MEDIA RELEASE - Labor Welcomes Ausmin Outcomes

coats arms

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

SENATOR STEPHEN CONROY

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE

 

MEDIA RELEASE

 

LABOR WELCOMES AUSMIN OUTCOMES

Federal Labor has today welcomed the signing of the Force Posture Agreement between Australia and the United States.

The agreement creates the legal framework for the rotational presence in Australia of US marines.

It follows the agreement reached between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and US President Barack Obama in 2011, which paved the way for US marines to conduct exercises and training on a rotational basis with the Australian Defence Force in Australia.

Federal Labor also welcomes the continued support for close links between Australian and US special forces, as well as further cooperation on ballistic missile defence.

Today’s announcements build on the work done by the Labor Government and further Australia’s long-held strategic interests in supporting US engagement in our region in a manner that promotes peace and stability.

Federal Labor has welcomed ongoing cooperation between Australia and the United States to address urgent and complex challenges including in Iraq, Gaza and Syria.

Labor supports the leadership shown by the United States in meeting the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, as well as the offer of humanitarian assistance from the Australian Government.

Australia and the United States have been Allies for more than sixty years and we welcome steps that continue to underpin and strengthen this relationship.

Add your reaction Share

STATEMENT - Humanitarian Situation in Iraq

coats arms

THE HON. BILL SHORTEN

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

 

TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

STATEMENT

 

HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN IRAQ

 

FRIDAY, 8 AUGUST 2014

The humanitarian need in Iraq is significant, urgent and increasing.

We note that President Obama has authorised airstrikes in Iraq as a response to the US assessment that strikes may be necessary to prevent massacres of civilians.

Labor has been extremely concerned about reports of civilian deaths, and most recently, the targeting of tens of thousands of Yazidis trapped on a mountain without food and water.

The reports emerging from Iraq about the persecution by ISIS of any religion other than Sunni Islam are deeply troubling and we understand that strong action may be necessary to protect civilians.

In addition to the authorisation of air strikes should they become necessary, the United States has made airdrops of food and water to besieged civilians.

Australia must also offer humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq.

I note that Australian government assistance to Iraq last year was $7.7 million. In the May budget that was cut to $0.

The leaders of Iraq should resolve immediately to form an inclusive government and settle the Presidency so that a united front can be presented against ISIS, a violent, extremist organisation.

If Australia is asked to provide military assistance, we would expect detailed briefings from the Government before making an assessment.

I will be meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Sydney next week and will raise the situation with him then.

Add your reaction Share

STATEMENT - The Conflict in Israel and the Palestinian Territories

 coats arms

THE HON BILL SHORTEN

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

 

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

STATEMENT

 

THE CONFLICT IN ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

THURSDAY, 8 AUGUST 2014

Labor calls on all parties to agree to a continuation of the 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza, which is scheduled to end at 3:00pm AEST on Friday 8 August.

With reports of almost 1900 dead, including hundreds of children, we urge the parties to agree to an extension of the ceasefire and work to achieve a permanent end to the conflict.

Labor has been especially concerned that even when taking shelter in UN run facilities, residents of Gaza have not been safe.

Labor deplores the abuse of civilian facilities for military purposes, including reportedly to hide rockets.

Australia needs to work with the international community to facilitate lasting peace and an end to this terrible conflict – including through our position on the United Nations Security Council.

Labor supports an Australian contribution to the huge humanitarian task in Gaza. Gaza has faced enormous social and economic difficulties due to the blockade, even before the recent fighting.

Labor welcomes the $5 million the Australian Government has recently contributed to humanitarian efforts, but notes that this follows an earlier decision by the Government to cut $4.5 million in Australian aid funding this year to the Palestinian Territories.

While the conflict in Gaza has been distressing it is important that debate is kept within civil bounds. Labor utterly condemns any racist, bigoted or sectarian attacks directed at members of our own community or the communities in the Middle East.

 

 

Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - The Today Show, August 8

coats-arms.jpg

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

TV INTERVIEW
TODAY SHOW, CHANNEL 9

FRIDAY, 8 AUGUST 2014

 

Subject/s: Russian sanctions; unemployment figures; metadata retention. 

LISA WILKINSON, INTERVIEWER: Russia has moved overnight to ban all Australian imports, worth around $1.8 billion, as well as considering a ban on all Western countries flying over Russian airspace. The news comes just as we were mourning the 38 Aussies killed by his rebels in the MH17 disaster. We are joined now by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Labor’s Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek. Malcolm I’ll start with you - an outrageous ban at an outrageous time. What is our response to this?

MALCOLM TURNBULL, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Well the world is standing up to Russia. Tony Abbott has actually led world opinion in standing up to Russia over its outrageous conduct in the Ukraine-

WILKINSON: That was prior to the announcements overnight.

TURNBULL: The fact is there are sanctions being imposed on Russia and the Russians are responding to them. It is not unexpected.

WILKINSON: What is our response now?

TURNBULL: Well the net loser out of all of this will be Russia. I will leave, the precise responses will be calibrated with other like-minded countries but Russia will be the loser out of this. Putin is being - is reacting against the firm response from the rest of the world and his country, his citizens will lose out of this.

WILKINSON: Putin is the due here in November for the G20 summit. Tanya, do you think he should be banned?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is important for the world community to be able to say to Vladimir Putin that the behaviour in backing the separatists in Ukraine, the aggressive moves towards other neighbours is unacceptable. Sometimes the best way to do that is to have someone in the room and to say it to their face. It is still not clear that he will come in November. There is always the chance that he might not come but it is true that these sanctions come at an extraordinary time. Australia has participated in one round of sanctions against Russia and that was after the invasion of Crimea but I think Malcolm that we have not as Australians said that we would sign to this second lot of sanctions that the US and the Europeans agreed to more recently in response to the shooting-down of flight MH17. So it’s a punishing of our primary production sector and our farmers at a time when it seems that the Russians have backed separatists, have armed them, and those armed separatists have shot down a plane with Australians on it. It is extraordinary behaviour.

WILKINSON: Outrageous. And it certainly will have an effect on the economy with that $1.8 billion taken out of it. Let’s stick with the economy now. As Ross told us, the jobs figures are not good. Unemployment is at a 12-year high. Treasurer Joe Hockey says the Government must be allowed to implement its budget to get the economy back on track. Tanya, your response?

PLIBERSEK: Well the budget is part of the problem. The budget includes measures that have destroyed consumer confidence. People are worried about spending money and they are worried about their jobs. You see the effect particularly in states like Queensland where first of all Campbell Newman has sacked teachers, nurses, public servants and now the additional Federal Government cuts that are proposed to health and education services compound that. If you take 10 teachers out of a community or 20 nurses out of a community like Townsville or Rockhampton, in fact they’ve lost hundreds of staff up there from hospitals and so on, you feel that effect right across the whole community. I think the budget is part of the problem not part of the solution.

WILKINSON: Joe Hockey is holding back on tax cuts until he can get all of those moves through. You’ve got this new bromance going now with Clive Palmer, Malcolm, is that helping at all?

TURNBULL: Well before I get to the bromance let me make a correct a point about the unemployment figures. Look, they are regrettable, to see unemployment rise, we want unemployment to be low. But let me just make this point - there are more people looking for work now than there have been for a very, very long time. The participation rate has gone up. There have been a lot of new jobs created and there is a lot of confidence in the economy. So that’s one of the reasons that unemployment has gone up.

WILKINSON: But the participation rate includes people who just work for just one hour.

TURNBULL: No, that is- the participation rate includes people who are looking for work. What happens is when the country is being poorly led, when people lose confidence in the economy, they give up, they say "There is no point looking for jobs". What you are now seeing is a higher participation rate, and that means there are more people looking for work. That is one of the factors behind the increase in unemployment.

PLIBERSEK: Lisa, think about this - when we went into the global financial crisis in 2007 we had the same unemployment rate as the United States. The United States unemployment rate went to double the Australian unemployment rate. Our unemployment rate is now higher than the US since this Government has taken office. It is higher than you expected, Malcolm, it’s higher than you predicted in the budget. It is going up at a time when our economy should be coming out of the global financial crisis. It’s getting worse.

WILKINSON: All right, we’re going to have to move on. This week the Government beefed up the anti-terrorism laws, announcing $630 million will go towards boosting spy agency powers, but the Coalition has struggled to sell its new data retention policy which requires communication companies to store all our meta-data for two years. Now let's just have a quick look at George Brandis, the Attorney- General, trying to sell meta-data on Sky News.

Clip played from Brandis interview.

WILKINSON: Malcolm, very embarrassing. And a hard one for you to get behind this one. You said back in 2012 that data intention is a sweeping and intrusive power with a chilling effect on free speech with major questions over security and privacy. You are not a fan, are you?

TURNBULL: Let me just take the opportunity to clear a few things up here. I had a lengthy meeting yesterday with the Attorney-General, his department, with ASIO, the Australian Federal Police and other law enforcement agencies-

WILKINSON: After being excluded from this initial policy?

TURNBULL: Just let me go on, Lisa. What I can confirm is that the agencies, the law-enforcement agencies, and therefore the Government, is not seeking that the telcos like Telstra and Optus and so forth retain any information that they are not currently retaining. In particular, they are not seeking that the telcos retain details of your web browsing history, which sites you go to, which IP addresses you connect with. So I just want to be very clear about that. What they are talking about is the data they are currently recording, which is in the telephone world "You rang me at such and such a time for how many minute". They are saying they want that to be kept for two years. And in terms of the internet world, they want to, for IP, for internet companies, telcos, to retain the details of which IP address you were using at any given time for two years. Now telephone companies and ISPs retain that data connecting your account to a particular IP address, that is to say your IP address, they retain that now, but not always for two years. So that is what is being sought. There is no question - to emphasise this - what you do on the web and where you go on the web, the agencies are not seeking that that be recorded in any form.

WILKINSON: Well I am not quite sure how that improves anti-terror initiatives.

TURNBULL: I can explain that if you like.

WILKINSON: Well I don’t know if my boss is going to let me, no I am getting a no unfortunately. Next time you can. Thanks very much Malcolm, thanks a lot Tanya.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks Lisa.

ENDS

Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - Press Conference, 6 August 2014

coats-arms.jpg

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

PRESS CONFERENCE

SYDNEY

WEDNESDAY, 6 AUGUST 2014

 

Subject/s: Homeless Persons’ Week; Youth Connections; Budget Cuts; Anti-Terrorism Legislation; Surrogacy; 18C RDA

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: I'm here with Peter Sutcliffe and Josh Field from the Salvation Army and I am also here with Penny Sharpe and Edwina Lloyd, who are two candidates for our State election. I wanted to talk to you this week, during Homeless Persons Week, about this fantastic service at the Oasis Youth Centre, run by the Salvation Army. This is a terrific service I know that for a fact. My office was across the road for many years and I spent a lot of time in this service. It provides accommodation for homeless young people but it provides something more than accommodation. It provides this education facility, this school that we're standing in right now. This classroom where young people who are staying here and other young people from the area are able to get an education. One of the most important things about Homeless Persons’ week is understanding that there's more to ending homeless than just putting a roof over a person’s head. What we see if we take a simple approach to homelessness is that people cycle through homeless facilities. You can put a roof over their heads but 6 months later they're on the streets again. What we need to aim to do as a community is end homelessness for a person. Give them the life skills, the opportunities, to move permanently out of homelessness and one of the most critical things that we can do is make sure that young people have an education and have a job because the surest way permanently out of homelessness is to get a job. Unfortunately, in the most recent Federal Budget, three youth education programs have been cut. They've already been cut but the Government has an opportunity to reverse that decision. The three programs are Youth Connections, Partnership Brokers and National Career Advice. These three programs are aimed at getting young people into the education and training they need to get a job and then getting them work. Youth Connections, the program that funds this school that we're standing in today, has been a fantastically successful program. It's helped more than 100,000 people already and 80 per cent of people who go through Youth Connections are still in work or training 18 months later. The average cost of putting a young person through a Youth Connections program is just over $2000. So you think about the difference between investing in getting someone an education and getting them into the workforce and getting them permanently out of homelessness compared with just paying for them to remain homeless. Paying for them to stay in facilities like this or, unfortunately, even worse, end up homeless, end up in hospital, end up in prison. Youth Connections works, it’s cost effective and it makes absolutely no sense when the Government's talking about reducing unemployment to cut the very programs that help unemployed young people into the training they need or into the jobs that they can stick to. I'm going to ask Josh from the Salvation Army and Peter to say a few words about how important the Youth Connections program is for homeless young people.

PETER SUTCLIFFE, SALVATION ARMY: Thank you Tanya. For the Salvation army, the Youth Connections program is a really important part. We currently have 33 students enrolled in our program here, we have three who for the very first time, through our school here, will complete their HSC this year. Now that's important, these three young ladies, if they'd have been in the normal school system, would never have been able to complete their HSC. We've tailored a program that meets their needs. Students who come into our Oasis Youth Centre have a whole range of complex needs and they can't attend normal school because of these complex needs they have. We work with them, we tailor the program to suit. Three young ladies who will complete their HSC this year, we have another 19 completing year 11 and then the rest are completing year 10 or completing basic numeracy and literacy classes. Now for us that's an important part. What we do here at the Oasis Youth Centre is, if you like, the services we provide are like a 3-legged stool. We provide the accommodation services for them, we case manage the students and we also supply the education. Cut one of them off and you become a very unstable stool that no-one wants to sit on and so for us, the Youth Connections program, the education program we provide here is very important. So important that we're going to look at how we can continue this Youth Connections program, the school right here, even after the funding is cut. That means we've got to look at the others services we're providing and just see how we can continue to do this because we see education as an important part of stopping this endless cycle of homelessness. Around 44,000 young people every night homeless, and we've got to end this. Josh will just talk about the young ladies who are completing their HSC and what they're doing and just how it has worked with them.

JOSH FIELD, SALVATION ARMY: The current HSC students, they’re working in this environment and they actually support each other in this. There's not a chance they would have been able to get through their HSC without the support of this program and without the support of each other. They've worked exceptionally well. A couple of our students are doing food tech and only last week made this 4-layered tiered colourful cake which was fantastic and they shared that with the whole of the Oasis staff which was great so, yeah.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Josh. Alright, I might make some more general comments now about other areas if you like.

This week during Homeless Persons Week, we see this $128 million cut from youth programs just like this that actually permanently help young people leave homelessness but this is not the only cut that this Government's made to homeless programs. $44 million cut from all of the new building programs out of the national partnership agreement on homelessness, no new building for homeless services. We also see that the national partnership agreement on affordable housing ends in June next year. The Government's got a White Paper on Commonwealth-State relations that says basically that housing's none of the Commonwealth's business so what happens to public housing funding after June next year, who knows. We know that there were 10,000 more national rental affordability scheme properties to be built. This Government canned them in the most recent Budget as well so that's 10,000 affordable homes that would have been available under existing funding except this Government has ended that program. So everywhere you see this Government making life harder for the people who can least afford it. Cuts to pensions, cuts to supports for homeless Australians, cuts to the supports for unemployed young people. We also know that none of this was expressed before the election. Before the election Tony Abbott was saying no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions, no new taxes. In fact, today one year ago he said, "Taxes will always be lower under a Liberal Government." We know that there's been a raft of new taxes introduced. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: In terms of the Budget cuts to this particular program, where are those negotiations at, when are they likely to come before the parliament and what is Labor doing in terms of trying to stop that?

PLIBERSEK: This program didn't require legislative change to be cut so it’s gone, the funding has already gone. The only hope is to have enough public outcry about the fact that on the one hand the Government is saying unemployed young people, we will cut their income for six months of the year, they should apply for 40 jobs a month, we want them get work and on the other hand, they’re cutting three successful programs that help unemployed young people get a job. Because this cut didn't require legislative change, it’s done. The only hope is enough public pressure to reverse this cruel cut.

JOURNALIST: There have been a number of other Budget cuts though across the board in many social services and welfare sectors and public services, what makes this particular education centre different to all of the other cuts in terms of helping stop the Budget crisis?

PLIBERSEK: Well, where do these kids go? This is a school that is built for kids who wouldn't survive in mainstream education. Many of them are homeless because they have had unimaginable trauma in their young lives. They are kids who have been let down in many cases by their families and they have been let down by mainstream schooling. They come here as a school of last resort and because of the fantastic expertise of the teachers here, because they have got the support of the Salvation Army to deal with the other issues in their lives, because they have got a stable roof over their heads, they manage to succeed through massive will and massive hard work, they manage to succeed. How can it possibly be, in our society's interests to deny these kids an education? How can it possibly be in the long term interests of these kids, we want to help them get permanently out of homelessness and the best way we can do that is to make sure they have got a job and the best way we can make sure that they have a job is make sure that we make up for the gaps in their schooling. Make sure they can read and write, make sure that they graduate Year 10 and in the case of these three young women, the HSC. And that opens so many doors to these kids who have been – many of them from a very early age have been brought up with the idea that they will never succeed.

JOURNALIST: Just on some other general matters. Do you think the Government should be making it easier to slap preventative detention orders on terror suspects?

PLIBERSEK: Well I saw the same press conference that other Australians saw yesterday, with the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the Foreign Affairs Minister all making some statements about what the Government’s got planned. That’s all the detail that we as an Opposition have. We hope to be briefed later in the week about the details of what the Government's proposing but we have no details at this stage. I think it is important that our security agencies, which do such an excellent job, have the support they need to prevent terrorist activity but we also need to be sure, as a democracy, that there are proper checks and balances, proper oversight when powers are increased. We don't know what the Government's proposing, we don't know the details - we don't know the details of the proposal and we certainly don’t know any details of proposed oversight or any sort of checks and balances.

JOURNALIST: The Government wants to take away the sunset clause on them. Would you agree with that?

PLIBERSEK: We were very critical of fact that the Government got rid of the independent national security legislation monitor earlier this year. They had one of these red tape repeal days and got rid of the independent position, the person whose job it is to oversee whether national security legislation is indeed doing what it is supposed to do, providing a safer environment or whether it is in fact infringing peoples' rights. They got rid of that position. George Brandis has backed down on that and he is doing a lot of that lately but he has backed down on getting rid of the independent oversight. That position, as far as we know, has not been filled. We need to have the confidence that if there are tough laws to prevent terrorism, there is also tough oversight so that our citizens and our parliament can be confident that these laws are not misused.

JOURNALIST: Do you feel that some of these new counter measures go too far?

PLIBERSEK: Well I can't say whether they go too far because all I have seen is a press conference and a press release. We need to have legislation released in draft form by the Government. We need a proper briefing for the Opposition so we can say, with confidence, that, yes, tougher laws might be needed but that goes with stronger oversight. We don't have any of that information at the moment.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the case of baby Gammy, the Prime Minister says there is not much the Federal Government can do because surrogacy is a matter for the states. Do you think that the Commonwealth could do something more?

PLIBERSEK: Well surrogacy is a matter for the states but I think it is very important that we say very clearly that no law should be changed that makes it - that increases the vulnerability of poor women in developing countries to the sort of exploitation that this young Thai woman has experienced. There is no question that any Australian that I have talked to, when presented with the information that a couple are the biological parents of a child and have taken one, a  healthy baby girl and left the sick baby boy are shocked that that is possible. This 21-year-old woman, obviously in desperate financial circumstances or wouldn't have agreed to the surrogacy in the first place, now left to her own devices to raise and care for a child that obviously has expensive medical needs going into the future. It is completely unacceptable. Of course, I am pleased that Australians have been generous in contributing to a fund for her but that is only because we know of this case. We don't know how many other cases, young women in similar circumstances who have been exploited and left on their own. It is important that we work with the states and territories to make sure that we don't commercialise this relationship in a way that allows vulnerable young women like this to be exploited.

JOURNALIST: Given that there are different laws in different states, is there room, do you think, for the Federal Government to intervene in any way or to have legislation?

PLIBERSEK: Certainly if the Federal Government's interested in developing a national approach, we would look at that on its merits. But I don't think the problem is different laws in different states, I think the problem is unscrupulous organisations overseas that get into the business of babies to make a profit. I think in addition, we have got a problem in this individual case of a couple who have made a decision that, frankly, I can't understand and I think most Australians would have trouble understanding.

JOURNALIST: The Federal Government's backed down on the proposed changes to 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Apparently George Brandis has said this morning that he still believes in those changes in their original form.

PLIBERSEK: This just shows that the Government's a mess on this as it is on many other areas of policy. They have gone too far. They have gone too far when it comes to allowing bigots the right to be bigots. George Brandis has been put back in his box on this one. George Brandis went too far in saying that occupied East Jerusalem wasn't occupied. He was put back in his box on that one. It seems like George Brandis is just shooting off his mouth, saying whatever he chooses. There is chaos in this area. It doesn't fill me with a lot of confidence that we have an Attorney-General at odds with the Prime Minister on some of these most critical pieces of legislation. What I would say on the other hand when it comes to back downs, is if they are going to do a back down on 18C, they should also do a back down on cutting Youth Connections and they should do a back down on the cuts to health and education and the cuts to the pensions that have turned up in this Budget. This is a problem of extremists in Government being let off the leash and then the extremists having to be hauled back when it becomes apparent that are out of step with the Australian public. Thanks everyone.

ENDS

Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - PM Agenda, 6 August 2014

coats-arms.jpg

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

TV INTERVIEW
PM AGENDA, SKY NEWS

WEDNESDAY, 6 AUGUST 2014

 

Subject/s: National security legislation; surrogacy laws.  

DAVID SPEERS, JOURNALIST: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time. Can I start with the general question, do you think the nature of the terrorist threat facing Australia has changed, has intensified at all as a result of what we have seen happening in Iraq and Syria?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well I think we have known for some years there are some domestic terrorist threats here in Australia. And indeed we have seen Australians convicted of terrorism-related offences here in Australia. Certainly having Australians travel over to conflicts such as the conflict in Syria and the conflict in Iraq is something that is troubling. It is important to ensure that our security and intelligence organisations have the resources to ensure that, both that Australians don’t travel overseas for terrorism-related activities and indeed we are safe here at home. The problem with what the Government is proposing we have so little detail of what they are actually proposing. It is important if we are asking Australians to give intelligence and security organisations greater powers that that also comes with greater transparency, greater accountability and greater over sight.

SPEERS: What about this idea then of prescribing locations declared terrorist zones if you like? Anyone who visits there would have to have a legitimate reason why they visit there. Do you accept that it is difficult at the moment to charge, convict people who are actually involved in terrorist activity there? It's hard to actually prosecute them in the courts back home?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I'm certainly prepared to listen to the case being made by our national security and intelligence agencies for any increased powers that they argue that they need, and I'll be expecting a briefing later this week. What I want to hear at the same time from the Government is if there are increased powers to do these things what are the increased oversights? What are the increased accountability mechanisms? The Government's asking for us to overturn a long-standing principle in Australia, that they are saying that we would go to a situation where you are guilty until proven innocent. That's a big ask of the Australian public, and I think it is important for them to lay out the case for any such measures being necessary, and secondly what kind of transparency and oversight go with it. You can't ask Australians to put up with a situation where they are guilty until proven innocent without explaining why that is necessary and what protections innocent Australians have from such a regime.

SPEERS: What more do you think should be made available to convince Australians on this?

PLIBERSEK: Well, it's interesting that you raise the social media. I mean we have seen for example Khaled Sharouf who was an Australian who was convicted of a terrorism offence travel overseas on his brother's passport a couple of months ago. I've not heard the Government explain how the increased security measures that they are proposing would for example have made a difference in this case.

SPEERS: Well for example he would be going to a declared no-go zone, that would be the offence.

PLIBERSEK: We don't have enough detail to know whether he would have been caught up simply because of where he travelled to. We don't know whether the Government is proposing that his brother's passport would have been caught up in this. We need a great deal more information before we make policy on the basis of one press conference.

SPEERS: But isn't this the very problem. Nobody doubts this guy is up to no good. But at the moment there is a question over how to prosecute him when he comes back. If this area is declared as a proscribed location, when he does come back he will have committed an offence.

PLIBERSEK: Do you think he's likely to come back, David?

SPEERS: Well that's a separate question. If he does that's an issue the Australian Government has to deal with isn't it?

PLIBERSEK: Isn’t the question that the guy has left the country and is committing the crimes overseas? We are very happy to work with the security and intelligence agencies and to listen to the arguments that they are making for increased powers. Indeed many of the measures that are in the first Bill that is before the Parliament at the moment or coming before the parliament shortly come from work that began under Nicola Roxon when she was Attorney-General and the recognition that as our communications environment changes it may be necessary to give intelligence and security agencies different powers. It might be necessary for them to update the powers that they have.

SPEERS: I want to ask you about that metadata retention. As you say Labor's Nicola Roxon first proposed this. It was looked at extensively by a Joint Parliamentary Committee, there was bipartisan recommendation to do this, to have this sort of metadata retained. What concerns do you have about it?

PLIBERSEK: Nicola Roxon asked that the issue be examined. It is certainly something that we when we were in government were prepared to look at and prepared to listen to the security agencies on. I think it is important to be open minded about the fact that we have a changing communications environment, that a lot of information that may be useful to counter-terrorism operations is being transmitted on the internet, but David, it is impossible to make specific comments when the only proposals we have from the Government so far have been outlined in one short press conference.

SPEERS: Can I turn to the issue of surrogacy laws which have certainly grabbed the attention of many with the fairly awful case of young Gammy. The Prime Minister pointed out today, he sees this is an issue of state responsibility, he doesn't want the Commonwealth jumping all over state responsibilities. Where do you come at this one? Do you think there is a need for nationally consistent laws on surrogacy arrangements in particular?

PLIBERSEK: I'm not sure switching to a national law on this would have prevented what is really a quite awful situation for this baby Gammy and for his 21-year-old mother. I think it’s very important when you introduce profits into arrangements like this, that you have protections both for desperate parents who are vulnerable to being taking advantage of because they desperately want a child and also for surrogate parents who, for reasons of financial necessity, are also vulnerable to being taken advantage of. I think we recognise that in the case of inter-country adoption, and countries worked together on the Hague convention on inter-country adoption, because it was recognised that you had many, many desperate parents around the world and it was recognised that it is much better for a child to grow up in a loving family than it is to grow up in an orphanage. But that when inter-country adoption became increasingly popular we also saw that some extremely unscrupulous people were buying babies, lying to birth parents, even abducting, stealing children for adoption, because there was a profit to be made from it. I wouldn't want to see surrogacy go in the same way. We are seeing a growing share of international medical tourism, as it is called, going towards this sort of international surrogacy. We need to be very confident that we don't have vulnerable parents taken advantage of and vulnerable mothers, surrogate mothers taken advantage of, by people who enter into any industry, if there's a profit to be made.

SPEERS: Well, Shadow Foreign Minister Tanya Plibersek, it seems there is some debate to go on that one. Thanks for joining us this afternoon.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks David.

ENDS

Add your reaction Share

TRANSCRIPT - Capital Hill, 6 August 2014

coats-arms.jpg

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

TELEVISION INTERVIEW

ABC NEWS 24, CAPITAL HILL

WEDNESDAY, 6 AUGUST 2014

 

Subject/s: National Security Legislation; Baby Gammy; Gaza

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: The Opposition is still waiting on a briefing from the Government about the detail of this new package that the Prime Minister announced yesterday. I certainly think it is true to say that there is some threat in Australia, we’ve seen convictions in the past of people who are planning a terrorist attack in Australia. And it is important to give our security and intelligence organisations up to date tools to deal with that. On the other hand it's also very important that we make sure we've got decent oversight and transparency with these arrangements. We don't know any of the details yet of what the Prime Minister's proposing, we watched the same press conference as you did yesterday, we don't have any more detail than that. We would want to know first of all from the security and intelligence agencies the case they make for any increased powers and secondly from the Government what they propose in terms of transparency, accountability and oversight.

JULIE DOYLE, PRESENTER: The Prime Minister has said that democracy is going to be one of the safeguards and he wants to work with Labor and the other parties to get these measures through the Parliament, do you see that as a pretty clear signal that the Government is willing to negotiate here?

PLIBERSEK: I think that there must be room for discussion and sensible discussion. We can't work off a press release. We need to see legislation, draft legislation, and then we need to go through that legislation in a great deal of detail before we can be confident that these new powers or any new powers are both necessary and have appropriate accountability mechanisms attached.

DOYLE: On one of the proposals as it relates to foreign fighters, making it an offence to travel to a designated place without a valid reason, do you think that is an appropriate measure with the number of Australians that are heading over to these conflict zones?

PLIBERSEK: I can only say again, we've been briefed by press conference and we will wait to hear from the security and intelligence agencies about whether they think that there is a strong case for such a measure and it's a very big step to take to introduce a reverse onus of proof asking Australians to prove that they're innocent, in this instance they would be guilty until proved innocent. That is a very big step to take in our legal system and we'd want to know what the case is for such a measure and what the oversights would be, what recourse people would have.

DOYLE: Let’s look at a couple of other matters in your portfolio, the surrogacy involving baby Gammy in Thailand, the Prime Minister has said today that he doesn't want to rush the Commonwealth into legislation in a complex area like this, that there are State laws covering surrogacy. Do you think there is a greater role for the Commonwealth in this kind of area?

PLIBERSEK: I don't think having Commonwealth laws would necessarily have prevented this terrible situation. There are State and Territory laws, they do differ from place to place, there might be a case for greater harmonisation but what you've got here is a couple who have knowingly taken one baby out of a set of twins, I don’t know how you would legislate to prevent that sort of situation. I guess we need to be very, very careful when we introduce profit into this area of human relationships, because we know that parents or prospective parents are often desperate to have children. They can be taken advantage of by unscrupulous middle people and we know that poor women, particularly in developing countries, are also vulnerable to that exploitation. When you're offering someone with very few resources of her own an opportunity to make thousands of dollars to carry a baby of course that's a very tempting offer.

DOYLE: And just finally the Foreign Minister put out a statement yesterday about Gaza in which he said she's deeply troubled by the suffering being endured by the Palestinian population in Gaza, she referred to the shelling of the three UN schools as indefensible. That's strong language there, do you support those sentiments?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. We've heard the United Nations Secretary-General, we've heard the US Secretary of State and finally we've heard our own Government say that it is not appropriate or defensible to be shelling UN facilities. Of course, Hamas needs to stop firing rockets into Israel more than 3,000 rocket fired already into Israel but we also expect Israel to ensure that where they have the coordinates of UN facilities such as this school that they don't bomb them. There were about 3,000 people reported to be sheltering in this, the third of the schools to be shelled. It’s been reported that 10 people lost their lives as the rocket fell just outside the school gates. It is an enormous concern that even when taking shelter in UN facilities, the residents of Gaza cannot be safe. I'm very pleased that there's a ceasefire, it is absolutely critical that the world community pressures both parties to not engage in any more hostilities; too many people have died.

ENDS

Add your reaction Share

AmCham Business Briefing

coats-arms.jpg

AmCham Business Briefing – Tuesday 5 August 2014    

Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

In large ways and small, the history and future of Australia and the United States are knitted together.

From General Douglas MacArthur’s decision in 1942 to make his base as Supreme Commander South‑West Pacific in Brisbane, to the individual ties between our people and our troops.

MacArthur told Curtin:

“… we two, you and I, will see this thing through together . . . You take care of the rear and I will handle the front.”

That’s an example of a very large connection.

Ambassador John Berry captured beautifully a smaller, more personal bond between the US and Australia in his recent speech to the National Press Club.

John explained that his father fought during World War Two as part of the 1st  Marine Division in the battle of Guadalcanal.

After the hardship of six months’ fighting, they were sent to Australia to rest and recuperate, and were reminded, he said, that there was good left in the world.

Ambassador Berry said:

“When the ships carrying the Marines arrived in Australia, they were met by a band playing Waltzing Matilda. It was the sweetest sound any of them had ever heard. So profound was this event that to this day, whenever and wherever the 1st Division Marines ship out, they do so to the sound of Waltzing Matilda.”

Our shared history goes back before the Australian Federation in 1901. The 1854 Eureka Stockade was a character forming moment for Australia. Among the rebels there were two hundred Americans, the Independent Californian Rangers.

Years later, the strategic links that developed in World War Two continued and deepened with the ANZUS treaty in 1951 and have remained tight ever since.

In recent years, Australian leaders have worked closely with their US counterparts.

Prime Minister Paul Keating persuaded President Bill Clinton of the importance of creating a leaders’ summit for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was key in President Obama’s thinking on forming the G20 leaders’ summit in 2009.

You might remember the news footage of Prime Minister Julia Gillard throwing a football around the Oval Office with President Obama – to the consternation of their staff, but without breaking anything.

Our business links are also close. The US is our third largest two-way trading partner in goods and services, totalling $55 billion a year. The US is the largest investor in Australia.

Our links are long, they are deep and they are sincere.

As well as our enduring history of shared values, our commitment to democracy, our good understanding of one another, we share some challenges.

In the United States, hyperpartisanship is preventing America from fulfilling its role as the “indispensible nation” that plays such a big part helping build peace and helping solve problems globally.

In Australia, there are times when we’re taking a short-sighted, short-term approach to similar problems, problems such as climate change and inclusive economic growth, instead of working internationally to address them.

Working together to tackle global challenges

Australia has historically played a larger role on the world stage than would be expected from our population of 23 million people. We’ve helped shape global institutions of cooperation such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

As a small nation in terms of population, we have always understood that some problems are too large for us to tackle on its own. So we have been keen to enlist support from others.

Australia played a key role persuading the United States and others to elevate the status of the G20 group of major economies to tackle the Global Financial Crisis, because Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan understood that co‑ordinated global action would be required to deal with the threat of the worst economic down turn in three quarters of a century.

I’m worried that in both the United States and Australia at the moment there are some who put short-term domestic political gain above these coordinated efforts to meet the large challenges that face us as a globe.

The challenge of hyperpartisanship in the United States

Partisan politics in the US Congress is as acute as any of us have ever seen.

The refusal of the Congress to support the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and reforms to the voting rules for the International Monetary Fund are a couple of examples of hyperpartisanship. Neither is particularly controversial on its own. Yet for what seem to be political reasons they’re stuck in the Congress.

There’s also the more complex question of the Congress’s response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP is the key economic element of President Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’. It could be a catalyst for binding countries together more tightly – reducing trade barriers among most of Asia’s major economies and reinforcing rules on free and open trade.

But support for the TPP among both Democrats and Republicans is weak, and China is seeking its own trade agreement with its neighbours in the region.

Congress’s failure to agree on changing the rules of the International Monetary Fund to give a greater say to Asian countries weakens the argument that as Asian countries grow, their responsibility to take part in global institutions also grows. Critics in China, Indonesia and Singapore see this as a sign that the West will never let them share real power in global institutions.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which the US Senate has refused to sign, defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in using the world’s oceans. The US already abides by these very rules. There’s nothing controversial about them and the US is prepared to do the right thing, but the refusal to sign up sends a signal that the US doesn’t want to be bound by the rules it says we should all live by.

When we’re asking other nations to abide by a rules-based international framework, it is important that we show that we value and support that framework ourselves.

A multilateral rules-based system is our best hope of reducing conflict. But countries have to feel they have a say, that they have buy-in to those systems. They have to feel that they’ve had some say in how the rules have been developed and how they are applied.

The US has been at times the leader and proudest advocate of establishing and following those rules and norms, and it would be a shame for short sighted domestic politics to undermine that proud history.

Short-sighted, short-term politics in Australia

In Australia, we’re making some similar very short-term and ill-advised decisions.

The G20 meeting in Brisbane in November provides two examples.

In its efforts to shape the agenda for the G20, our government refuses to put climate change and inequality on the agenda.

This government is arguing that climate change is not a critical issue for the economy. It’s not a credible argument.

During the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in December 2013, Prime Minister Abbott said that adding climate change to the agenda of the G20 was “clutter”.

Nobody expects the G20 to be the meeting where people make binding commitments or talk about exactly how each country is going to reduce its climate emissions, but what the G20 can achieve is a statement that the G20 members understand that this is a pressing economic issue.

By contrast, the US is setting a very good example on this issue. The Americans want climate change to be on the agenda. Every European ambassador I’ve spoken to is keen for it to be on the agenda.

More than a billion people now live in a country or region that has a price on carbon pollution.

President Obama's plan actively encourages cap-and-trade programs to be developed and implemented by American states and industries.

California, the world’s 8th largest economy, has had a cap and trade program since the start of 2013. More states are moving in that direction.

Two highly respected former Secretaries of the Treasury – Robert Rubin in the Clinton Administration and Henry Paulsen, who served President George W Bush – have both endorsed a price on carbon pollution in recent weeks.

To have world leaders talking about equality, inequality, the brake on economic development that comes with growing inequality, wouldn’t suit the domestic political agenda.

The G20 should also address inclusive growth – which means tackling inequality.

It’s predictable perhaps that I would argue the moral case against growing inequality, but there is also an ever increasing weight of evidence for the economic case that inequality retards growth.

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz points out how inequality weakens economic performance.

He argues that high inequality is causing huge waste of human talent, because the poor and increasingly the middle class lack access to good education. Inequality leads to lost productivity.

He argues that inequality fosters financial crisis.

He argues that inequality lowers consumption and demand – because the very rich save more than they spend.

He argues that high inequality reduces tax revenue – as the very rich are pretty good at reducing their tax.

Thomas Piketty’s exhaustive research shows that this inequality gap is getting much larger.

The International Monetary Fund published a paper which showed that lower inequality drives faster and more durable growth, and redistribution is generally benign in its impact on growth, except when taken to extremes.

The OECD is not noted for its radical approach to economics. Yet its research shows income inequality in OECD, rich world, countries is at its highest level for the past half century. The average income of the richest 10 per cent of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10 per cent across the OECD, a seven-fold increase from 25 years ago. There are some very unequal countries in that group, whose inequality is disguised by those average figures.

The communique from last year’s G20 meeting stressed the importance of balanced, inclusive and sustainable growth. But after the G20 finance ministers’ meeting here in Sydney, in February, the word ‘inclusive’ was dropped.

So we see that there is a retreat from this idea of inclusive growth.

Inclusive growth is not a partisan agenda, when you have the IMF and the OECD talking about the benefits of reducing inequality, it’s not a fringe issue, it’s mainstream.

The reason it’s not on the agenda for the G20 is because the reception of this year’s Budget has been very poor, and the reason why it’s been poor is there’s a general perception in the community that it’s not a fair budget.

Conclusion

Australia and the United States are great friends and partners. Part of having a great partnership is our ability to tell each other the truth. We have more latitude to be frank when we support each other on nearly every issue.

We will continue to be involved in each other’s present and future in big ways and small.

Add your reaction Share

ABC Drive, 5 August 2014

coats-arms.jpg

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW
ABC DRIVE, RADIO NATIONAL

TUESDAY, 5 AUGUST 2014

 

Subject: National security legislation; Commercial surrogacy; Gaza.

WALEED ALY, PRESENTER: Joining me now is Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development. Tanya Plibersek thank you very much for joining us. Could I get a sort of overarching reaction to the suite of counter-terrorism legislation we’ve seen today?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well it’s a bit soon to give you much of a reaction Waleed because we were only told slightly before the press conference that this was coming up. We’ve been offered a more detailed briefing but we’re obviously yet to take that up given the press conference only finished a little while ago. It is important to be able to protect Australians from terrorists, from terrorism related activities, but we haven’t seen really enough detail to make an assessment of whether these proposals do that effectively, or indeed whether they have the sort of checks and balances that we would expect.

ALY: Can you have a check or a balance that is adequate to justify a reverse onus of proof for people who are returning from designated parts of the world?

PLIBERSEK: Well I can’t give you a more detailed answer, because I don’t know what the government is proposing in any sort of detailed way. We’ve heard as you have the details, the headline details in a press conference. I would like to know what sort of protections the government has in mind –

ALY: Can you think of a protection that would be adequate for that sort of thing?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about it. We were very concerned as an opposition when the position of the Independent National Security Monitor was abolished during the ‘red tape’ repeal day, or whatever it was called, that position was abolished. That position has been vacant since April, George Brandis has backed down on that, and has said that he will reinstate that position and that there will be someone appointed to that position. That’s a very important start, having parliamentary oversight of some intelligence and security matters is also important. But this is all speculation at this stage, because we haven’t received a detailed briefing.

ALY: One of the things that Julie Bishop your counterpoint was pointing to was enhanced powers, again not fully specified or detailed, but enhanced powers to cancel passports. Whatever the design of that ends up being, do you accept that there is a need for those powers to be enhanced?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think there is certainly a need to have the power to cancel passports. I think it’s important if there is intelligence information that someone is planning to go and fight overseas with one of these very nasty organisations that we don’t allow that to occur.

ALY: The other area of this which, as I say, strikes me at the very least as being bipartisan is the idea of mandatory data retention, so ISPs keeping all of our metadata. I was just looking at a panel that was commissioned by Barack Obama to review the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance of Americans which is along very similar lines, and they concluded that this had not helped in stopping a single terrorist attack. Where is the evidence that we need this?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think you’d know that when Mark Dreyfus was the Attorney-General he didn’t support the mandatory retention of metadata at that time. We, again, have not seen any detailed proposal. There is a piece of legislation, the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill number one, that has a number of measures proposed, that has been made public, we’ve been examining that, there are public hearings coming up. That is a piece of legislation, we know the piece of legislation, we can debate it. The announcement today is just an announcement – it’s a press conference, I cannot tell you what the detailed proposal is and I think in any case like this it’s important to understand that there are very real security threats that have to be dealt with, and that our security and intelligence organisations have a very serious job to do, and an important job to do, and they need updated legislation as the environment changes, as the internet becomes a bigger feature of our communications environment. On the other hand that needs to go with proper oversight, proper transparency, and a case needs to be made.

ALY: But the original argument was made by Nicola Roxon I think it might have been when she was Attorney-General that this is something that we needed to do.

PLIBERSEK: Nicola Roxon asked that the issue be examined and I think it is important to examine as technologies change whether security agencies need updated powers to deal with that.

ALY: So as it stands then the Labor Party does not have a formed position on whether or not the retention of metadata as a principle or as an idea is necessary.

PLIBERSEK: Well we haven’t seen any detailed proposal from the Government yet. We’ve seen a press conference and we’re not going to make a decision based on a press conference.

ALY: While I’m talking legal matters I might just change tack a bit. Have you had any thoughts recently or have you developed any thoughts in response to the tragic case of Gammy in respect of surrogacy laws as they operate in Australia and whether or not there are any problems that we might need to fix up or loopholes we might need to close?

PLIBERSEK: Of course I’ve been wrestling with it like anybody would, seeing this very difficult situation for a 21 year old mother, two children of her own already, now facing raising a child who looks to have significant health problems. It’s a tragic situation, there is no one who would not feel sympathy for the child who’s been left behind when his sister’s been taken. That’s not an easy thing to grow up with. And the mother who obviously is already in financial difficulties or she wouldn’t have agreed to the surrogacy arrangement to now have a child with significant health issues to raise as well. The legislation around surrogacy varies from state to state as you know, I do understand that some people feel a very intense and desperate need and desire to be parents and really are prepared to go to very, very long lengths to do it. On the other hand I do worry about the potential for exploitation, particularly for vulnerable women, particularly in this case in a country where the economic situation of many of its citizens still is they’re living in a great deal of poverty. An industry that commercialises parenthood and attracts people into the industry that are there to make a commercial gain does trouble me, because the opportunities for exploitation are, I think, well we see the result of it.

ALY: I’ll be speaking to the Attorney-General for the ACT in the next hour of the program looking on that issue. I might come back to your portfolio just finally Tanya Plibersek, and that is the issue of Gaza. Julie Bishop has spoken out today backing an investigation, particularly into the Israeli attack that hit a UN shelter, or UN schools, that the UN has attacked, has been very vocal about. Do you agree with the United Nations assessment, particularly Ban Ki-moon’s assessment, that the shelling of the UN school was a moral outrage and a criminal act?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s very difficult to understand how this is now the third school which has been shelled. It is very difficult to understand when the Israeli defence forces are given the coordinates of UN facilities how this can happen now for a third time. I believe 10 people lost their lives in this most recent shelling. We’re now looking at about 1800, over 1800 people have lost their lives. The vast majority of them are children, the most recent estimate that I saw was well over 300 children – sorry the vast majority are civilians, the most recent figures I saw were well over 300 children, I think 365 children had lost their lives. It is completely unacceptable. Of course Hamas needs to agree to a ceasefire and stop firing rockets, but with this death toll now and the fact that there is nowhere safe to go. Even non-combatants, all they want to do is keep their heads down and keep their families safe, taking their families to a UN-run facility and then that facility being bombed. I think there were 3000 people reportedly sheltering in that facility, the most recent school that was bombed, it is completely unacceptable. I am very pleased that a ceasefire has been declared and this time it just has to stick. The cost of this in civilian lives, including the lives of children, is just beyond imagining.

ALY: It’s been catastrophic, I think the world agrees with that much at least even if they haven’t been able to broker a lasting ceasefire. We have a three day ceasefire for humanitarian reasons, we’ll see if it lasts beyond that. Tanya Plibersek, I do appreciate your time tonight, thank you.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Waleed.

ENDS

Add your reaction Share

National Labor Women's Conference

coats-arms.jpg

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY


SPEECH

 

*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***

 

NATIONAL LABOR WOMEN’S CONFERENCE – SATURDAY, 2 AUGUST 2014

 

I want to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respect to elders past and present. Thank you to Aunty Agnes Shea for the welcome to country.

I also want to acknowledge:

  • Katy Gallagher, Chief Minister of the ACT, for her address this morning.
  • ALP National President, Jenny McAllister
  • ACTU President Ged Kearney
  • National Co-Convenors of Emily’s List Tanja Kovac and Senator Anne McEwen
  • President of the ACT ALP Branch Louise Crossman
  • National Secretary CPSU Nadine Flood
  • My Federal and State Parliamentary Labor Colleagues

The next two days will be a chance for you to spend time with old and new friends, develop fresh ideas and shape Labor’s direction over the next three years. It’s an opportunity to better get to know women you know in passing, and some of my best Labor memories are conference memories.

For me, it is also a return to the people within the party that inspired me to be involved in politics and then supported me to stand for preselection – Labor women.

The last time this conference met was in May 2011. Four days earlier Julia Gillard had delivered her first Budget as Prime Minister. Not only were we celebrating our first female Prime Minister, but a budget which showed true Labor values: investment in schools, historic mental health reform and much-needed pension increases.

Paul Keating famously said ‘When the government changes, the country changes,’ and unfortunately this year we have seen just how true that is.

Months after it was first handed down by Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, we are still seeing the slow burn of the most unpopular budget in Australia’s memory. More than the broken promises, Australians are most concerned about the budget’s values, where the heaviest burden is placed on those people least able to shoulder it.

So as this conference gathers again in a very different political moment we need to ask: what does Australian political life need from the women’s movement today?

The women’s movement

Our movement has always drawn its purpose from the basic principle of equality.

Jessie Street was a great Australian, and, as the song says “she’ll always be a heroine of mine”. Born in the 19th century, Jessie was a suffragette, an activist in many progressive causes, and a Labor Party member. She said in 1944:

‘I believe that in a democratic, free society women should be at liberty to choose whether they will take up home life or work outside the home; that men and women should receive equal pay and equal opportunity; that home life should be made less of a tie and the burden of raising a family be lightened.’

Jessie spoke these words seventy years ago, and yet the aspirations and challenges she laid out have a timeless ring.

They give meaning to some of the wins in the decades in between:

  • The landmark 1969 and 1972 decisions affirming ‘equal pay for equal work’;
  • The passage of the Sex Discrimination Act in 1984.

For six years after Labor took government in 2007, I was proud to be part of a team carrying forward Jessie’s vision of a more equal society for women:

  • Taking equal pay that one step further – equal pay for work of equal value;
  • introducing our first national paid parental leave scheme;
  • increasing the childcare rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent, and introducing the National Quality Framework;
  • listing abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol (RU486) on the PBS to give women more choices and more options;
  • passing the Workplace Gender Equality Act, with new reporting requirements around women’s participation for employers;
  • drafting and implementing the first National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.

And of course this vision is still very much unfinished business in a country where the gender pay gap is over 17%, and now only one woman sits at the federal Cabinet table.

The challenge of rising inequality

Gender inequality has been a driver of the women’s movement for many years; and economic inequality is inextricable linked with gender inequality. The equity principle at the heart of the women’s movement has a particular relevance today, in a world characterised by rising economic inequality.

Earlier this year, as the World Economic Forum met in Davos, Oxfam released a report showing that the 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest.

In our own country, the richest 1% are as rich as the poorest 60 per cent of Australians.

In 2014, Thomas Piketty’s book of economic research hit the top of the bestseller lists, Joseph Stiglitz toured Australia to sell-out crowds, and ACT Labor’s own rockstar economist Andrew Leigh addressed the National Press Club on rising inequality in Australia.

Importantly for all of us here today, we know that economic inequality hits women even harder.

Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, has argued that addressing inequality matters not just for women themselves – who are often more excluded from employment and financial access – but that lifting women’s participation in the economy is crucial to building strong and sustainable economic growth.

I wonder whether Joe Hockey or Tony Abbott will be putting that on the agenda at the G20?

Women and economic inequality

Economic inequality is not abstract numbers, graphs and pie-charts.

Around ten years ago I met a single mum with two boys living in public housing in my electorate, in Woolloomooloo. She didn’t have much money, but that didn’t stop her from enrolling at university, going on to receive the university medal and working as a judge’s associate.

Imagine how this budget would affect her life.

More pressure on our public housing system from the lack of long-term commitment to National Partnership agreements would make it less likely she would ever get that safe roof over her head. University would be placed further out of reach with higher fees, climbing debt levels and punitive interest rates. Supporting her two boys would be that much harder thanks to cuts to Family Tax Benefit and the Schoolkids Bonus.

With a little help and a lot of determination, this woman changed both her own life story and those of her boys.

Why on earth would we want to turn that uphill battle into a brick wall?

When I was Housing Minister, I met a woman in the electorate of Bennelong who baked a cake for Maxine McKew to say ‘thank you’ for the new public housing unit she had just moved into. She hadn’t expected to need public housing. She had always lived comfortably on the north shore with her husband – a wealthy banker. When their relationship ended she found out that he had structured their finances to leave her with nothing, and so she went from a life of privilege to being homeless and penniless.

We helped house her through our Social Housing Stimulus package – just one of the 20 000 new units we built around the country. Imagine this budget from her perspective: her pension cuts are permanent, losing her $4000 each year from an already-stretched household budget; her husband’s ‘deficit levy’ is temporary. She loses her low income super contribution; he keeps his high-income super tax breaks.

I used to work across the road from the Oasis homelessness service, where I met a teenage mother to a little girl with a beautiful singing voice, trying to break out of the cycle of temporary accommodation and joblessness.

Imagine how this budget would have made every path out of unemployment more challenging for her: homelessness services stretched from $44 million in cuts, possibly catering to more young people who faced being cut off from Newstart for six months of the year. Cuts to the Youth Connections program, designed to help young people transition to education, training or employment.

The great privilege of our work as Labor representatives is the people like these we meet every day. And that great privilege brings great responsibility too – to build a society and an economy where these women have a place.

The Abbott Government’s values

This was a budget that not only ignored the global discussion on inequality – it seemed designed to make things worse.

I am reminded of Joe Biden’s well-used quote: ‘Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value’.

The biggest single spending cut in the Budget was foreign aid: $7.6 billion, in addition to the further $8.4 billion the Prime Minister will cut in comings years by breaking the promise made by John Howard to lift aid to 0.5 per cent of GNI. By Joe Biden’s standard, what the Abbott Government values least is helping those facing the most disadvantage.

Our foreign aid program doesn’t just save women’s lives, although it certainly does that. The funding cut by the Abbott Government could have trained 3 million midwives, for example.

Our aid program helps unlock the capacity of women just like us – who have ingenuity, pride and determination but who have been born into difficult circumstances.

I am not a religious person, but that old saying captures it best: ‘there but for the grace of god go I.’

There is nothing that separates us from these women but the fate of birth.

When I visited Vanuatu, for example, I met a woman at the Vanuatu Women’s Centre, a recipient of Australian aid which helps survivors of family violence with counselling, legal assistance and accommodation. This woman had been cleaning tourist huts for a living, but with the help of Australian aid was able to start her own business and by the time I met her she was employing her own staff and running a collection of accommodation huts. The Vanuatu Women’s Centre has helped more than 10 000 women just like her since 2007, using Australian aid dollars.

In Papua New Guinea, small-scale women farmers travelling to a local marketplace were being raped and beaten as they tried to support themselves. Australian aid money built toilets so they didn’t have to use unsafe bushes, enabled mobile banking so they didn’t have to carry their money home, and helped train police to take seriously the unsafe conditions the women were facing. Not only were the women safer and better to earn a living, but their income meant their daughters could go to school.

The funding cuts from Australia’s aid represents the loss of programs just like this – lost support for vulnerable nations in our region, and lost opportunities for women just like us to fully use their skills and intellect to contribute to the economic development of their communities.

Forming Labor’s response

In the face of rising global inequality and the Abbott Government’s extreme agenda, Australian Labor’s purpose is more relevant than ever.

We believe that you can have both a strong economy and a fair society.

We understand that government’s job is to spread the opportunities of a growing economy to every Australian, no matter their sex or their postcode.

These values guided our actions when we were in government, and now from Opposition they must be the starting point in renewing our agenda.

I know that party reform is a key focus of your conference this weekend, and I am glad you could hear from Jenny this morning to start that conversation.

Rules matter.

Jessie Street might have been a Labor MP, but in 1943 she failed to be pre-selected for the winnable seat of Eden-Monaro and was instead endorsed for the blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Wentworth.

That experience may have shaped her in campaigning for the specific recognition of women in the Charter of the United Nations, saying: ‘Where the rules are silent, women are not usually considered.’

But Jessie is a hero of mine because the unfair rules which characterised the political world she inhabited were fuel and not a constraint for her activism.

She spent her life campaigning for equality for women, for fair treatment for our First Peoples, for peace and nuclear disarmament.

That kind of values-driven activism is the natural complement to rules reform in renewing our party.

Our connection to the principle of equality, at the heart of the women’s movement, is what gives meaning to our party structures in the first place.

Finding new ways to translate those values into activism in a world of growing inequality is no small feat, but I’m confident the women in this room are up to the task.

ENDS

Add your reaction Share