell Government was the one who moved strong amendments to lobbying, banning things like success fees and others – we are taking a stand on those important issues, but in terms of the party reform, my simple point is this: if you are going to undertake party reform, don’t window dress, do it properly and comprehensively and that’s exactly what the Liberal party’s doing at the moment.

Carleton: That would be your message to both parties.

Baird: I think that’s exactly right.

Carleton: I should take this moment to welcome Cassandra Goldie, the Chief Executive Officer of ACOSS Australian Council of Social Service. Great to have you. We were talking about homelessness before because the Federal Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews has announced that this funding will come through. The funding that was due to expire 1 July for homeless services, you’ll be very happy to hear that it’s come through.

Goldie: Look, we’re happy with, it is a short term fix for a really terrible problem that we have. We had over 183 services and thousands of workers and tens of thousands of clients not knowing where they stood from one July and we have to avoid this happening. It is simply unacceptable for us to be providing really important vital services where people have invested huge amounts in really effective work. It’s working, this money, you know, it’s really changing people’s lives and it was unacceptable that we had this situation, such a cliff hanger. Mind you, there are a lot of other services that are in the same boat and we don’t have any certainty on that front so-

Carleton: How do you mean?

Goldie: Well, we’re doing a survey right now to try and get a really good picture of the number of services that are funded by government where their contracts are up on the 30th June. There’s a lot: financial counselling services, emergency relief, important services for young people to help them to get into jobs. We don’t know what’s going to happen and obviously this is a very particular May budget, we’ve got a lot of air time on it being hard budget and that happens every budget but I think we’re dealing with particular circumstances on this one, so we obviously want to push the government to make announcements, get out from under the sort of cover of budget discussions and obviously we have to have budget in confidence at a certain point in the work but we’ve got really important services and clients that need to know what’s happening and obviously we’re very concerned that we don’t cut where we don’t think we should be doing that. I guess, maybe if I can just come back to the earlier chat around political parties, I do have a bit of a comment on it which is I think we do need to be a bit concerned when we see so many young people now who are really questioning the value of democracy, like full stop.

Carleton: Yeah absolutely, I’ve seen surveys where you’ve- it’s extraordinary, like 40% of the people say they’re not democrats.

Goldie: Well it is and it isn’t. It is and it isn’t because what we watch is this, you know, ball going over the, you know, the fence and all of a sudden everything one government committed to is now no longer popular because it’s a new government and instead of us visibly seeing much stronger collaboration across the major parties to value the work that was done by one for the other coming in.

Carleton:  I can understand young people being pissed off by politics but that doesn’t mean that they have to be communists or Nazis.

Goldie: No, I think we have to demonstrate why democracy is so important. And it is obvious though, of course it is.

Carleton: Well, it used to be self-evident but-

Goldie: Of course it is, and it should be. So what are we doing to fix that picture for young people. And I don’t buy the argument that young people don’t understand what’s going on, I think they do understand what’s going on.

Carleton: Mike Baird, Tanya Plibersek, why are so many people under your watch turning to extremism?

Goldie: I’m not sure that’s what I’ve-

Plibersek: I’m not going to blame Mike, he’s not going to blame me, because that would prove a point-

Goldie: I think there are great young people thinking about how to form their own political parties and good on them for thinking about that and we can also see this, you know, move towards more independence in, you know, both the Senate and the lower house and I think that’s a trend we’re going to see more of. And I think we have to think about a government machinery and how we can really make this work and deliver on the best of democracy.

Baird: The only point I’m going to make is that I think it’s, I don’t necessarily believe it’s a loss in faith and democracy, I think it’s more, particularly the younger generations are focusing more on issues, and then the issues is what gravitates them, not political parties, it’s what is the issue most dear to them and yes they’ll start to look at who are the people within government or opposition that are reflecting those. But I’ve certainly seen an uptick in terms of the engagement of youth in particular on these issues.

Goldie: I agree, Mike. I think that’s really important. This is not the message that young people are disengaged, but that they’re desperately looking for the best way to get effect of action on some of the big issues that we do face and climate change is obviously one of them, I mean the idea that that’s come and gone as a moral challenge is not true. And young people get it better than anybody, and I also think that, it was delightful to watch the young students when they put those questions to the Prime Minister about the issues that really mattered to them and they were really core issues about human dignity, about values of the nation, and good on them and more young people should be speaking up. And obviously this is a challenge for the major parties, is how to encourage young people into the machinery of government so that they can have a say in both within the parliament and also at the polls.

Plibersek: I actually meet a lot of incredibly inspiring and engaged young people. I met, you know, another group in Parliament House last week that just, they knock your socks off. So the intellectual ability and the moral clarity of purpose they bring, as Cassandra was saying, the questions that they ask of us. I think there is an issue with political parties and young people and I think a bit of that is the hyper partisan nature of politics in recent years. Cassandra is quite right, the idea that you can’t ever admit the other guy’s done anything right in the history of the universe. So I think that that is a problem. But I think that the antidote not just us changing our ways as major parties, that’s part of it, but accepting and celebrating the fact that young people are engaged on particular issues and that’s how they choose to express their political involvement.

Carleton: Well you’re Shadow Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs. A) Do you think that young people will be excited about the fact that Alexander Downer is our new High Commissioner to London and B)-

Plibersek: I think there’ll be dancing in the streets. Almost certainly.

Carleton: And B) will you take this opportunity in the spirit of bipartisanship to salute Australia’s longest serving Foreign Minister to such an important office, in continuing in the role of his father, Sir Alec?

Plibersek: I think it’s extraordinary that someone as skilled as Steve Bracks when he was appointed to New York to be brought back in favour of Nick Minchin-

Carleton: Sent to Rome though, finished his time in Rome, not a bad punishment.

Plibersek: No, this was the Steve Bracks New York appointment-

Carleton: Oh, I’m sorry.

Plibersek: And then Mike Rann coming back from London, same thing, why would you bring Mike Rann back from London? But I had a look at the figures, James, in government, the Howard Government made 15 appointments of ex-parliamentarians to diplomatic posts and every one of them was a Coalition MP or Senator. In Labor we made 6 appointments, and more than half, 4 of those were Coalition MPs or Senators. So yeah, I think we have to get rid of the partisan nature of this stuff. But you know, without spending too much time pointing the finger, I think there’s a pretty big difference between what we did in government and what the previous Howard Government and now Julie bishop as Foreign Minister has decided with these diplomatic postings.

Carleton: Mike Baird?

Baird: No, listen I agree with Tanya. I think you have to look for the best of the people with the best skills and the political badge should become second. You know the number of-

Carleton: Alexander Downer? Kim Beazley?

Baird: Well, Alexander- I think that as a general point, that sons shouldn’t follow their father into anything.

Plibersek: Oh no, we wouldn’t agree with that, Mike. We wouldn’t agree with that.

Baird: That’s just a general point. But listen, I mean, Alexander Downer is unbelievably qualified but in the end-

Carleton: Ben Scare, brilliant ambassador of the Holy See.

Baird: But if you’ve looked at some of the activities we’ve done, we’ve done a lot of work in the ports base. And Nick with them has done a fantastic job for the government here in relation to the ports base. So the political badge-

Carleton: You could say the same of Tanya’s husband as your Director of the Department of Family and Community Services.

Baird: He does an outstanding job for us, there’s no doubt.

Carleton: See, we have fraternal cross party-

Plibersek: A breakout of bipartisanship, it’s a beautiful thing.

Carleton: It should be. Cassandra Goldie, why are you complaining about the Budget when here we have a Liberal and a Labor-

Plibersek: If only your listeners could see us all holding hands here, James, it would be beautiful.

Goldie: We haven’t got the budget discussion quite yet, hopefully we will have a little bit of time. But I think on this particular issue, I think these are very important symbols of the earlier issues we were talking about. I think when people look up and they see that actually the best person, they can see the merit in the appointment, that it’s across parties, that there’s not this sort of die-hard fixation with we’ll appoint our guys, and some women would be good, and on the other side we’ll appoint our team. I think the more of this we can see where it’s genuinely recognition of significant expertise that they’re the right person for the job is the way we should be doing that.

Carleton: Can we all agree on that?

Plibersek: Yeah, I think we can agree on that.

Carleton: I can’t.

Goldie: Can we get onto the budget now?

Carleton: I disagree. Loyalty is an important quality. Well, we’ve got 30 seconds left. What’s your budget take? You’re worried that it’s going to be a killer.

Goldie: Yeah absolutely, I mean we’ve got the Treasurer out today saying everybody’s got to do the heavy lifting, everybody equally, and I’m going well actually, hang on a minute, we’ve got a real divide here in Australia with people who are living on, you know, $35 a day for an unemployed person and then we’ve got some incredibly wealthy people in Australia. I think we need to have a honest discussion about where the cuts should be made which are based on some pretty clear principles that the treasurer did set out. Government should be where they’re needed and we shouldn’t be pulling back from those funds. We should be looking at to create a more equitable picture-

Carleton: Cassandra Goldie, Tanya Plibersek, Mike Baird, I’m James Carleton, 702 Drive.

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Transcript of ABC Radio National interview with Fran Kelly

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Transcript of ABC Radio National interview

with Fran Kelly

 

26 MARCH 2014

CANBERRA

E&OE

Subjects: Knights and dames, Racial Discrimination Act, Peter Greste

Fran Kelly: Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Opposition Leader, she is now in place in the Parliament House studios, and Labor has been critical of both those announcements of the Abbott Government yesterday the changes, or proposed changes, to the Racial Discrimination Act, and the revival of knights and dames in the Australian honours system. Tanya Plibersek, good morning, welcome to breakfast.

Tanya Plibersek: Hi Fran, how are you?

Kelly: I’m well thank you. Tony Abbott bringing back knights and dames of the Order of Australia, what does Labor think about the PM’s definition here that it’s important to appropriately honour people, like Governor-Generals, whose service has been extraordinary and preeminent? Is there a case for a special category for preeminence?

Plibersek: Look I think it is important to honour people who’ve served our country well and I was delighted to go to the function farewelling our Governor-General last night and pleased to join with people in thanking her for her service. But I really do think this knights and dames thing is just basically a distraction. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it but we’ve got one Australian losing their job every three minutes, we’ve got big cuts to health and education, we’ve got troubles overseas, I think this kind of back to the future stuff is a distraction more than anything else.

Kelly: Governments do need to do many things at the one time across many fronts that’s what makes running a country so difficult. So perhaps it’s less relevant to criticise a government for doing this you can’t really say their ignoring jobs while they’re doing this. But what do you think of these things and what would Labor in office do? Would Labor abolish them as Whitlam abolished them, as then Bob Hawke abolished them when he came into office.

Plibersek: I just think the focus on this right now shows that the Government has their priorities all wrong. We’ve got some really serious issues in the Parliament, it is true you have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, but they’re not doing much of either and the fact that they’re focusing on distractions like this when we’ve got cuts to health and education, jobs being lost, you know, cutting benefits to orphans of war veterans, I don’t know it just strikes me as really missing the main game and I think –

Kelly: Would Labor abolish them?

Plibersek: Look I don’t know, we haven’t had a discussion, we haven’t given it any thought, this is not the sort of issue we’re going to waste our time debating, when the real issues are about jobs and the economy and the cuts to health and education this Government is making. They came in with all sorts of promises about what they were going to do. People didn’t get the Government they thought they were going to get, and now after saying no excuses no surprises we’re getting surprised with all of these distractions.

Kelly: Why do you think the Prime Minister has done this?

Plibersek: I think he’s had a bad week in Parliament, he’s been talking more than he would like to about Arthur Sinodinos, about future of financial reforms, regulations that make it possible for financial planners to sell products to people that are not in the best interests of their client. He’s got the Attorney-General who you were just speaking to out saying bigotry is a free right for Australians and none of these things are I think going quite the way the Government had intended. So they do a quick ‘look over here’ distraction.

Kelly: Let’s go to the Racial Discrimination Act, it’s nine minutes to eight, we’re speaking with Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek in our Parliament House studios. The PM told Australia yesterday in the Parliament that this is the freest, fairest and most decent country on earth and the Attorney-General as we heard him say again say these changes to the Racial Discrimination Act are the most protective in terms of against vilification of any law that this country has ever had. What’s your response to that?

Plibersek: I don’t think there’s anyone in Australia who agrees with them. I think it’s… It is a sad thing that one of the first priorities of this new Government is to make it easier to racially abuse people. Now I am a great supporter of free speech, that’s why I’m a great supporter of the ABC and I notice that this Government whenever the ABC says something that the Government doesn’t like they’re very quick to hop in and say that it’s not justified that the ABC should have the same right to free speech that they say they’re defending with these legal changes. But why would you make this a priority? Making it easier for people to racially abuse one another, why would you make that a priority for a government?

Kelly: Do you accept that this is an exposure draft and there’s thirty days now for people to propose changes to the Government? Do you accept as some, even though some critical of the draft as it now stands suggest that twenty years on these laws could do with a bit of a rewrite? And perhaps we don’t need the notion of insult and offend to be including in section 18C? That the so called hurt feelings provisions perhaps could do with a little bit of tweaking?

Plibersek:  Look, I don’t think there’s any harm in re-examining any of our legislation, but I would like the Government to point out where this law has been misused in its current form. I’d like them to point out why it’s so broken that it needs to be interfered with. I think what happened is George Brandis went too far in his comments the other day saying that bigotry is a right of every Australian. He’s been pulled back into line, he’s been told to go out and say alright we’ll do it slowly, we’ll do it with an exposure draft, but my understanding is that the exposure draft that they’ve put out, has as our Attorney-General said, holes big enough to drive a truck through, our shadow Attorney-General said it’s got holes big enough to drive a truck through and that seems to be the consensus of lawyers and others who are interested around the country and I think it is very interesting that neither the Prime Minister, nor the Attorney-General can say that the sort of Holocaust denying hate speech that we had from Frederick Tobin would in fact be captured under the laws as they’ve drafted them. Why can’t they say that?

Kelly: The, ah, as I say thirty day consultation period, how hard is Labor going to fight these changes because I’ve read in the Sydney Morning Herald today that Labor is planning a blitz on Liberal held marginal seats to warn migrant communities about these plans to water down the race hate protections. Is that true? Is there a grass-roots campaign already planned and about to be unrolled?

Plibersek: Well, I’ve certainly been talking to my community groups already and to anyone who’s contacted me about this about my views on these proposed changes. I don’t think that it’s a top priority for a government to make it easier to promulgate the sort of hate speech that we gave examples of yesterday in the Parliament. And can I tell you it’s not us contacting community organisations, it’s community organisations contacting us with their concerns. There have been dozens of organisations that have contacted me and the Labor party more generally talking about their concerns about these changes and the idea that it would make it, would make our society a place where it is more acceptable for people to abuse one another racially.

Kelly: And can I just ask you finally and briefly as Shadow Foreign Minister about the plight of Australian journalist Peter Greste. He’s been denied bail, I think yesterday you suggested the Prime Minister should be doing more now.

Plibersek: I think it is very important to say first of all that Peter and his family have been in regular contact with Australian consular officials. That our people in Cairo are doing the very best they can. This is no criticism at all of the consular assistance that’s been given but at the end of the day this is a man who has been accused of doing his job. He’s a journalist who has been accused of doing his job and I think it is very important particularly from a Government that talks so much about free speech for us to say loudly and clearly that we would expect him to be released now - he has served more than 3 months in gaol already. No substantive allegations have been made, no substantive evidence, and I think it is really time that we say very clearly he and his colleagues need to be released.

Kelly: Tanya Plibersek thank you very much for joining us.

Plibersek: Thank you, Fran.

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Abbott Government Reveals Further Cuts to Overseas Aid

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Abbott Government reveals further cuts to overseas aid

25 MARCH 2014

CANBERRA

In Question Time today, the Abbott Government was forced to reveal it will cut a further $9 billion in overseas aid.

Mr Abbott described overseas aid funding from 2017-18 detailed in his Government’s own Budget update, the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook*, as just an ‘aspiration’.

This is yet another example of the Abbott Government misleading the Australian public about its real plans – to cut.

Today’s revelation comes on top of the Abbott Government’s earlier decision to rip $4.5 billion out of the overseas aid budget in the four years to 2016-17.

The extra $9 billion cut will put many outstanding international development programs at serious risk.  The impact will be particularly acute given the devastating effects of the Abbott Government’s first $4.5 billion cut are already being felt in our region, and around the world.

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Peter Greste

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development 

Peter Greste

 

25 MARCH 2014

CANBERRA

It’s time for Prime Minister Abbott to call for the release of Australian journalist Peter Greste from prison in Egypt.

Being a journalist is not a crime.

A free press is critically important.  Journalists shouldn’t be put on trial or locked up for doing their job.

At this terribly difficult time, our thoughts remain with Peter, his parents, family, and friends.

I commend the significant efforts of the Australian diplomats who are working so hard on this matter.

The Labor Opposition stands ready to assist the Abbott Government to do everything it sensibly can to secure Peter’s release.

Prime Minister Abbott has made much of his support for free speech.  If Mr Abbott really does support free speech, he must do more for Peter Greste.

Peter faced court again overnight and has been held in prison for nearly three months.

 

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Experts Agree that Australia Network is Vital

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HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

HON JASON CLARE MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS

MEMBER FOR BLAXLAND

 

MEDIA RELEASE

 

EXPERTS AGREE THAT AUSTRALIA NETWORK IS VITAL

 

Three of Australia’s top businessmen, including the Prime Minister’s own key business adviser, and a top Australian diplomat have joined the campaign to stop the Abbott Government breaking another election promise by cutting the Australia Network.

The Australia Network is a vital soft diplomacy tool that reaches up to 167 million households, giving Asia and the world an insight into Australian life and values.

Despite this success, the Liberal Party is softening the ground to scrap the network and break its promise not to cut funding to the ABC.

Before the election Tony Abbott promised hand on heart there would be no cuts to the ABC.

He said on SBS News the night before the election:

"No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.

The ABC is funded to run the Australia network. If Tony Abbott cuts it, he will have broken another promise to the Australian people.

Experts from across the business and diplomatic world are joining forces to try to convince Tony Abbott to re-consider his slash and burn approach to the Australia Network.

Certainly there is a case to be made for having [the] Australia network in a soft-power advocacy role, particularly to the region. A BBC survey found that wherever the BBC was, the view of the UK was better than where the BBC was not. By extension if Australia Network portrays Australia in a positive light one might expect it to rub off favourably on people.”

-      Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, Maurice Newman

 

To pack up and go would send an immediate message, particularly if it is seen as retribution against the ABC in a political context. The signals would be ‘why the hell have you gone, we’ve spent all this time setting up, we thought you were coming to Asia’.”

-      Founding Chairman of the Asia Society, Hugh Morgan

 

The new geographic landscape for a developing Asia has many interests and countries which strongly present their point of view. We should do the same.”

-      Chairman of Free TV Australia, Harold Mitchell

 

We are really the only serious international broadcaster there. A lot of people could seek to fill the vacuum…it’s also highly desirable to keep Australian TV going into south-east Asia.”

-      Former senior diplomat, John McCarthy

 

Tony Abbott should listen to these experts, including his key business advisor Maurice Newman, and save the Australia Network from the axe.

 

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National Consultation Begins to Ban Cosmetics Tested on Animals

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Member for Sydney

 

Clare O’Neil MP

Member for Hotham

National consultation begins to ban cosmetics tested on animals

17 MARCH 2014

CANBERRA

This week, Labor will begin a national consultation on phasing out the importation, manufacture, sale and advertising of cosmetics or cosmetic ingredients tested on animals.

The national consultation was foreshadowed by Labor last year.  Given her keen interest in the issue, the Member for Hotham, Clare O’Neil will help lead the process.

While there are new animal-free testing methods being developed all the time, most Australians would be surprised to learn that some companies test their cosmetics or their ingredients on animals overseas before selling them here.

In addition, some companies manufacture cosmetics in Australia using ingredients tested on animals overseas, even though the finished cosmetic products are not tested on animals domestically.

Animals shouldn’t suffer in the quest for better mascara or lipstick.

Continuing to import cosmetics or cosmetic ingredients tested on animals is out of step with current community expectations.

Over ten years, the European Union phased out the importation and marketing of cosmetic products and their ingredients that were tested on animals.

Australia needs to play its part in the international movement against animal testing.

The ban would apply to new cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients only.

This is a complex matter, especially when we’re talking about things like imports, and dealing with a ban on cosmetic ingredients too.  To make sure we get this right, we will be working through all the issues carefully.  Legislation must drafted for best effect and we need to bring the community with us.

That’s why comprehensive consultation with animal rights groups, industry, and scientific researchers is particularly critical.

Labor has already had initial discussions with a number of key players.

Industry has confirmed that testing cosmetics or cosmetic ingredients on animals in Australia stopped many years ago, however it is not actually banned by law.  We will be consulting on that as well.

Under Australia's Constitution, each State and Territory is responsible for its own animal welfare legislation.

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Abbott and Barnett Mean Cuts to Hospitals and Schools

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THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

 

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

MEDIA RELEASE

ABBOTT AND BARNETT MEAN CUTS TO HOSPITALS AND SCHOOLS

WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH 2014

The Senate Election on 5 April gives Western Australians a chance to send a message to Tony Abbott and Colin Barnett that they don’t support their cuts to health and education.

Western Australians are rightly concerned that Mr Abbott wants to model his Government on the Barnett Government.

This time last year he said:

“How much I respect the Premier of this state, how much I have learnt from him. How much I wish to model myself on him, should I get the opportunity to lead our country.”

[Tony Abbott, 17 February 2013]

The Barnett Government’s track record is littered with broken promises, massive cuts to health and education and a stagnating local economy.

This includes a $180m broken promise to redevelop the Royal Perth Hospital, despite WA Liberals collecting a whopping 35,000 signatures petitioning for the redevelopment while in Opposition.

Just like Tony Abbott promised ‘no cuts to health, education or defence’ before the election, he has cut $10 million in specialist cancer care workforce funding for oncologists and radiologists in WA.

Just like Tony Abbott promised no new taxes before the election, he is proposing a new GP Tax every time you visit the doctor.

With the mining boom slowing Governments should be investing in WA to build more rail, road and energy infrastructure. Not cutting jobs and services like the Liberals want to do.

But Western Australians know the worst is yet to come, although Tony Abbott is refusing to tell them where the cuts are coming before the election on 5 April.

He is treating Western Australians with absolute contempt by hiding his Commission of Audit report until after the election.

WA is doing its bit for the national economy – it shouldn’t be suffering cuts to health and education.

Just a sample of Mr Barnett’s cuts include:

  • $183 million of cuts to WA schools, including 350 fewer teachers, 350 fewer education assistants and a 30 per cent cut to support school programs for children with learning difficulties and literacy and numeracy programs.
  • Fiona Stanley Hospital is being delivered a year late after Barnett Government mismanagement.
  • The promised $180m redevelopment of Royal Perth Hospital has been shelved.
  • 40 hospital beds and 200 staff will be cut from Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital.
  • $188 million has been cut from hospital upgrades in regional WA including in: Karratha, Tom Price, Newman, Collie, Northam, Katanning, Merredin, Narrogin and Manjimup.
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Doorstop Interview in Perth

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THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

 

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

THE HON MARK MCGOWAN MLA

WA STATE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Economic Reform, Public Sector Management

MEMBER FOR ROCKINGHAM

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
PERTH

TUESDAY, 11 MARCH 2014

SUBJECT/S: WA Senate Election; Abbott Government Hiding its Commission of Audit report; Abbott Government cuts to health care in WA; Trades Training Centres; Jobs; National Affordable Housing Program; Resignation of WA Treasurer.

MARK MCGOWAN, LEADER OF THE WA STATE OPPOSITION: First of all can I thank Bill and Tanya for coming to Western Australia, and in particular Bill for meeting with the state parliamentary Labor Party, addressing us and answering questions, and I think a very warm environment was there between the state party and the federal party.

I’ll just say a couple of words about the federal election, and then I’ll hand over to Bill and to Tanya, and then we’ll have questions at the end. I don’t know if you want to ask me about any events of the day, but you may well want to at the end of that.

First of all, I think this Senate campaign is an excellent opportunity for West Australians to send a message that they don’t like the style of government of Mr Barnett and the fact that Mr Abbott has said that that is the style of government that he wants to emulate, I think gives that chance for West Australians to say no. I think what we’ve seen in Western Australia is a shambolic and chaotic government at a state level, and I don’t think West Australians want to see that replicated at a federal level.

This government has been dysfunctional, divided, and dishonest over a long period of time, and I think West Australians increasingly are becoming disenchanted with the style of government we have in this state. I’ll hand over to Bill.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Mark. It's great to be here with Mark McGowan, it's great to be here with Tanya Plibersek, my deputy, to talk about the West Australian Senate election. It's my third visit since becoming Leader of the Opposition and one thing's become clear to me as I talk to West Australians - they are very concerned about the cuts to education and to health care here in Western Australia.

There is a real opportunity in this West Australian Senate election, the first of its kind we've seen in the history of the Commonwealth, to send a clear message to Tony Abbott that Western Australians don't like the cuts that Colin Barnett is doing, and the fact that the Abbott Government is refusing to release its controversial 900 page report which will cut the quality of education and health care services in the west until after the Senate by-election, is a mean and nasty trick on West Australians.

This Senate election is about sending a message to Tony Abbott and to Colin Barnett.  West Australians love their quality of life here, they want to make sure that their families can get access to the best quality health care and they want their kids to get the best quality education. We've just very met with Scott and Abraham, two very talented teenagers who are studying trades training at their Trades Training Centre.

There are 49 trades training centres covering 150 schools in Western Australia. It is really important that our education system doesn't just train children for university, it trains our future apprentices, for our future trades jobs in the west. The Abbott Government has said they're not going to go any further with trades training centres and that is the wrong way to go. That is not the correct direction for Western Australia to be heading in.

This Senate Election is all about making sure that we don’t have cuts to education and health care,  it's about making sure we stand up for issues which go to cost of living and it’s about opposing the Abbott Government’s GP Tax. It's also about making sure that the middle class of Western Australia don't feel squeezed and that there are jobs in Western Australia, there's the opportunity to have quality education so that children and kids can get the best apprenticeship, so they can go and have the best jobs in Western Australia.

I might ask my colleague Tanya Plibersek to specifically talk about some of the concerns around housing and health care.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Bill. It's great to be here with both Mark and Bill today. This is a very important election, the upcoming Senate Election, because it's an opportunity for West Australians to send a very strong message to both Colin Barnett and to Tony Abbott that the cuts that Colin Barnett is inflicting on the people of Western Australia shouldn't be repeated at a federal level.

We know that right now sitting on Tony Abbott's desk is a Commission of Audit report that has some very nasty surprises in store for the people of West Australia, and people of the whole of Australia. The fact that this report's being kept secret until after the election should tell you how nasty its contents must be. Of course, as a former Health Minister, one of the areas that most concerns me are the cuts that have been made right here in Western Australia already to the health system, and the cuts that Tony Abbott has in store for the people of Australia.

When you look at what’s happened in the state health system here you've seen some very serious cuts already. We see, for example, the Fiona Stanley Hospital a year late, it's been a quarter of a million dollars a day to run an empty hospital. It's like something out of 'Yes, Minister.' On top of that comes reneging on the agreement to redevelop the Royal Perth Hospital. It's a $400 million redevelopment that the State Government has pulled out of. More than $180 million as well cut from upgrades to regional health facilities right around Perth. These are very serious cuts already and what we can't allow is for Tony Abbott to have open slather on further health cuts, for the people of West Australia.

You have got to remember that Tony Abbott as Health Minister is the man who was responsible for doctor shortages in Western Australia. When Tony Abbott was Health Minister he put a cap on GP training places and Western Australia has taken years to begin to recover from that decision of Tony Abbott as Health Minister. But wait, it gets worse. Tony Abbott's now proposing a fee to go to the doctor for every Australian, a GP tax.

When I was Health Minister we did everything we could to increase bulk-billing rates around Australia. We saw increases in bulk-billing rates here in Western Australia and Tony Abbott wants to chuck that out the window to chuck away all of that hard work to increase bulk-billing rates by trashing the whole idea of being able to go to the doctor when you need to without putting your hand in your pocket.

On top of that Tony Abbott’s also cut $10 million from a cancer outreach service that was negotiated with the West Australian State Government well before the election, the money was in the budget, this shows up as a cut in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, a $10 million cut to regional oncology services for Western Australia. We know one of the most serious consequences of the vast distances in this State is that people find it hard to travel for their medical care. The idea of the regional oncology outreach team was that people could stay closer to home for their treatment. That's another $10 million cut. The exact opposite of what Tony Abbott promised before the election.

I believe that Tony Abbott's in town today making some announcement about medical research. Of course, medical research funding is always welcome, but you look at his short history on this as PM, he's cut $12 million from the Millennium Institute, $10 million from the Westmead Children's Medical Research Institute. It is a history as a Health Minister and now as a Prime Minister, of cutting education and if West Australians care about – sorry, of cutting health - and if West Australians care about investment in their health system and having access to good health services, then they should send a very strong message to Tony Abbott and to Colin Barnett during this Senate election about health services for West Australians.

SHORTEN: Are there questions?

REPORTER: [Inaudible]

SHORTEN: The resources sector is very important to Western Australia. What we also see in Western Australia is that a lot of West Australians are feeling the squeeze. We've seen a slight increase in unemployment, cost of living is a challenge for West Australians. As we see a bright future for resources in Western Australia but what we also recognise is that what makes the quality of life in Perth and throughout Western Australia so enviable to the rest of Australia is having quality education and quality health services.

So the big issues in this election are having a strong West Australian Senate team who will stand up to Tony Abbott's cuts to education and to health care. We recognise that people are increasingly concerned about jobs, especially as you get investment easing up in some parts of the resources sector. And what West Australians want to see is a plan for jobs in Western Australia which is not been forthcoming so far from the Abbott Government. This Senate by-election is a chance to send Tony Abbott and Colin Barnett message - don't cut vital education and health care services.

REPORTER: Do you think losses in Tasmania and South Australia could damage Labor’s chances in the Senate election?

SHORTEN: What amazes me is the cynicism of the Abbott Government not releasing their clearly nasty proposal of 900 pages of nasty surprises and cuts to health care and education. I think it takes a high amount of cynicism to receive a report in early February and then make sure and sit on it and smother and hide the report until there's been state elections in Tasmania and South Australia.

But they really run out of excuses by holding on to this report till after the West Australian Senate by-election two months after they received a report. If it's 900 pages of nasty surprises that doesn't take two months to read, so I'm very concerned that West Australians aren't being told the truth by the Abbott Government and that they're not finding out what the Abbott Government is really proposing.

REPORTER: Has the Woolworths bailout indicated the Government position?

SHORTEN:  The Victorian – if you’re referring to SPC - the Victorian Government stepped into assist SPC. I'm pleased that there is good news at any point about jobs, I was appalled that the Abbott Government had no plans about SPC jobs. What makes their position so inconsistent is that a chocolate factory in Hobart can get Abbott Government taxpayer money, but a fruit processing factory in the Goulburn Valley doesn't. There's no consistency to what the Government is doing.

Since the Abbott Government was elected 63,000 full-time jobs have gone. I want to make sure that these very bright kids we’ve just met today, Abraham and Scott, that they can learn their trade, the Abbott Government is not interested in investing in that, and also I want to make sure that when they learn their trade there are jobs to go to. It isn't good enough that the Abbott Government is turning its back on apprentices, it isn't good enough that they have no plan for Australian jobs.

REPORTER: You raise some state-based issues, is that confusing the message to voters considering it’s a federal election?

SHORTEN: Tony Abbott said on March the 5th, with a twinkle in his eye, said that he wanted his Government to be the sort of Government that the Barnett Government is in [West Australia]. None of us asked Tony Abbott to use the Barnett Government as a role model for the sort of Government we wanted. Mr Abbott opened the door on comparing the Barnett Government to the national Government. We’re just following through and saying that the Barnett Government is a ‘mini-me’ version of the Abbott Government and what West Australians want is a strong Senate who is not focussed on agreeing with Tony Abbott, but is focussed on standing up for the quality of life and for jobs in Western Australia.

REPORTER: Do you have any comments to make on the resignation of the State Treasurer and the implications on this election?

SHORTEN: I understand that there are reports of mental health issues are involved in this, so I really wouldn’t want to comment too much. I suspect that there's questions for the Premier of Western Australia to answer. I might hand over to our colleague, my colleague, Mark McGowan, Leader of the State Opposition the deal with that matter.

MCGOWAN: Sorry, Emily, what was the question?

REPORTER: The implications of the resignation of Tory Buswell, do you think it has derailed the Senate campaign here in WA?

MCGOWAN: I just say a few things about that. First of all can I wish Mr Buswell, as I said yesterday, can I wish Mr Buswell the best, some things transcend politics I hope his personal health is on the improve and is under control.

Having said that, I do think there are further questions that need to be answered by the Government. We learnt today in the newspaper, that it appears there was at least one staffer who knew about the circumstances of the accident. I want to know whether other Government staffers, particularly in the Premier's office, were informed about what went on. I want to know whether or not people in the Premier's office, the Police Minister's office and the Treasurer's office were aware of all of the circumstances, yet didn't reveal them. I think that is a very important matter that goes to the heart of this matter.

The second point I’ll say is this. It's clear the Government is in chaos. We have a shambolic Government in Western Australia. For so long there has been crisis after crisis, failure after failure, dishonesty after dishonesty. And these events have with the departure of another treasurer have shown that at the heart of Government in Western Australia it's chaotic and dysfunctional.

Its impact on the Senate campaign, I don't know, but I do know this - when you have a dysfunctional and chaotic State Government, it can't help - sorry I do know this - when you have a chaotic and dysfunctional State Government, it can't help the Federal Liberal Party when they said they're going to model themselves on that same state Government.

REPORTER: Do you think that there needs to be a formal inquiry into the circumstances of the resignation and what people knew?

MCGOWAN: We're going to ask some questions today in the parliament in relation to these issues. We'll hold our judgment on whether or not there should be a bigger or a higher level inquiry in these matters until we get proper answers out of the Premier. But there is new information today according to the state's newspaper. There was at least one staffer who knew, that is different to what we were advised yesterday. I also understand that staffer spoke to the Premier's chief of staff on the first day that these issues came out, and I would expect the Premier to give a full explanation of the knowledge of his chief of staff and other staff members in his office about this series of events.

REPORTER: I have a question for the Deputy Opposition Leader about the social housing story on the front page of The Aus today. I wonder if you feel that it’s gone off track and needs to be revised or dumped?

PLIBERSEK: The National Rental Affordability Scheme is a terrific program. It's already delivered 14,000 now homes and another 24,000 in the pipeline. The vast majority of people who live in National Rental Affordability Scheme properties are people on very low incomes. Sole parent, pensioners, the whole range of people on low incomes including most particularly key workers. This is a scheme that was designed to bridge the gap between social housing, public housing and the private rental market by increasing the stock of affordable rental properties and it's done just that.

I think Tony Abbott needs to answer whether he's got a commitment to keeping this program going. This is a scheme that state housing ministers including Liberal State Housing Ministers have adopted enthusiastically. But the housing industry has taken up enthusiastically, that social housing experts have said is a success. So I think it's a very well designed scheme that is meeting its objectives, and what I'd like to see is a commitment from Tony Abbott that this isn't one of the secret cuts in that 900 page Commission of Cuts, because without additional investment in affordable housing we will continue to have people locked out of the housing market and we'll continue to see problems with homelessness.

The other question for Tony Abbott today is will he answer calls from around the country including from the Liberal Premier of Western Australia to renew the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness that expires on 30 June this year? We know that there are homelessness organisations that are already very worried about whether they'll be able to keep staff on, indeed I've heard reports from people who work in the homelessness sector that they're considering lay-offs already.

Tony Abbott's got a few questions to answer when it comes to housing: what are his plans for housing affordability? What are his plans for this National Rental Affordability Scheme? Is it one of the secret cuts in the Commission of Audit? And what’s he going to do about homelessness, is he going to go back to the situation that existed before 2007 when Liberal Governments, state and federal, said homelessness was in the too hard basket?

SHORTEN: Thanks everyone.

ENDS

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