The Abbott Government needs to confirm immediately that Australia will continue to be a strong contributor to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

The Coalition is ripping $4.5 billion out of Australia’s international aid budget. But Tony Abbott won’t tell Australians, or the international community, where the axe will fall.

Mr Abbott’s cuts to international aid must not be allowed to compromise the important work of the Global Fund in fighting AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in developing countries, including some of Australia’s nearest neighbours such as Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste.

Since 2002, with Australia’s help, the Global Fund’s more than US$22.4 billion of programs in around 150 countries have saved an estimated 8.7 million lives by providing anti-retroviral treatment for people living with HIV, and tuberculosis treatment for 9.7 million people.

Around 21 per cent of the Global Fund’s grants are directed to Asia and the Pacific.

These grants have resulted in more than 500,000 people on lifesaving HIV treatment; 46 million insecticide-treated bed nets distributed; and the treatment of 6.6 million cases of tuberculosis.

In 2013 alone, a commitment by the former Labor Government saw Australia give $100 million to the Global Fund – the largest contribution our country has ever made in a single year.

The Global Fund is an international financing institution established in 2002 to dramatically increase resources for the fight against the three pandemics. It is a partnership between government, civil society, the private sector, and affected communities.


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Transcript: Today Show 29 November 2013

coats arms











Subject/s: Qantas, NBN, GrainCorp sale, schools’ funding.


Karl Stefanovic: Well joining us now to discuss this [Qantas] and the rest of the week in politics is Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, morning Malcolm.

Malcolm Turnbull: Morning.

Stefanovic: And Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek.  Nice to have you in the studio this time.

Tanya Plibersek: It’s a pleasure.

Stefanovic: And sorry for cutting you off this time. Malcolm, let's start with Qantas. Are you prepared to remove the foreign ownership component cap on the company? Are you prepared to guarantee the debt?

Turnbull: Well these are all matters that are going to be considered. I think everyone's in favour of Qantas remaining very much an Australian company but Alan Joyce has a very good point in this sense, that he is fighting against - his competitors are, for the most part, state-owned airlines that are heavily subsidised one way or another by their governments so Qantas really is battling. And Virgin, its domestic competitor and of course an international competitor too, is largely owned by state-owned airlines. So it is a real battle for Qantas.

Stefanovic: If it is the case that you say the majority of people want to hold onto it as an Australian company, Transport Minister Warren Truss reckons Qantas can't expect to have taxpayers bankroll the debt guarantee so there is divisions even within your own party on where to go.

Turnbull: There's no division at all. I mean Warren's expressed a point of view there but this is something that we will consider as a Cabinet when we hear what Alan Joyce actually is going to put to us. He's had discussions with a number of ministers including Warren including me, including Joe obviously and we'll look at that collectively and come to a decision.

Stefanovic: Tanya, you supported Qantas in general but you stopped short of bankrolling as well?

Plibersek: Well we need to know specifically what the proposal is before we can start commenting. At the moment we've heard a few thought bubbles from what was supposed to be a private meeting from Joe Hockey. But I've got to say, my dad worked for Qantas for 21 years and I'm pretty attached to it as an Australian brand. I think most people, when they get onto a Qantas plane love the feeling of hearing Australian accents, knowing that the maintenance record, because it's done here in Australia is so high. There's a really very strong attachment.

Stefanovic: Would you support if you're able to give a debt guarantee, would you support that in place of equity?

Plibersek: Look, we need –

Stefanovic: Wouldn't that be a reasonable outcome?

Plibersek: We need to see specific proposals. I'm not going to start speculating about what they’re proposing.

Stefanovic: Malcolm, is that something you would support?

Turnbull: These are all things that can be considered but as we all know, as Tanya knows, these are matters that we consider collectively as a Cabinet and we'll have those discussions there.

Stefanovic: And the other side of it is, as Ross Greenwood pointed out before, how long do you keep propping up businesses?

Turnbull: Well, that is a fair point but I think where Joyce is right is that he is competing - his competitors are being very heavily supported by governments. If you look at these Middle Eastern airlines they are, all of them, and there are plenty of others, I'm not just picking on the Middle Eastern ones, but most of these airlines that he competes with have got a lot of support from governments and that is, you know, he is not operating on a level playing field.

Stefanovic: What will happen with Graincorp today?

Turnbull: [laughs]. You should ask the Treasurer.

Stefanovic: I can't at the moment, you're here. You know what's going to happen, what's likely to happen? Are they going to stop that investment?

Turnbull: Karl, it's a matter for the Treasurer and I couldn't tell you.

Stefanovic: It will be interesting to see what happens there. Probably in another hour or so, right? He knows.

Plibersek: He could if he wanted to. He doesn’t want to.

Turnbull: You're so well informed. You should break the story yourself.

Stefanovic: Let's move onto something you do know about, broadband. You've copped it in Fairfax today. You've levelled you out saying the Coalition's plan is poorly planned, unlikely to be completed on time and slashes revenue projections. It's a Malcolm Turnbull carve up, your response?

Turnbull: [laughs] What they've got is they've got a document which was prepared at the Labor Government's request more than 6 months ago by the NBN Co management, Michael Quigley and Ralph Steffens, both of whom have now gone. This document is A) out of date; B) it is defending a failed project. It has no credibility, absolutely none. Fairfax should have actually made it quite clear what the provenance of that document was and the truth is that we will know what is actually going on the NBN very soon because there is a big strategic review under way at the moment, being overseen by the board of the NBN Co, we've got KordaMentha, Boston Consulting Group, Deloittes, a big team in there to find out the real state of the project is at the moment, where it's heading under the old plans, what our options are for doing it sooner, cheaper and more affordably. It’s a very objective study and that will be produced shortly. What Labor is trying to do - they're trying to muddy the waters because they're afraid of the truth and you've seen Stephen Conroy's appalling conduct in the Senate yesterday bullying and harassing witnesses from the department. This is a desperate attempt by Conroy and Labor to avoid the day of reckoning when taxpayers find out how reckless and misconceived this project is.

Stefanovic: Was Stephen Conroy out of line yesterday?

Plibersek: No, I'll tell you what this is. This is the incoming –

Turnbull: You're endorsing what he did yesterday?

Plibersek: This is the incoming government brief. Every department prepares for a new government information about the policies that they're going to have to implement. Malcolm could solve this very quickly by releasing his incoming government brief. Instead -

Turnbull: Can I just correct that Tanya –

Plibersek: - No, no, let me finish.

Turnbull: No, I don’t want to interrupt you –

Plibersek: Malcolm you are interrupting me –

Turnbull: You are making a mistake. It's not the department’s brief. This was prepared by the company, it’s not the departments brief.

Plibersek: For an incoming government.

Turnbull: It was prepared by the company to go to the department and it's not the department's brief. This was a very partisan -

Plibersek: Well why don't you release the department brief?

Turnbull: Because you know -

Plibersek: Why is it a secret document? I released my incoming government brief last time we came into government. Your government’s released none of them. What this is Karl –

Turnbull: This is not the department's brief, it's the company's document.

Plibersek: This is setting up to break another promise. This is a secret document that doesn't need to be secret and it's a set up to break another promise just as has happened with education promise.

Stefanovic: Finally and quickly-

Turnbull: Our promise is to tell the truth about NBN and we’ll honour that, it’s something that your government, your previous government, never did.

Plibersek: You promised to deliver faster, cheaper broadband and this is showing it's going to be slower and worse and won't meet the needs of business or domestic consumers.

Turnbull: It doesn’t show that –

Stefanovic: We've got to finish on one that –

Turnbull: Fairfax has published a totally political document written by a management team that had conspicuously and consistently failed to meet every forecast they ever made.

Plibersek: Well why don’t you release the incoming government’s brief?

Stefanovic: Why didn't you say that after the first question?

Turnbull: I had to get fired up, see.

Stefanovic: He's fired up now. Finally and very quickly, today's meeting of education ministers that promises to be an interesting one. Fly on the wall would be great. NSW Liberal Education Minister Adrian Piccoli says this "There's no doubt that what seems to be happening is that States that signed up to Gonski are being punished –

Plibersek: That’s right.

Stefanovic: And States that didn't sign up are being rewarded". He goes on further and he says, "All of this is immoral."

Plibersek: Yeah it means the kids who need extra –

Turnbull: I think he's jumped the shark, don't you?

Plibersek: I think it shows Karl, the important thing about this is that the kids who need extra funding because they've got poor English language, poor reading skills, disabilities, they've missed out on something, they're going to miss out on funding. Before the election the Liberals said there was no difference between their education policy and ours. We promise $9.4 billion over 6 years. They've taken that down to $1.8 billion. There's a big difference for Australian children.

Stefanovic: Finally Malcolm.

Turnbull: That's not true.

Plibersek: It is true.

Turnbull: We are committed to the same funding envelope as Labor -

Plibersek: That's not right.

Turnbull: Made over the forward estimates -

Plibersek: But not over 6 years.

Turnbull: And we've committed to an additional $230 million for Queensland, NT and WA who didn't sign up to Shorten's various deals and what we are going to do is to develop a fair national and consistent plan, policy because what Labor did –

Stefanovic: Without all the guarantees.

Turnbull: What Labor did in their desperate –

Plibersek: So why then are the Liberal education ministers so opposed to Christopher Pyne's proposal?

Turnbull: Well look Adrian Piccoli obviously thought he cut a pretty good deal.

Plibersek: He did.

Turnbull: And he thinks he got a better deal than anyone else.

Plibersek:  NSW kids will miss out on $2 billion. You shouldn't have said you're going to give them the same amount of money if you're not Malcolm. It's a broken promise.

Turnbull: We have made a commitment to keep the funding envelope the same and we're going to have a national and consistent deal across the country.

Plibersek: You've already cut $1 billion from it.

Stefanovic: Alright we’ve run out of time.

Plibersek: You've already cut $1 billion from it. You've broken a promise to kids and parents. It's unforgiveable.

Turnbull: The only person who cut $1 billion, in face he cut $1.2 billion out was Bill Shorten.

Plibersek:  No that’s not right.

Turnbull: Chris Bowen admitted that he did yesterday.

Plibersek:  That’s not right.

Stefanovic: This is why it’s so good having you two on. We could do three and a half hours of this.

Turnbull: We get along so well.

Stefanovic: Well you do, it’s interesting. It's Fordo's birthday today too.

Turnbull: Happy birthday to him.

Stefanovic: Oh say it with conviction.

Turnbull: How old is he anyway? State secret?

Stefanovic: 26.

Plibersek: Malcolm is going to sing happy birthday Mr Fordham like happy birthday Mr President. [hums Happy Birthday tune]

Turnbull: I cannot sing a note.

Stefanovic: Oh Tanya can do it.

Plibersek: [Laughs] No I can’t.

Turnbull: Can I tell you something?

Stefanovic: Yeah.

Turnbull: If we're in church or somewhere, anywhere where the national anthem is being sung a hymn or whatever, if I'm standing next to Lucy and I start to sing I get this sharp elbow in my ribs. Her view is, and I think she's right, that it's in the public interest that I just move my lips silently.

Stefanovic: Finally, something we all agree on. Thanks, guys.


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Media Statement: Readout of meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi












The Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition met with Myanmar’s Opposition Leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, this afternoon as part of her first official visit to Australia.

Mr Shorten and Ms Plibersek conveyed the Opposition’s support for the political reforms underway in Myanmar, and discussed the importance of increasing people to people and economic ties between our two countries. This visit to Australia helps strengthen our bilateral relationship.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a global leader in human rights and democratic reform, and one of the greatest figures of our time.

The Opposition welcomes Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s involvement in World AIDS Day activities while she is here in Australia.

HIV/AIDS remains a serious challenge for many countries, including some of Australia’s nearest neighbours.  Australia must do everything we can, through our aid program and otherwise, to increase access to testing, treatment, and prevention, particularly in developing countries.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi indicated that openness and compassion are critical to responding effectively to HIV/AIDS in Myanmar.

She also expressed that that business confidence to support investment and economic growth was essential – and that political stability and enforceability of the rule of law are critical to this.



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Statement: UN vote regarding Israeli settlement activity





Change in Australia's Position on UN vote regarding  Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories

Today, the Foreign Minister must personally explain why the Abbott Government has changed Australia's position on a United Nations vote calling for a stop to Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories.

This change is something that seems to have occurred with little or no consultation.

It's also quite extraordinary that the Government would make such a change without reporting back to the Australian people about it.

Ongoing tension around settlements highlights the need to progress, as quickly as possible, the direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to resolve outstanding final status issues.

The expansion of settlements outside areas that will clearly remain part of Israel under a territorial exchange agreement undermines the prospect of a lasting peace through a two state solution.

25 NOVEMBER 2013


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Media Statement: Arctic 30


TP: We know the relationship with Indonesia is under strain at the moment. And it will be very important for the Government to take steps to restore normal relations. Our relationship with Indonesia is one of our most important. We’ve got strong security links with Indonesia, we’ve got cooperation to stop people smuggling, to stop terrorism. We also have very strong economic links with Indonesia.

At the moment, the relationship is under a great deal of strain, and it’s very important that the Australian Government take steps to restore normal relations. We can’t let problems like this fester. Our friendship is a long one and a strong one, and I’m confident that we can restore normal relations but it will take some work.

Question: Is there bipartisanship on this?

TP: Well absolutely. The Opposition sees our relationship with Indonesia as critically important, and we will support any steps the Government is taking to restore normal relations with Indonesia. I think the key difference is that before the election, the now Government, the then Opposition, made some injudicious comments about their policies and they came into Government with a relationship that was already under stress. The Coalition said a number of things about buying back the boats and turning back the boats and so on that the Indonesians were concerned about. The Coalition was making announcements about things that would be happening on Indonesian soil and in Indonesian waters without ever having discussed it with the Indonesians. Tony Abbott on his first trip to Indonesia locked Indonesian journalists out of a press conference.  So you see the level of media coverage in Indonesia at the moment isn't helped by the fact that Tony Abbott offended the whole of the Indonesia press core on his first visit there. So we need to take a few steps back and look at the lead-up to this most recent strain in the relationship, go back to basics and restore friendly relations with a nation that is a near neighbour and a good friend.


Journalist: (inaudible) in 2009, there are allegations that happened under the former Labor Government. Shouldn’t the Opposition now be doing more to help patch up this relationship?


TP: Well as I say we are absolutely committed to working with the Government to restoring good relations with Indonesia, and abs­olutely we need to support any moves they make to restore the relationship to its normal footing. We never comment on matters of national security or intelligence, but I would say there is a deeper issue here, and there is a deeper issue of the diplomatic relation between our nations. We need to work on a relationship that has been stressed for some time and is now at a very strained stage, we need to make sure that the difficulties between us don’t fester and that we very quickly restore good relations between our nations.


Journalist: Should the Prime Minister pick up the phone and speak to the Indonesian President?


TP: Look I think it’s very important that the Prime Minister take the advice of the professionals in this area. The diplomats that he has in Indonesia, he’s got a Department of Foreign Affairs that can advise him, a range of people who  have long-standing and good relations with Indonesia that can advise him. I’m not going start dictating what the government should do. I would simply say that it is important that we re-establish good relations with Indonesia. It’s important for Indonesia and it’s very important for Australia too.
Journalist: What should Julie Bishop be doing to restore that relationship?


Well in the same way that I’m not going to dictate what the Prime Minister should do, I’m not going to dictate what the Foreign Minister should do. She has a range of very good, very professional advisers now that can tell her the best way forward. But it is important that we move forward, at the moment it seems we seem stuck in a spiral that’s worsening – we need to ensure that we get back to normal good relations as quickly as possible.


Journalist: If Bill Shorten is talking about (inaudible) and you’re out here this morning talking about missteps that have led up to this incident, are you doing your bit to push this along? Shouldn’t you be on Bill Shorten’s ticket calling this (inaudible) Australia?


TP: Well I would say that I’m doing exactly that, I’m out here saying that the Opposition is ready to stand with the government to repair the relationship. I’m giving some context explaining why the issue has progressed in the way it has. But I can’t be clearer than to say that he Opposition is absolutely committed to working with the government on any measures that they take to restore good relations with our neighbour.


Journalist: Can I just ask you about Mark Textor’s Tweet yesterday, he was criticising, and it wasn’t clear in fact who he was criticising, but he was referring to a 1970’s porn star when talking about one of the Indonesian officials.


TP: Look I did have those drawn to my attention and I frankly I was quite shocked. They’re highly inappropriate comments and I’m pleased to be told that they have now been taken off the Twitter feed, but I was frankly quite shocked at the comments. This is a person who is in the Prime Minister’s inner circle. The Indonesians know that he is a long-standing adviser to the Liberal Party and I think these sorts of loose comments can do nothing to restore the relation between our two nations.


Journalist: Just onto the debt ceiling, is it damaging for Australia’s reputation that this issue hasn’t been resolved?

TP: Well it could be resolved today - it could have been resolved last week. The Opposition has offered the Liberal Government a $400 billion debt ceiling - an extra $100 billion dollars. If they want more than an extra $100 billion, then maybe they should say why. Maybe they should release the mid-year economic forecast which is due now. This is a government that came to government saying that they are going to cut debt, and they want to increase it by $200 billion without saying why. And this goes back to the fact this is not the government that they said they’d be. They said that debt was the problem, and that more debt wasn’t the answer. They said they’d cut debt and they want to increase it.

Journalist: The carbon tax is due to be voted on today in the House of Representatives and there is a stalemate expected in the Senate. Has Labor changed its view on the issue?

TP: Well absolutely not, we have said for many years now - since I think 1988 - in our party platform that climate pollution causing climate change is an environmental economic problem that we need to take action on. In 2007, there was bipartisan agreement on that. John Howard went to the election, Labor went to the election, promising to take action on climate change. Ever since then we have said that this nation has to take action on climate change. We introduced an emission trading scheme that was working, it was cutting dirty power generation and increasing clean energy generation. Now the new government want to scrap that scheme without describing in any detail what will replace it. They claim that they can drop pollution with their new scheme but they don’t say how. They also say that if it costs more than expected then we’ll just skip our pollution target. Most Australians agree that there is something happening to our climate. They can see that our summers are getting hotter, that our weather is changing. That affects our economy, it affects our oceans, and it affects our farming communities. They agree that we need to take action. The government is saying ‘Trust us, repeal these bills and we’ll do something about climate change down the track’. It’s not good enough. Thanks everyone.



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Media Statement - Mr Colin Russell










The Labor Opposition calls on the Abbott Government to step up diplomatic efforts to help secure bail for Australian, Colin Russell, who remains in pre-trial detention in Russia.

Mr Russell is one of 30 Greenpeace activists (the ‘Arctic 30’) from around the world facing charges following a protest at the Gazprom Arctic oil drilling platform.

We are advised that three Russians have recently been granted bail, but it is understood a Russian court yesterday extended Mr Russell’s pre-trial detention by three months.

The Australian Government should explore, directly with the Russian Government, whether assurances can be given to secure bail for Mr Russell.

Reports indicate the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding UK citizens involved.

Prime Minister Abbott and his Foreign Minister must act as well, to urge proportionality and fairness in Russia’s response to the Arctic 30.


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Statement: Prime Minister Abbott's Comments on the Use of Torture











Today Prime Minister Abbott failed to explain to the Parliament his suggestion that torture can be excused in some circumstances.

When asked about torture at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held recently in Sri Lanka, Mr Abbott said:

“…we accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen.”

Mr Abbott today refused to explain those comments to the Parliament.

Australia is a signatory to the United Nations’ Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol.

The Labor Opposition unequivocally condemns the use of torture, without exception.

The Prime Minister’s comments signify a radical departure from Australia’s commitment to human rights and damage Australia’s standing in the international community.


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Statement on Typhoon Haiyan - 10 November 2013


The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Typhoon Haiyan

The Opposition’s thoughts are with the people of the Philippines who have suffered such terrible loss as a result of Typhoon Haiyan.

Our thoughts are also with other nations, including Vietnam and Laos, who authorities report remain in the path of the devastating typhoon.

It is understood an Australian man is among the dead. We express our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

The Opposition stands ready to assist the Abbott Government, in any way we can, to facilitate Australia’s contribution to relief efforts.

10 NOVEMBER 2013


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Opinion Piece - Rocking The Boats: Abbott Needs to Salvage Indonesian Ties








Over the last several weeks, many have looked on shocked as the Abbott Government has turned Australia’s once strong relationship with Indonesia sour.

Unfortunately this is hardly a surprise.

Indonesia is an important neighbour.  It is an important trading partner and friend.

In Government, Labor worked with Indonesia to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.

From closer defence ties to helping build two thousand schools, Labor carved out a deeper partnership with Indonesia.

We handed over a relationship in fine working order – strong and productive.

Despite claiming their foreign policy would be “more Jakarta and less Geneva”, Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop have weakened that relationship in just a matter of months.

The new government has taken a number of diplomatic missteps.

Before the election, the Liberals made claims about how their asylum seeker policies would operate on Indonesian soil and in Indonesian waters without discussion or consultation with Indonesia.

Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop failed to talk to Indonesia about their ‘turn back the boats’ or ‘buy back the boats’ policies leading the Indonesian Foreign Minister to describe these announcements as ‘unilateral’ and ‘worrying’.  The Indonesian Foreign Minister warned Julie Bishop that “Indonesia cannot accept any Australian policy that would, in nature, violate Indonesia’s sovereignty.”

People smuggling is a regional problem that requires regional cooperation.  The Liberals’ unilateral announcements undermine that cooperation and have plainly made the Indonesian government disinclined to accept asylum seeker boats which Australia has sought to return.

We know this through the Indonesian media – not our own government which refuses to answer questions about the ‘turn back the boats’ policy it took to the election.  The Jakarta Post is telling Australians more than our own government.

While Tony Abbott made much of his first official visit to Indonesia, he was forced to spend much of his time apologising for things he said during the election campaign, and came back empty handed on both his ‘turn back the boats’ and ‘buy back the boats’ policies.

The state of our relationship with Indonesia is the result of the Liberal party in opposition and now in government continuing to insult our neighbour.

Diplomacy is a two way street.  You can’t act disrespectfully to our international partners and expect cooperation in return.

The recent stand off on asylum seeker boats is a very practical manifestation of that, but it is just one example of the deteriorating relationship.

Julie Bishop visited Indonesia last week, but has refused to explain to the Australian people how she will repair our relationship with our neighbour. It is plain that her belated efforts to fix the friendship have failed so far.

The Vice President of Indonesia is visiting Australia this week.  The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister must meet with the Vice President to reassure Indonesia of the Abbott Government’s goodwill.

The test for the new Government is to restore the long standing and friendly diplomatic relationship with our neighbour.

Anything less undermines future cooperation with Indonesia, and the stability that brings to our region.

Originally published online by the Sydney Morning Herald


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Transcript: Press Conference With Hon. Chris Bowen Mp - 6 November 2013









SUBJECTS: Joe Hockey’s mini-Budget, superannuation tax slug on lower and middle income earners, Abbott Government priorities, GrainCorp, bilateral relationship with Indonesia, Abbott Government’s culture of secrecy, car industry.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: I just want to start by talking about a couple of things today. In a moment I'll hand over to Chris Bowen to talk about the Liberal Party's tax announcements. The Government's made a number of important announcements today and Chris Bowen will go through the details of those.

Just very briefly on that, I'd like to say how incredible it is that we had a campaign that was so firmly based on debt and deficit and since coming to Government all Joe Hockey has done is super-size the deficit.

I also wanted to make mention of the fact that the announcements that the Government have made today very clearly show their priorities. There's a number of announcements here that hit ordinary families, including the fact that 3.6 million low and middle income workers' superannuation will be reduced to benefit 16,000 of the highest income earners and their superannuation. Coming on top of the 1.3 million families that are missing out on the Schoolkids' Bonus it really does show where the priorities of this Government lie and it does further underline the fact that Australians aren't getting the Tony Abbott they voted for.

When Chris has made his announcements today I will make a few extra comments about our diplomatic relationship with Indonesia.

CHRIS BOWEN: Thank you very much, Tanya. We see two things very starkly today. We see Liberal Party's hypocrisy and we see their values and their priorities - their twisted values and their wrong priorities.

On hypocrisy, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey campaigned on the platform of reducing the budget deficit. Since the election, all they've done is blow the budget deficit. And they have shown us their values and priorities by giving higher income earners a bigger tax break on superannuation while insisting, insisting on scaling back the tax concessions for low and middle income workers. Since the election we've seen Mr Hockey provide a $9 billion grant to the Reserve Bank, which was not asked for, which has a debt impact, an increase in the deficit each year of $350 million.

And today seen him give a tax break to with 16,000 very high income earners with more than $2 million in their superannuation accounts to provide a watering down of Labor's measures to improve the tax integrity of our largest businesses and at the same time we see the Government insisting on scaling back tax concessions for Australia's hard working small businesses, taking away previous tax concessions that the previous Government gave Australia's small businesses.

They are attacking 3.6 million low and middle income earners by refusing to proceed with Labor's tax concessions. This Government fundamentally doesn't understand, fundamentally does not get that it's unfair for Australia's low and middle income earners to receive effectively zero tax concession on superannuation when Australia's high income earners get substantial tax concessions for superannuation. They just don't get the unfairness of that. And they're scaling back of our tax concessions for low and middle income earners is a slap in the face to Australia's hard-working, low and middle income families - to shop assistants, to cleaners, services indeed to our essential services workers right across Australia - that this Government thinks they don't deserve a superannuation tax concession at the same time as this Government is deliberately giving more tax concessions to those people with $2 million or more in their superannuation accounts.

Now we saw Mr Hockey again today say that the budget since the situation had deteriorated since the election and we see him today announce a raft of measures with a huge impact on the Budget. Mr Hockey has no excuse. He must release the mid-year economic forecast. He should not wait until just before Christmas. There is it nothing stopping him releasing it now. It's been released by now in other years - it should be released now. And make no mistake, that with these changes that Mr Hockey's made, that this Government's made with a $9 billion grant, with the tax changes made today, MYEFO would be Mr Hockey's mini-budget.

He can't hide behind and create excuses that it's not his fault. He's the Treasurer of Australia, he must take responsibility for his own decisions and he must update the Australian people on state of the budget which he refuses to do. He refuses to provide the update. He said before it would be done January – he briefed out and leaked it would be done in January. We've shamed them in to agreeing to do Christmas but it should be done now.

I just want to cover one other matter before I hand back to Tanya.

We saw on the weekend the extraordinary spectacle of the Deputy Prime Minister of trying to publicly bounce the Treasurer into making a decision on GrainCorp to knock back foreign investment. We see the Government at war with itself on this issue and today we saw the even more spectacular statement by Treasurer Hockey that he would not be bullied into this decision. I think there's only one conclusion to make out of that comment; he feels he's being bullied by the Deputy Prime Minister, or perhaps it's by the Agriculture Minister, Mr Joyce.

We clearly have a Government at war with itself on this issue. For the Deputy Prime Minister to try to publicly shame the Treasurer into a decision and for the Treasurer to publicly respond in a press conference by saying that he won't be bullied, shows these deep divisions.

The Treasurer has an obligation to explain to the Australian people the benefits of foreign investment in the agriculture sector and in the economy more broadly and if he were to knock back this foreign investment decision he would need to have very good reasons indeed. But I call on the Treasurer to show leadership and to not hide behind claims of being bullied by his Cabinet colleagues and to make the right decision in the national interest.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Thanks very much, Chris. I want to make a few additional comments about Australia's diplomatic relationship with Indonesia. Not, of course, on any security matters or intelligence matters - there's long-standing convention that we don't comment on those issues. What's at stake here, however, is our very long and strong and close relationship with Indonesia.

Indonesia is an important neighbour. It's been partner an important friend and trading partner and Labor in Government worked very closely with Indonesia to strengthen that relationship. Recently, however, that relationship has soured and unfortunately it's not difficult to understand why.

As Greg Sheridan pointed out this morning, Indonesia's Foreign Minister seems to be taking too much pleasure at having a go at us lately. Despite claiming before the election that their foreign policy would be more Jakarta and less Geneva, there's been a series of missteps by the incoming Government that have affected our relationship with Indonesia. Before the election the Liberals made claims about policies how their asylum seeker policies would operate within Indonesian territory without discussing those plans with Indonesia.

Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop failed to talk to Indonesia about the Liberal's turn back the boats or buy back the boats policies leading the Indonesian Foreign Minister to describe them as unilateral and worrying plans. The Indonesian Foreign Minister warned Julie Bishop in New York that Indonesia cannot accept any Australian policy that would in nature violate Indonesian sovereignty. That was his exact quote.

Of course in response to that Tony Abbott made much of his first visit to Indonesia, however, it really didn't go very well. He locked Indonesian journalists out of a press conference and the suggestion by the Indonesian journalists union at the time was that that might have contravened Indonesian law. Of course it went down very poorly. Tony Abbott was forced during that visit to spend much of his time apologising for the things that he had said before the election and the policies that he'd announced with no consultation and of course he came back empty-handed on both his turn back the boats and buy back the boats policies.

The diplomatic relationship which Labor handed to the incoming government was in fine working order but in a very short time Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop have managed to run it into the ground. The current difficulties in the relationship are of course, magnified by the poor footing that this relationship is built on. And the fact is that Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott insulted the Indonesians on more than one occasion.  I wrote very recently to suggest that she should visit Indonesia immediately to repair this damaged relationship. I note that indeed she will arrive in Indonesia today. So the test for the new Foreign Minister is to restore the good will in our relationship with our near neighbour because anything less undermines the mutual cooperation we have with Indonesia and the stability that that brings to our region.

Thanks. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Foreign Minister has the character to deal with this?

PLIBERSEK: I'm not going to make personal comments about other Members of Parliament. What I would say about our relationship with Indonesia is that it is one of our most important. It's been built on over a long period of time by successive governments; it was handed to the incoming Government in very good working order. There was a very close rapport between Bob Carr, for example, as our Foreign Minister and Marty Natalegawa as the Indonesian Foreign Minister and it's absolutely now imperative that Julie Bishop now go to retrieve the relationship that these loose comments over time have led to.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Indonesia's Foreign Minister sees this as a form of payback given Mr Abbott's posturing on boats before the election?

PLIBERSEK: Again, I'm not going to speculate on the motivations of the Indonesian Foreign Minister. What's of interest to us is our Indonesia relationship as a nation with Indonesia as a nation. What I can say is that the relationship has been good, strong and deep for many years and in recent months has deteriorated very substantially because of a number of missteps taken by Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott before the election and unfortunately also since the election.

JOURNALIST: So is there one specific thing the Minister could do to start to repair the relationship?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it's very important that she has gone to Indonesia now. I'm pleased to see that she went to Indonesia. I think she needs meet obviously with the Foreign Minister and any other senior Indonesian officials and listen to their concerns. The fact the Indonesian Foreign Minister repudiated Australian Government policy in New York was troubling at the time. There's obviously a fractured relationship there, the relationship is strained and it's very important that the Australian Foreign Minister listen to the concerns of the Indonesians.

JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen, the profit shifting crackdown that was abandoned by Joe Hockey, I think he said it was unrealisable, what do you say to that?

BOWEN: I think the measures that he announced today will save $1.1 billion compared to the $1.8 billion that they would have saved in the way the previous government was implementing them.

Now we saw Mr Hockey a few weeks ago beating his chest saying tax minimization crackdowns will watered be the hallmark of his chairmanship of the G20 Finance Ministers. Now he’s watered down based on advice from the previous Government. Advice from the various economic agencies that the Government has available to it, most notably the Treasury and the tax office, that this was a workable way of reducing tax minimization. So, it's up to him to justify this significant amount of revenue that would have been saved and how he can close the ring on that with his rhetoric as the incoming Chairman of the G20 Finance Ministers, and the G20 Finance Ministers have made exactly these sorts of measures and agreeing on them across international borders, one of the key priorities for the next 12 months.

JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen, who owns these billions of dollars of tax hikes coming Australia's way, are they Labor’s or the Coalition’s?

BOWEN: The Treasurer is the Treasurer of Australia and he can take decisions and responsibility for the decisions he's announced today.

JOURNALIST: So if you're going to criticise him how can you given some of these were apparently Labor's ideas?

BOWEN: Well let's be clear, we announced a whole range of measures. Now Mr Hockey has today scrapped some of those measures, like he scrapped the improving of the tax integrity around high income earners’ superannuation. He's got to take responsibility for that. He's got to explain why his priority is to give a tax break to people with $2 million in their superannuation accounts at the same time he's cracking down on Australia's low and middle income earners and taking away the only tax concession they get, the only tax concession they get for their superannuation which Mr Hockey seems to think is appropriate that they don't get any.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe that doctors could rort the self-education arrangements to travel to conferences and education events?

BOWEN: I'm not going to talk about doctors in particular but I will say this, this was a measure designed again, to improve the fairness and integrity of the tax system. When I was Treasurer delayed this measure by a year to enable better consultation to ensure that it was properly targeted, to ensure it is cracking down on claimed self-education expenses which are over and above that which could be properly justified. I would include in that expensive overseas conferences which may have some educational element to them but which clearly also have other side benefits from the individual undertaking them. That I think is appropriate. Again Mr Hockey, again with this so-called ‘budget emergency; he thinks it's somehow okay to leave all that in place - Yeah, sure, go overseas as much as you like, claim as much money as you like, and claim it as self- education and we're at going to do anything about it at all. That underlines again his warped priorities and his incorrect prioritisation of the tax changes needed in Australia.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

BOWEN: That's a matter for Mr McTernan. Each individual case should be looked at on its merits. As I say, if someone is going overseas, not using Australian education institutions, but going on it expensive conferences, claiming it as a government would be entitled to look very closely at that to take necessary and prudent steps to tighten that in the interest of fairness.

JOURNALIST: Why do there seem to be so many tax measures announced under your government that were not actually legislated?

BOWEN: That's pretty standard. I notice Mr Hockey said today one of these measures were announced in 2001. Yes, who was the Treasurer in 2001 and the Treasurer for the next 6 years and didn't implement that tax change? I think we all know the answer to that question.

JOURNALIST: There was some commentary today, particularly with the self-education cap, that its axing was a win for common sense and Joe Hockey was saying it actually helped further themselves. Do you make much of that argument?

BOWEN: Look, we all good agree that self-education is a good thing, that people trying to improve their and their productivity and their saleability in the labour market is a good thing for them and a good thing for the nation, there's no argument there. But it's a matter of ensuring that it's targeted at those people who do need do the tax concession to undertake their self-improvement, their education courses and not providing a wind-fall benefit for those who are in the position, and there's only a certain group of people who are in the position, where they're able to afford international courses and international travel at very considerable expense and then to claim that as a tax concession.

We're not talking about going down to the local TAFE and doing a course there, we're talking about very expensive international travel which some people have been claiming as a self-education expense.

JOURNALIST: They’ve given themselves another few weeks to look at some of these tax initiatives they haven’t made a decision on, I’m not sure which ones they are. Do you have any views about what should happen there

BOWEN: It should be dealt with on a case by case basis. A couple of weeks of consultation I think is not necessarily ideal but that's a matter for the Assistant Treasurer to ensure the consultation is proper.

JOURNALIST: Is leaving 62 options up in the air, is this adding to the uncertainty of the business community?

BOWEN: I think that can be overblown. I think the business community certainly wasn't banging my door down to say we need these legislated or not legislated. I think a couple of weeks of consultation if that’s  the way the Assistant Treasurer wants to do it, I’ll be very critical of many of the things they have announced today, but I’m not going to criticise a couple of weeks of consultation.

JOURNALIST: You'd like the midyear economic outlook out before that?

BOWEN: Absolutely. There's no excuse for not releasing the mid-year economic outlook it now. I mean this is our Treasurer who wants us to approve an increase in the debt cap of 67% to half a trillion dollars but is not going to release the economic forecast to back that up. This is a Treasurer who wants to give $9 billion to the Reserve Bank but is not going to release the mid-year economic outlook. This is a Treasurer who says there's been a further deterioration since the election in the time that he's been Treasurer but I'm not going to tell you how much and I'm not going to outline the figures. So the culture of secrecy which encounters so much of this Government is well and truly at place in the Treasury.

JOURNALIST: Will you be campaigning for a Fringe Benefits Tax on cars over the next three years?

BOWEN: Well the next election is three years away and we will be developing our policy. On the Fringe Benefits Tax let me say this. I saw Mr Hockey in a moment of Orwellian hutzpah say that the car industry is open for business. Well that will come as a bit of a surprise to the workers at Holden and Toyota who are waiting day by day to find out if they have a job because of this Government's refusal to give the car industry the necessary assurances it needs because of the Government’s insistence on ripping away half a billion dollars from the car industry.

So we're not going to be lectured by Mr Hockey about the car industry. He's in no position to do that. In relation to the integrity of the budget we said it was fair enough that if people are claiming tax deduction on the basis that they're using their car for work purposes that it would not provide be unreasonable for them to provide some evidence, some evidence that that's the case. Now, what policy we take to the between next election we'll announce between now and the next election.

JOURNALIST: If the Foreign Minister were to come back from Indonesia and the Indonesian President of Foreign Minister were to make remarks that they've been making over the last couple of months, does that leave us, our kind of relationship in dire straits?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think the relationship is seriously fractured, or we wouldn’t have seen the level of response we've seen from Indonesia over the last few days, I think the test for come Julie Bishop, if she doesn't come back from Indonesia with the obvious good will of the Indonesian Government behind her you would have to judge very harshly the series of the steps that have occurred over the last few months that have led us to this position.

We handed over a relationship that and was in very good working order and now we've got the Australian Foreign Minster having to fly to Indonesia and to explain herself and apologise. It really has deteriorated to a great extent that we're in this situation at the moment.

JOURNALIST: The substance of the allegations, would Indonesia know that Australia has an ASIS station in Jakarta?

PLIBERSEK: We have never commented on intelligence matters and I'm not going to start doing that now.


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