Australia’s Consul-General in New York






Australia’s Consul-General in New York



The Foreign Minister must immediately explain why the post of Australia’s Consul-General in New York has been vacant for five months.

In September last year, the Abbott Government stripped former Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks, of the post saying he had ‘no obvious credentials for the job’.

Now, five months on, the Foreign Minister needs to say who she intends to appoint, and when.

Australia’s diplomatic, business, and cultural interests in New York have gone without senior representation for months because of the Abbott Government’s indecision.

By any measure, Steve Bracks was eminently qualified to serve as Consul-General.  Mr Bracks is a respected Australian businessman and an eight year Premier of Victoria.  He has held senior positions in foreign affairs, finance and superannuation and would have played a central role in Australia-New York business growth.



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Australia's Next Governor-General - General Peter Cosgrove AC MC










The Federal Opposition today congratulates General Peter Cosgrove AC MC on his appointment as Australia’s 26th Governor-General.

Labor welcomes the selection of such a capable, eminent and respected Australian to this high office.

General Cosgrove reflects the best of Australia and its people. He has dedicated his entire adult life to serving his country, inspiring others with his determination, strength and leadership.

As Commander of the international peacekeeping forces in East Timor, General Cosgrove helped bring independence to a new nation and stability to our region in difficult times.

As a former Chief of the Army and Chief of the Defence Force, General Cosgrove represented the most remarkable qualities of our service personnel at home and abroad.

He continued his unwavering commitment to public service in leading the recovery effort in Far North Queensland following the devastation of Cyclone Larry in 2006.

General Cosgrove was also recognised as a role model for others when he was named our Australian of the Year in 2001.

We wish General Cosgrove the very best as he undertakes this new role on behalf of the Australian people.

Federal Labor also recognises and thanks Governor-General Her Excellency the Hon Quentin Bryce AC CVO for her tremendous contribution and service since her appointment as Governor-General in 2008.

Ms Bryce is Australia’s first female Governor-General and has brought a renewed sense of respect and appreciation to Australia’s highest office, in particular, serving as a role model and mentor to Australian women.

Ms Bryce has served Australia with honour and represented our country with grace.

We will miss her sincerity, and her warmth.

All Australians are grateful for Ms Bryce’s service.

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TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Brisbane, Monday 19 January 2015

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SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s 500 days of lies; GST on fresh food; Business confidence at 23 year low; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Tony Abbott’s GP Tax; Death Penalty; Manus Island; Great Barrier Reef.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be in Yeerongpilly, supporting our Labor candidate Mark Bailey for the upcoming state election. It’s also great to be here in my first event for the year, with Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek, and also Graham Perrett, our hard working Federal Member for Morton. Today is 500 days since the Abbott Government was elected. 500 days of broken promises, of lies, and increased pressure on families cost of living. Families are now $6,000 a year worse off because of the Abbott Government. Pensioners are seeing the real value of their pension effectively cut in the future because of the Abbott Government. Students, worse off because they are going to have to pay two and three times what they once paid to go to university with the prospect of $100,000 degrees. Sick people worse off with the ongoing confusion and debate about the GP Tax and charging sick people more to go to the doctor. Our Defence Force is worse off, because they’ve had a real pay cut since the Abbott Government got elected.

Tony Abbott won't come to Queensland, he won't come on his 500-day anniversary. Queenslanders have got legitimate questions to ask about education, health and jobs. The economy is simply worse off than it was when Tony Abbott got elected. We see business confidence in the High Street down, and we see the ranks of the jobless increasing. Tony Abbott should come to Queensland before the end of the Queensland election, and he should explain to Queenslanders why he wants to put a GST on fresh food, why he wants sick people to pay more to go to the doctor, why he wants to take $10 billion from the Queensland hospital system, why he wants to cut and slash the funding to Queensland schools.

We know that Tony Abbott doesn't want to come to Queensland, yet I remember that in 2012, when Tony Abbott was introducing Campbell Newman when Campbell Newman was heading up the LNP team in Queensland, Tony Abbott was all over Campbell Newman then. But Tony Abbott famously said words to the effect that the people of Queensland have got the opportunity when they vote, to send a message they don't want bad Governments anywhere in Australia. Well, to quote Tony Abbott again, Queenslanders at this up coming State election have got the opportunity to send a message that they don't want bad Governments in Queensland or in Canberra.

Happy to just ask Tanya to say a few words about what she’s seen on the campaign trail and then we'll take questions.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks. That’s good, you've got a fan club Bill, that's terrific. It's terrific to be here with our leader, Bill Shorten, who has been received terrifically well here in Queensland. We have also got Mark Bailey, terrific local candidate. I have been this morning with a couple of other local candidates, with Joe Kelly and Di Farmer. And as I have gone around to the shops as Bill's been on this trip as well, we have got a very strong message from shopkeepers, from locals who are shopping, that they don't want a GST on food. As a former Health Minister I know one of the most important things you can do to keep our population healthy, is to keep the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and so on, affordable for families. So on top of the $6,000 dollars that the ordinary families lost after Tony Abbott's cuts, they simply can't afford to be paying more for doctor’s visits, paying more for medicine, paying more for education, and now on top of it, Tony Abbott's proposing an extra cost for fresh fruit and vegetables, and fresh food generally. A very strong message that Queenslanders don't want that.

SHORTEN: Thanks, Tanya. Are there any questions for us?

JOURNALIST: Mr. Shorten what do you make of Mr. Hockey’s comment that children are going to live to 150?

SHORTEN: Yes Joe Hockey has been kept in the basement over summer and now he's burst out of the basement. Now I genuinely think that he's had a brain snap here. He's almost had what I'd call his Sarah Palin moment, ‘I can see Russia from my house’. This proposition to justify his 2014 Budget, based on a not yet born baby's 150th birthday in a century and a half’s time, just shows that I suspect our Treasurer's simply lost the plot.

If you want to have serious policies about growing old in Australia, you don't freeze superannuation at 9 and a half per cent. You certainly don't make less well-off Australians pay more tax in their superannuation. You don't cut pensions. But in the meantime, we have got a Treasurer who has been engaged behind the scenes and finger pointing against the Prime Minister, a Prime Minister against the Treasurer over the GP Tax debacle. And in the meantime the healthcare of Australians being jeopardised by this absolutely over the top behaviour of the Government.

JOURNALIST: The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has a survey out today that said that business confidence was at a 23 year low and a lot of that is due to the uncertainty in Canberra. Isn't Labor contributing to that a bit?

SHORTEN: 500 days of the Abbott Government. It's their 500 day birthday and things are getting worse in Australia. And it's not good enough for the Abbott Government to simply blame everyone else. Families are worse off up to the tune of $6,000. Pensioners are facing cuts in their pensions. Our Defence Force has had a real pay cut. Sick people have had to worry about can they afford to go to see a doctor, the confidence is down as you observed in the business world and we’ve got more people in the jobless queues. Every day gets worse under the Abbott Government and every day means that this is a Government who are gradually more and more just losing the plot in terms of what they are going to do for Australians.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) making more of a contribution to see a doctor?

SHORTEN: I think we have got a very good system, the Medicare system. The Australian health system - let's get some facts on the table before we see the Government just attack GPs as they have been doing shamelessly in the last few weeks. Our health system, we spend about 9 per cent of our GDP on healthcare in Australia compared to about 17 per cent in the United States. If you look at what our GPs do, they are less than 30 per cent of the Medicare costs in the system, yet they look after 80 per cent of the patients and medical work. We need to see a government who stops fighting with the doctors, stops fighting with nurses, stops fighting with the patients, and starts working with people.

We pay our Medicare taxes to help pay for our healthcare system. This is a Government who is going to attack and keep attacking, bulk billing, and the only thing they did last week was due to the Queensland election where they backed off their crazy $20 fine to go and see a doctor. But the truth of the matter is the Government may have changed its tactics, but they haven't changed their mind on what they want to do with Medicare. We have got an invisible Prime Minister, but unfortunately his policies are very visible and he should come to Queensland and account for his policies and positions.

JOURNALIST: But should a person earning $100,000 be able to walk into a GP and get bulk-billed the same was as an electrician can?

SHORTEN: This argument that Australians don't pay for their Medicare does Australians a great disservice. Australians already pay a Medicare levy, so they are already paying for it. Many Australians have private health insurance so they are already paying for it. This is a Government who wants people to triple dip. This is a government who thinks the only way you cure the sick is by discouraging them from going to the doctor. We know and you know and reasonable people around Australia understand that all this Government wants to do is play our budget and political games. No-one thinks their latest backflips and contortions on Medicare is based about treatment of the sick, it's all about an untidy race to charge more people and raise more taxes by going to the doctor.

JOURNALIST: What should the Government do if the two Australians in Bali are executed – should they withdraw Ambassadors?

SHORTEN: This is a very difficult set of circumstances, and one which appropriately is above the political debate. Let me state very clearly, Labor believes that the death penalty is abhorrent whenever and wherever it occurs. It demeans all of us as human beings. We haven't given up and I'm sure the Government hasn't given up the prospect of achieving clemency for these two Australians. I understand that these Australians have broken the laws and they have broken the laws in Indonesia. We understand that they have to pay a penalty. But the death penalty simply won't discourage the crimes. It doesn't work, and Labor is at one with the Government to try to save the lives of these Australians.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government is doing enough?

SHORTEN: Well, again, I'm not about to make this a political issue. There is one task at hand today, ladies and gentlemen. It is to do whatever we can to achieve clemency for these two Australians. So the lawyers of the families, the families, the Government, ourselves, are of one mind, we oppose the death penalty.

JOURNALIST: What should the Government be doing with regards to the situation on Manus Island?

SHORTEN: Well first of all the Government - the reports there are very troubling now. Whatever one's perspective about these matters, I think that all Australians are unhappy that there's a culture of secrecy. These people are directly or indirectly in the care of Australia, and the Government just needs to come clean with what is happening. Australians are a fair minded people. We believe in making sure the right thing is done by people within our care both directly and indirectly. The first step to doing that is to make sure we actually know what's going on and I don't think anyone outside of a few people in the Government actually know what is really happening.

JOURNALIST: What can we expect from the Queensland election campaign launch tomorrow from Labor?

SHORTEN: Well you'll have to wait and to the launch tomorrow. But I think it's fair to say that Annastacia Palaszczuk and her state team ably represented the flag being carried in Yeerongpilly by Mark Bailey, have had a massive mountain to climb from three and a half years ago. Three and a half years ago, the electorate returned only 7 Labor MPs out of 89. There have been two by-elections since then, with Anthony Lynham and Yvette D’Ath joining the ranks, but that’s still only 9 out of 89. It's been a mammoth task for Annastacia Palaszczuk to get Labor back to competitive and I think they are competitive. I think it's not so much what we expect from the launch tomorrow, but it’s about the issues, isn't it. This is a Labor team in Queensland determined to see that the assets of Queensland are put to best use for Queenslanders. This is a Labor team talking about health and education and jobs. These are coincidentally issues which transcend state and federal boundaries, that is why Tanya, Graham, myself and all our team are so keen to be here because the health and education of every Queenslander, the employment prospects of every young Queenslander are a matter of great importance to all levels of politics.

JOURNALIST: It sounds like you are lowering expectations. Can Annastacia Palaszczuk pull off a victory?

SHORTEN: The arithmetic is very difficult. I'm not an election commentator, I’ll leave that to the ladies and gentlemen of the press, but what I do know is it's a steep climb and Labor, I think, has exceeded expectations so far, it is a very difficult climb. But what matters is the future of Queensland. What matters is jobs. What matters is making sure your kids can get a good education, what matters is making sure that your parents when they need to see a doctor can see a doctor. These are the matters which unite Labor and unite Labor with Queensland and that's what we stand for. One more question.

JOURNALIST: The Great Barrier Reef is under massive attack at the moment from the Abbott Government, are we going to see a lot of developments on that from incoming Labor governments, both federally and at a state level? [inaudible]

SHORTEN: Well, I think what's been very clear in this election is there's only one mainstream political party with any policies for the Great Barrier Reef, and State Labor's made it very clear they will move heaven and earth to protect the pristine nature of the Barrier Reef. In Canberra, we see a Federal Government currently in power who deny the impact of climate change, you can see them being dragged with their fingernail marks across the concrete to have any debate about climate change. And even we saw the dramatic report released this weekend which shows we have just gone through the hottest year. And yet you still have the Abbott Government stuck in the past. So if people care about the Great Barrier Reef, we don't just have to rely on President Obama to tell us about its capacities and its importance, we should do that at the ballot box. Thanks, everyone, lovely to see you.


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STATEMENT - Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan

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Labor opposes the death penalty in all cases.

We urge clemency for anyone facing it, whoever and wherever they may be. That includes two members of the Bali Nine, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

Consistent with the long standing bi-partisan opposition to the death penalty, both Labor and Liberal governments have made representations to a number of countries on behalf of Australian citizens who face the death penalty. That work has Labor's full support.



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Transcript of Press Conference: 16 December 2013


The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Transcript of press conference


Subjects: Marriage equality, Abbott Government’s first 100 days

Tanya Plibersek: Last week we saw in the ACT, the court decided that indeed it’s the federal Parliament that needs to legislate for marriage equality in Australia. That means the federal Parliament needs to decide to end discrimination against same couples when it comes to marriage. I’m going to reintroduce into Parliament next year, a private member’s Bill that will make it possible for same sex couples who love each other to marry. What I’d like to see is conscience vote for Liberal and National Members of Parliament. Until Liberal and National Members of Parliament are allowed a conscience vote, it’s not possible for such legislation to pass. Ideally I’m looking for a Liberal or a National party member to co-sponsor this Bill. I’d like to see a Liberal or National party member put their name this private member’s leg with mine to show that this is a matter that’s above politics, that is bi-partisan. Of course not everyone agrees, but with a conscience vote, we’ll see a majority of Labor party members, and those Liberal and National party members who believe in marriage equality able to express that.
Journalist: Are you heartened by Malcolm Turnbull’s comments?

Plibersek: It’s been obvious for a long time that Malcolm Turnbull is a supporter of marriage equality. And he’s said in the past that he’d like to see a conscience vote in his own party. So ideally, it’d be wonderful if Malcolm was prepared to or able to co-sponsor such a Bill. But of course being a Cabinet minister, that makes that a little more difficult. So if not Malcolm, perhaps one of the Liberal backbenchers or a National party backbencher would be prepared to co-sponsor the Bill. If not, I’m sure that I’ll find someone in the Labor Party. But, there is a fundamental threshold question here. Unless Liberal and National party members are able to have a conscience vote there’s no way that this legislation can pass. So I’ll go to my party room in January, with a proposal that Labor would have a new private member’s Bill, and that I would sponsor that Bill.
But I won’t intro a new bill until Liberal and National members have a conscience vote. So it’s up to Tony Abbott really now to allow his members of Parliament to vote according to their conscience.

Journalist: It’s a hundred days since the Coalition … [inaudible)

Plibersek: Well, I think most Australians have worked out that Tony Abbott’s Government is not the Government they said they’d be. They said they’d be a Government of no surprises and no excuses. But so far it’s been nasty surprises and pathetic excuses. In every area of government policy we’ve seen broken promises. We’ve seen broken promises in health. They said they wouldn’t cut health funding, and they have. We’ve seen broken promises in education. They said they were a unity ticket with Labor on education funding, and instead they been dragged kicking and screaming to funding part of the Gonski funding model but not all of it, and indeed they are cutting Trades Training Centres. So they are cutting some school funding to pay for some other school funding. Trades Training Centres are more important than ever before. We see the jobs losses at Holden, the job losses at Qantas, the job losses in Gove at Rio Tinto, Electrolux, Simplot, all of these job losses. We need to have highly skilled highly trained workers. By cutting Trades Training Centres from high school , a $400 million cut there, you reduce the likelihood that young people come out of high school ready for the skilled trades jobs of the future. Across every area of government policy we’ve seen mis-steps, failures, and broken promises.

Journalist: Do you have anything to add on marriage equality?

Plibersek: I think now is really the time for Australians to say to their Government that we need a conscience vote on this. I think its time for Tony Abbott to allow his members of Parliament to follow their conscience and to vote in the federal Parliament for marriage equality.

Journalist: So with your conversations with Malcolm, how did that go, how did the conversation about marriage equality go?

Plibersek: Malcolm Turnbull is in a seat neighbouring mine, and I talk to him all the time about all sorts of issues, but I don’t talk about those conversations afterwards.

Journalist: [inaudible]

Plibersek: I think it’s very difficult for the Coalition to refuse a conscience vote...[inaudible]…so if there’s a CV we’ll see a number of people vote for marriage equality, I and think that it’s very likely there will be a conscience vote.

15 DECEMBER 2013

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Transcript of interview with Ben Fordham: Today Show, Channel 9


The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Transcript of interview with Ben Fordham

Today Show, Channel 9


Subjects: Holden, NBN

Ben Fordham: How are we all?

Malcom Turnbull: We're very well.

Fordham: Everyone friendly?

Tanya Plibersek: Yeah.

Fordham: Ok, we’ll keep our answers short and sharp today because there's a lot to get through if we can. It's been a devastating week for Holden workers after the company confirmed it will cease manufacturing cars in Australia by 2017. Today a warning from Toyota that uncompetitive work practices could force it to go the same way as Holden, Ford and others. So does that mean, Malcolm, we need to have more flexible agreements i.e. Work Choices, things like that, in the automotive sector?

Turnbull: I think what it means is you need greater productivity. My understanding is that the wages of auto workers in Japan and Australia are comparable but the productivity here is a lot less.

Fordham: The bosses want more flexibility though and there are plenty of people within the Liberal Party who want a return to more flexibility in the workplace, so why wouldn't you deliver that to this industry if that's what they need?

Turnbull: Well, we’ve committed to an industrial relations policy and as you know, Work Choices is dead, buried and cremated but nonetheless it's incumbent on both the unions and the company and Toyota to be able to come to some settlement in terms of more productive work practices because if they can't, if they can't then Toyota will no doubt follow Holden. And then everyone loses.

Fordham: It's been revealed today, Tanya, that the executives in the US, the Holden executives were working on this decision for months. It was months in the making therefore it's a little bit …

Plibersek: Well, no Ben, what I think was revealed is they had two plans. If we stay this is what we need to stay, if we can't stay this is how we leave. And any business makes contingency plans. As late as Tuesday this week, when Mike Devereaux was talking to the Productivity Commission he was saying no decision had been made. What changed was he went into - we went into question time and Joe Hockey dared Holden to leave and they took his dare.

Fordham: You honestly believe that's why they pulled out?

Plibersek: I do.

Fordham: As a result of what Joe Hockey said in question time?

Plibersek: Seeing that, you've seen the text messages being sent by Holden executives saying "Are you watching this, this bloke wants us to leave, he's daring us, he's goading us." I think it was very significant in their decision.

Fordham: Ok, let’s move on right now. The Government is set to break a key election promise on the NBN, Malcolm Turnbull's baby. The pledge to deliver download speeds of 25 megabytes per second to the majority of Australians by 2016.

Now Malcom, I know that you will blame the former government for this.  I know that you will bore us with all sorts of details on the NBN but can you just admit in the interest of transparency that what you said before the election is different to what you were saying now?

Turnbull: Well, what I said before the election is we would tell the truth about the NBN and we would for the first time get a thoroughly objective, independent analysis of where the project is now, where it could have gone to if Labor had stayed in Government which is to run up another $29 billion in debt and a much, much slower roll out and what the options are. Options are constrained by the mess we've been left with by Labor.

Fordham: But in the interests of transparency, you will admit now won’t you, that what you said before the election is different to what you're saying now?

Turnbull: What I said before the election was that we believed we could get all Australians 25 megs by 2016 and the company has come back with its advisers and said they do not believe that is achievable. But you know what that is? That is the first time the NBN Co has ever written a report which does not coincide with the political agenda of the Minister and that's because I'm the first Communications Minister - it's true.

Fordham: Come on, Tanya…

Turnbull: You can't deny that. I'm the first Communications Minister that has allowed the NBN to tell the truth. Stephen Conroy bullied them into telling lies again and again and again. And that’s the tragedy.

Plibersek: OK, two things to say. This is a report written by Malcolm's mate that he owns a yacht with.

Turnbull: That is outrageous. That is not true. The report on Labor…

Fordham: Hang on, is it true or not true?

Turnbull: It's completely untrue.

Plibersek: You don't own a yacht with him?

Turnbull: I own a yacht, own not a yacht actually, it's an old couta boat, it’s really better described as a menace to shipping and JB Rousselot, who is one of the people on that review - I own that boat with him.

Plibersek: The answer is yes.

Turnbull: No, hang on, wait a minute.

Fordham: Hang on a minute, Malcolm, Malcolm, Malcolm.

Turnbull: No, we've got to tell the truth, the truth about Labor was written by KordaMentha, not by JB Rousselot, and the Boston Consulting Group, it was not written by JB Rousselot, and you know that and you are smearing JB Rousselot because you are ashamed of the billions of dollars your government wasted and the mess that we have to clean up, Tanya, and it is a disgrace. Tens of billions of dollars…

Plibersek: Ben, Ben... This is a clearly broken promise.

Turnbull: You’ve broken your promise (to Fordham) to keep the answers short, you see.

Fordham: You're the one who didn't keep it short.

Turnbull: I never said I would.

Plibersek: The Prime Minister said a minimum of 25 megabits per second download speed, he said that before the election, very clearly.  Promise broken.

Turnbull: Well, what we said was that was our objective.

Plibersek: Promise broken.

Plibersek: No, no, no the Prime Minister promised that.

Turnbull: We made it very clear that all of our objectives, all of our targets were subject to getting to the facts –

Plibersek: That's not true.

Fordham: This is supposed to be a lovely Christmas get together.

Turnbull: Well Tanya, you were –

Fordham: Let’s look at what you turned Christmas into you two.

Turnbull: Let's get this straight.

Fordham: No, Malcolm we're not going to. We're moving on Malcolm.

Turnbull: You went to the election with forecasts on the NBN which you and your Cabinet knew were false. And you didn’t tell the Australian people the truth.

Plibersek: Broken promise.

Fordham: Malcolm, you need to have respect for what I'm doing here right because I've got certain constraints that I've got to follow. Now we're moving on.

Turnbull: Good. Moving forward as someone said.

Fordham: You have found your own way of admitting that what you said beforehand is different to what you've said now. You have found your own way of admitting it.

Turnbull: Well, what I’ve done is made sure the truth is told …

Fordham: If you could, both of you, we need to end this nicely because this is our Christmas edition of In the House, if you could get anything in the world for each other for Christmas without any budget constraints, anything, what would you give Malcolm for Christmas?

Plibersek: Well, I had a really good present for him but I don't want to give it to him now because he's being mean.

Fordham: Come on.

Plibersek: I know that Malcolm and Lucy have been big supporters of the Wayside Chapel so I'd make a donation on their behalf to the Wayside Chapel.

Turnbull: That's very sweet and that's a lovely thing to do.

Plibersek: Now you're sorry you interrupted me, aren't you?

Turnbull: No, no, I tell you what I would give Tanya and it's not really mine to give but I would give Tanya lots of time, quiet time away from politicians and journalists to spend time with Anna, Joe and Louis, her three very beautiful children. That's lots of hugs from those 3.

Fordham: See, we all get along in the end, don't we?

Turnbull: We do.

Plibersek: Well, mostly.

Fordham: Merry Christmas, everyone, from all of us here at the Plibersek and Turnbull families.

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Transcript of Press Conference - Wednesday, 11 December 2013
















SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government abandon’s Australia’s automotive industry.

ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, TANYA PLIBERSEK: Thank you very much everyone for coming this afternoon. I want to say a few words about the closure of Holden in Australia. Today’s a shocking day for Holden workers and the first thing I want to say is that we are very concerned for their futures, that we are thinking of them and their families particularly in the lead up to Christmas, this is terrible news for them to get and that we will do everything that we can to support and assist them. It’s a shocking day for Holden workers. It's also a terrifying day for other auto industry workers. We know that component manufacturers will be affected by this. We know that there are all sorts of industries that support auto manufacturing in Australia that will be affected by this, including research and development, logistics and so on. All of them will feel this. It's also a very frightening day for Toyota workers, seeing the fate of fellow auto industry workers and of course they would be nervous about their futures as well.

It's very unusual to see one decision, like the Government's decision to rip $500 million out of this industry, that has such huge ramifications for Australia. We are talking about probably 200,000 jobs that rely on the auto industry here in Australia. This one decision to rip out $500 million has extraordinary ongoing effects for the industry. It was Joseph Benedict Chifley, as my friend Nick Champion said, Joseph Benedict Chifley who watched the first car roll off the production line at Fisherman's Bend, and it will be his name sake, it will be Joseph Benedict Hockey, who sees the last car roll off the production line. And it’s unfortunately a decision of government that has made it so. Treasurer Hockey dared Holden to withdraw from Australia, and he got his way.

We saw yesterday in the Parliament Treasurer Hockey make an extraordinary show, manning up, puffed up, shouting, arguing, making a point of daring Holden to leave. Well, they’ve left. We had evidence from Mike Devereux yesterday that there had been no decision made, that Holden hadn't decided about its future in Australia. We had the Treasurer goading them to leave Australia and on top of that, the Acting Prime Minister writing a letter that Holden and, you know, anyone who had seen the letter would think was designed specifically to be released for public consumption, and indeed that was the conclusion that Holden drew.

Instead of picking up the phone, instead of decent dialogue, instead of an adult approach that would keep these vital jobs in Australia, we had the Treasurer and the Acting Prime Minister goading and daring Holden to pull out. Today, the response of the Acting Prime Minister is that at least Holden workers now have certainty. Well, that's a very curious definition of certainty. Yes, they’ve have got the certainty that they’ll lose their jobs. Other auto industry workers have the certainty that there will be other job losses in the auto industry. Workers at Toyota and in other related fields have the fear that they will be next, that they will be the domino that falls next. It is a very curious definition of certainty.

This government said that they would be a government of no surprises and no excuses. And today in Question Time, we had an absolute litany of excuses. Excuses for why Holden’s made this decision to leave. We had Christopher Pyne saying that this was a decision made months ago in the United States. It's only just been announced today for reasons he would not say, but it's a decision made months ago. We had Christopher Pyne also saying that this decision was nothing to do with the Federal Government. That's an absolutely extraordinary claim when it's been clear from everything that Holden has said that they were waiting for a clear signal from the Commonwealth Government about what the Government would do for the future of the auto industry here in Australia. It's extraordinary to say that this is nothing to do with the Government when we have had Holden negotiating, holding back, seeking to talk to the Government, making clear that they hadn't made a decision. We’ve have had a Productivity Commission inquiry that's kicked off any decision from the Government about auto industry assistance to sometime in the future. For now, the Government to wash their hands of this and say it's nothing to do with them is a tragic day for Holden. It's a tragic day for the auto industry. It's a tragic day for manufacturing in Australia. I think most Australians would regard it as a tragic day for Australia. It's extraordinary to see a Commonwealth Government drive the car industry out of Australia. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: I have a question to Senator Carr, as an outgoing Industry Minister as it were, do you accept that as some of your opponents are saying today, you should share a fair bit of the blame in that in the last three years maybe we should have seen more effort, and a car plan that would work and be sustainable?

SENATOR KIM CARR: No, I don't. Just think what happened during the economic crisis. General Motors in the United States went into bankruptcy. Yet in Australia, we are able to secure the assets for the future. And around the world, when the automotive industry was in retreat, in Australia we attracted additional investment. Now, we put $1.8 billion on the table. We attracted $25 billion, $25.9 billion worth of new investment. So it is just not true. This was a decision that did not have to be made. It was not necessary that this had to end this way. This is a government's responsibility. Now General Motors Holden had been talking to us in government and to the Opposition when they were in opposition. And we all know what it would take to keep the car industry in place in this country. I've indicated this week considerably less than $150 million per annum, remembering that the current car plan comes to an end in 2020. We would not have to actually draw upon the budget at all until 2017. Because this was all about investments after 2017. So it was absolutely unnecessary. This is a tragedy that need not have had to happen in this country.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] that Mike Devereux this afternoon said that the decision wasn't made until after he gave evidence to the Productivity Commission yesterday –

CARR: No it does not, it does not. It does not. I know this company well, I know these people well. Where was the Minister? Why hasn’t the Minister been to Detroit to talk to the leadership? If they were serious, why hasn't this government gone to Detroit to talk? Why would you issue a letter like the Acting Prime Minister did yesterday? Why wouldn't you pick up the telephone? Why wouldn't they have responded to the business case proposal that General Motors has had before the new government since its election? So the facts are very simple here. The Government has sought to drive this industry out of Australia because they believe there is some ideological quest that has to be pursued and it became more urgent after what we saw with GrainCorp. Now, for seven days in a row, we have had senior Ministers for seven days, senior Ministers, back grounding against the Industry Minister, demanding that the company make a decision. They have been playing chicken with this company. The Government has been playing chicken for months. Well, they got what they wanted.

JOURNALIST: We’re getting the message out of Detroit that General Motors felt it was no longer sustainable to make cars in Australia, something Devereux said this afternoon.

CARR: And that's what that means. The business case doesn't stack up. Why not? Because the Australian Government would not contribute, would not co-invest as governments all around the world do. In Australia the Government turned its back, turned its back on 200,000 Australians. Turned its back on the 50,000 workers employed directly in this industry. Everyone knows what the consequences are except this Government. They have played chicken with the industry and now we have the consequence.

JOURNALIST: Toyota says they are now facing unprecedented pressure, that’s a very bad signal isn't it?

CARR: That’s the point. All the component manufacturers are faced with the same pressures. We’ve had the dollar increase in value by 65 per cent. You would have thought the Government would understand what that meant. We did. We were prepared to talk to them and I know if we had been re- elected, the contracts would have been signed. There would be no need for this decision today, if there’d been a different result at the last federal election.

JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, What is your response to Mr Hockey's claims that Labor didn't show the same outrage when Mitsubishi and Ford left Australia?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I’ll say a couple of things. I think for a start that it is extraordinary that the Treasurer’s focus today in Question Time has been making political points. The second thing I'd say is we have never been anything other than devastated when a single job is lost in Australia. But the difference with today's decision is a company has been goaded into leaving Australia. They’ve been, as Senator Carr said, the Government was playing chicken with Holden and the workers are the ones that lost out.

CARR: There are two points. Mitsubishi did not want to invest in Australia. I found out about Mitsubishi during the election campaign in 2007. I found out from a dealer who, of course, advised me that there had been a return on an order for fleet cars. That's how I found out, during the previous government, during the previous government. In regard to Ford, the Ford motor company did not want to invest. General Motors did want to invest. They gave us the choice. The Government has made a choice and the choice is not to have an automotive industry in this country. That is what we have got to appreciate here. This is a policy decision of Government. No one else but the Government has to be held responsible for their decision.

JOURNALIST: Treasurer Hockey clearly believes that he was being gamed by General Motors.

CARR: Look, I've been involved in this trade for a long time. And I've heard these sorts of idiotic statements from neo-liberals. You know these are the North Shore bankers talking. They are only too happy to bail out the banks when they need help but when it comes to blue collar workers, in the automotive industry they think there is something illegitimate in that. Look, let's be clear about this. There is a section of the Liberal Party that actually hates the automotive industry and they have expressed their views for as long as I've been engaged in this debate.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you everyone.


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Transcript of Today Show interview with Lisa Wilkinson


The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Transcript of interview with Lisa Wilkinson
Today Show, Channel 9

Subjects: Qantas, Holden, School Funding

Lisa Wilkinson: Well the Government insists it won't rush into bail out Qantas even as the national airline announced a $300 million loss yesterday and the need to axe 1,000 jobs in the coming year.

Joining us now to discuss this and explain his backflip on Gonski is Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek joins us as well. Good morning to both of you. Christopher Pyne, if I can start with you, is there a case for the Government to step in and bail out Qantas?

Christopher Pyne: Well Qantas has a unique problem which most other private companies don't have in Australia and that is it's restricted by legislation in terms of its foreign investment, who can invest in Qantas.

Now Virgin doesn't have that restriction which means Qantas is hide bound really so we have to think about whether the taxpayer directly supports Qantas or whether we remove those restrictions and allow it to get foreign investment which also means that it might not necessarily be entirely Australian owned. So it's a problem and we have to sort through it, which we will.

Wilkinson: Is the Government feeling sentimental about this Australian icon or do you think you really have to start doing business now?

Pyne: Well there's a whole host of reasons why Australia needs to have a national carrier. But it is a global world and at the moment Qantas can't compete as easily as it should because it's got this 50% restriction on its ownership.

Wilkinson: Christopher's right, Tanya, I mean there's not an even playing field at the moment between Qantas and Virgin. Virgin has got 63% foreign ownership that really does help them in their funding. Do you think those restrictions should be loosened?

Tanya Plibersek: Look, I think it's important to have a look at anything that Qantas is proposing to help them operate more effectively. My dad spent the last 20 years of his working life working at Qantas and I think I do and many Australians do have a very strong attachment to Qantas as an Australian brand and carrier. I think we should have a look at what they're suggesting.

Wilkinson: But it's a heart versus head thing, isn't it?

Plibersek: Well absolutely. I think the emotional attachment is certainly there. You get on a Qantas plane coming back from overseas and hear those Australian accents, it's always so wonderful.

Pyne: I think there's a sense of almost bipartisanship about this issue. I mean I don't think you can make much politics out of Qantas because it's an icon for Australia and that's a good thing.

Wilkinson: And 1,000 people facing job losses.

Plibersek: Absolutely, and right before Christmas. The important thing there is to make sure we give those 1,000 people the support they need to find new jobs as quickly as possible.
Wilkinson: Speaking of Aussie icons, Holden, there's talk that it could close its operations here by 2016. Is this another case of the Government having to step in?

Pyne: Well, Holden - well GM really in Detroit - needs to let Holden compete internationally. One of the problems for Holden in Australia is it doesn't seem to be given the freedom to export and if it's not exporting the market here in Australia isn't big enough. And because we allow so much overseas cars into our market, which is a good thing for competition and for consumer choice, Toyota and Holden and Ford need to export whereas GM and Detroit puts all sorts of restrictions around Holden's capacity to export.

It hasn't invested in the equipment that it needs to invest in and if Holden make that decision it will be a decision of Holden's. We in the federal Liberal Party want to support the car industry as much as possible but at the end of the day Holden make a decision, a commercial decision, it's not something that we can make for them.

Plibersek: Well Lisa, I mean Christopher's skated over the fact that the Liberal Government's taking $500 million support out of the car industry and I think it's very important that we keep car manufacturing here in Australia.

There's a 9 to 1 multiplier effect. For every dollar we put in we get $9 back and if you look at the support for the Australian car industry, compared to the US or Germany, the Americans put in about 14 times as much per person as we do, even the Germans that would be acknowledged as having a very strong car industry, they get about 5 times per person as much support going into their car industry as we do here in Australia.

Pyne: But even with all the support that Labor's been putting in over the last 6 years, Ford's already decided to leave, even with all that support. Holden's operations here in Australia, even with all the support, made a loss again last year. When General Motors looked at their entire international operations, the Australian operation was the one
that was making a loss so all that money's been flowing into Holden and Ford and they're still making losses or deciding to leave in the case of Ford.

Plibersek: But the point is Christopher, we're not putting in a lot compared with other countries that have car industries and we're talking about 200,000 jobs and also the spin off for research and development and innovation that comes from having a car industry. I think it's very important that we keep it here.

Wilkinson: Alright, we'll have to move on. We need to move onto you, Christopher Pyne.

This week's double backflip over Gonski. Now a week ago you were Gonski's foremost critic. You said it was un-implementable, this week you've not only backed it but you've found more than $1 billion extra to put into it. Was it just a case of you caved in to public pressure?

Pyne: Well the good news, Lisa, is I found $1.2 billion more for education than Labor was going to put in.

Wilkinson: But was that because of public pressure because you were its greatest critic?

Pyne: It's because I've been spending the last 11 weeks working behind the scenes with WA, NT and Queensland.

Wilkinson: But for 10 weeks of that, you didn’t like it…

Pyne: Well I haven't said much about the school funding model since the election. But I found $1.2 billion.

Wilkinson: Where did you find that?

Pyne: Well the Treasurer and I, and the PM, worked out how we could fund that, which Labor took out.

Wilkinson: Where was it?

Pyne: You will find out in MYEFO, which will be handed down before the end of the year where that money's come from.
And I got WA, Queensland and the NT to sign up, something Labor never did. So I've delivered the national agreement and more money.

Wilkinson: But will you change your mind again because you've changed it about four times now on Gonski?

Pyne: I haven't really. It's where you end the race Lisa that counts, not where you started.

Wilkinson: But we don't know where you end, because we could have said a couple of decisions ago “this was the end”.

Pyne: I've crossed the finish line, I’ve crossed the line. I’ve got the money and the agreement.

Plibersek: It’s great, Christopher was vacuuming the couch and lifted up the cushions and found $1.2 billion.

Pyne: It was amazing.

Plibersek: You’re right Lisa, this is the 4th position Christopher's had and it's not delivering what the Government said they would deliver before the election. They said they were on a unity ticket with Labor.

Our proposal was $14.65 billion extra over six years, this is $2.8 billion over 4 years. There's no requirement, we had a requirement, for every $2 put we put in as a Commonwealth Government the States put in an extra $1. Christopher said to the States “It doesn't matter. We'll put in a bit of extra money but if you cut education funding in your own States it doesn't matter”.

And most importantly, the Gonski model said we give most to the kids who need it most and the schools who need it most, and there's no guarantee that what Christopher is proposing gives that money to disadvantaged kids. You look at the report that came out this week, the PISA Report, and it shows that Australia has one of the biggest gaps in learning between the wealthiest kids and the poorest kids anywhere in the world, and that's exactly what the Gonski model was designed to fix. Put the most resources where they're most needed.

Wilkinson: Part of the problem is we saw those figures this week saying that Australia has really fallen behind in its educational standards in this country. We had 6 years of Labor rule. Why didn't things improve during that time?

Plibersek: Well because these are 15-year-old kids. They've had a whole career in the education system.

Pyne: So it's their fault?

Plibersek: No, I'm not saying it's their fault. I'm saying a good education system starts with top quality childcare, it starts with preschool. Any parent will tell you and Christopher I know you’re a parent, that those early years of childhood are the most important learning time. So we've got to invest from the beginning in preschool, making sure that every child gets a year of preschool and making sure that our whole education system from day 1 focuses on lifting the most disadvantaged kids. The kids who start behind the eight ball.

Wilkinson: Last word, Christopher Pyne?

Pyne: Well Lisa, Labor took $1.2 billion out before the election.

Plibersek: That's not true Christopher, you can't keep saying that.

Pyne: I put it back in. Over six years Labor spent $20 billion more on education and they've achieved the worst PISA result in history.

Wilkinson: The trouble is that that $1.2 billion was never on the table, you can't take something out that wasn't on the table?

Pyne: It was in the Budget, it was in the economic statement of the Treasurer’s before the election but it was taken out in the pre-election fiscal outlook. [Plibersek interjects] You had a lovely long run and I didn't interrupt you. It's not all about money, it's about teacher quality and PISA found the one single determinant in Australia about the outcomes for students was not the school they were in but the teacher they were allocated.

Plibersek: And that's why you need the standards that come with Gonski and you don’t guarantee that. And that $1.2 billion dollars, that’s WA, NT and QLD that refused to take the extra money…

Pyne: So you took the money back.

Plibersek: … because they put politics before kids.

Pyne: You put it into consolidated revenue.

Plibersek: That’s just nonsense.

Wilkinson: Ok, I think you two need to take it out the back. In the meantime, thank you very much.


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Media Release: Government Must Pledge Support For Holden Workers










Today is a devastating day for Holden workers, their families, and thousands more Australians who depend on a strong automotive sector.

The ramifications of this announcement will be felt throughout our economy. We know there will be more bad news to come, and we know more Australians will lose their jobs.

Our hearts are very heavy for these workers and their families, and the communities that depend on these jobs.

The Federal Opposition has repeatedly called on the Abbott Government to provide certainty to Holden and its workers. Their inaction has helped create a situation where an important business believed it could no longer operate in our country.

Workers and their families are the ultimate losers from the Government’s irresponsible game of brinkmanship.

Having succeeded in forcing GM Holden out of Australia, the Abbott Government must now deal with the consequences of its reckless policies.

Some 2,900 Holden workers will now go into Christmas knowing that the Abbott Government has cost them their job.

A further 47,000 workers directly employed in the automotive industry face great uncertainty over their future.

The Abbott Government helped cause this situation.

First, the Government decided to rip out $500 million in government assistance for the automotive industry.

Second, they sought to cover their inaction with a Productivity Commission Inquiry, which won’t report for months.

Then they undertook an extraordinary back-grounding campaign in the media, attacking the company and its workers, including letters designed to be leaked.

And yesterday, the Treasurer dared Holden to leave Australia. He got his way.

This devastating news was preventable. Under Labor this would not have happened.

The Labor Government had come to an agreement with Holden that would have seen them stay in Australia until the middle of the next decade, for less than $150 million a year in government co-investment.

The Abbott Government needs to urgently put forward a comprehensive and detailed plan to help these workers retrain, reskill and transition to new jobs.

It is not good enough to say that the company will look after redundancy payments and that there won’t “necessarily be any extra assistance required from Government”, as Senator Abetz said today.

The Abbott Government has failed Australian manufacturing. They must not be allowed to fail their workers even further.

Today, our Prime Minister has let an Australian icon die.


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Speech: Nelson Mandela Condolence Motion








There's a story from Robben Island which speaks to the power of words, and art, to inspire and to sustain the human spirit.

The story goes the political prisoners used to secretly pass around a copy of Shakespeare's collected works. On one occasion, the men marked their favourite passages.

Mandela chose one from Julius Caesar.

Cowards die many times before their deaths,

The valiant never taste of death but once.

Of all the wonders that I have yet heard,

It seems to me most strange that men should fear,

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.

Well, it has now come for Nelson Mandela.

We should be thankful that he lived, fought and led his country.

But we mourn the fact he's now passed from this world.

There was a news report a few nights ago, where the presenter remarked dawn was breaking in South Africa for the first time in 95 years without Nelson Mandela.

There is something in that. Such an iconic figure can sometimes take on the stature of being permanent.

But the nature of human history is that everything is fleeting – a “mere brief passing moment in time and space,” as Mandela put it.

No longer do freedom fighters have the living and breathing Mandela to look to.

He belongs to history now, the man who spent more than a quarter of his life, his “long, lonely, wasted years” imprisoned by a regime which he was prepared to give his life to bring down, only to preach reconciliation on his release.

The man who brought down apartheid without, in the end, a shot being fired, now belongs to an echelon reserved for leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King – who first said those words Mandela repeated on his release – “free at last”.

Indomitable fighters for the expression and realisation of human dignity.

Names which will always inspire millions to think and to act and to fight.

We are all bound by the times we live in. There's been some commentary over the past few days pointing out Mandela was no saint, as if it's a criticism.

Well of course he wasn't.

He was a political leader engaged in a bitter struggle; a political leader reacting to the unpredictability of human events, and the grotesque nature of apartheid.

Or, in his own words, he was a “product of the mire that (his) society was.”

It's one of those ironies of history which reveals the complexity of the human condition: men and women created something as repressive as apartheid

But men and women in Africa and around the world, led by Mandela, were part of the movement of millions which brought it down.

The contradiction of all this is that while Mandela's struggle reveals complexity, it also provides a moral clarity.

Dividing a country based on race and class is wrong.

Denying a person his or her inherent rights based on the colour of their skin is wrong.

Fighting racism is right.

Uniting a troubled country through reconciliation and forgiveness is right.

We should not forget those millions who fought alongside Mandela. While they were lucky to have a leader of his stature, their struggle should never be forgotten.

Mandela, and his people’s struggle, was a touchstone for generations of progressive people around the globe. There would be people in this Parliament today who could trace their political awakening to the anti-apartheid movement. It was formative for many of us.

I'm proud to be a member of a party which supported Mandela's struggle for the decades in which he was in prison.

I’m proud to be part of a labour movement, of party activists and trade unionists, which long supported sanctions as one of the fundamental ways the international community united to help to bring down apartheid.

There can hardly be a person who was of age in February 1990 who can't recall the jolt of excitement as Mandela walked free.

Likewise, the triumph of his 1994 election.

We were lucky to share Mandela's times.

He said that to “overthrow oppression has been sanctioned by humanity and is the highest aspiration of every man.”

The world is better because he lived, and fought.

But, like the valiant in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, he has now come to the necessary end we all shall taste.

Mandela once remarked that the “names of only very few people are remembered beyond their lives.”

He will be one of these people.

Australia mourns his end, but gives thanks for his life.


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