TRANSCRIPT - PM Agenda, 6 August 2014

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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

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ABC Drive, 5 August 2014

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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

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AmCham Business Briefing

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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.

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National Labor Women's Conference

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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

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The World, ABC

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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
THE WORLD, ABC

FRIDAY, 1 AUGUST 2014

Subject: conflict in Gaza.

BEVERLEY O’CONNOR, PRESENTER: The Opposition says Australia has a critical role to play at the UN given its temporary role as chair of the Security Council when it comes to Gaza. We spoke to Opposition foreign affairs spokesperson, Plibersek, thanks Tanya Plibersek. Tanya Plibersek, thanks for talking to The World. Have you been concerned up until now how little effect the United Nations actually has had?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well I think everybody's concerned that the conflict has lasted as long as it has and that the death toll has been as high as it is. It is important that Australia as a member of the Security Council express a view and do what we can to assist in bringing about a lasting ceasefire and moving of course to a permanent peace. We can’t afford a situation where we have just three days of peace and then the bombardment starts again. As I said before, the civilian death toll has been extraordinarily high, we’ve seen reports now of over 1300 dead and the majority of those unfortunately civilians, and many many of those are children.

O’CONNOR: Let’s talk about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. What role do you think Australia should be playing.

PLIBERSEK: So the immediate priority is a ceasefire and ensuring that that ceasefire lasts, but there will be a massive task of rebuilding as well. Gaza was already experiencing social and economic deprivation, a very serious level of unemployment and very difficult economic circumstances. Of course that is exacerbated by this now – a massive task of rebuilding. I was pleased to see that the Government had donated $5 million last week for humanitarian causes in Gaza but I guess I have to point out that this only just replaces the $4.5 million that was cut from Australia's usual overseas development assistance to the Palestinian Territories in this year's Budget, in the most recent Budget. So there's only an extra $500,000 from Australia after all of this devastation. I think certainly Australia could increase its contribution to the rebuilding of Gaza that will be critical.

O’CONNOR: Is it a financial priority, though, for the Government when you see both sides of this conflict not taking a step back?

PLIBERSEK: Well I guess it's never the kids who are making the decision for their Governments to go to war and when I see footage of the incredible toll this is taking on civilians in Gaza who have lost their homes, schools have been bombed, hospital facilities and so on, I think there is an opportunity for Australia to help in the reconstruction. It is important for both parties to stop the hostilities. It is important for Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel, for them to stop using their tunnel system to try and get into Israel but, equally, it is critical that Israel shows restraint and does not continue the military offensive that has cost so many lives.

O’CONNOR: And also of using course we hear that Hamas is using their own civilians as human shields, they're placing their armoury within schools, right next to families and homes. This is an ongoing problem in terms of who to believe in this conflict.

PLIBERSEK: Well, of course if any civilian facilities have been used to hide rockets, there were reports during the week that that's the case, of course that's unacceptable. Absolutely 100 per cent. But it is also so important to understand that the capacity for Israel to retaliate has to be restrained because the collateral deaths, the number of civilians who have been killed in this conflict is completely unacceptable.

O’CONNOR: Tanya Plibersek, The thanks so much for talking to The World.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.

ENDS

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The Conflict in Israel and the Palestinian Territories

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THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

 

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

STATEMENT

 

THE CONFLICT IN ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

 

THURSDAY, 31 JULY 2014

The Australian Government must use its position on the United Nations Security Council to push for an immediate ceasefire in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

With reports of more than 1300 dead, including many children, the fighting must end now.

Labor is appalled by the recent shelling of a UN school in a Gaza refugee camp, and attacks on similar facilities.

Labor deplores the abuse of civilian facilities for military purposes, including a Gaza school that was used to hide rockets.

Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel - more than 2600 so far, and Israel must restrain its response, which has cost far too many civilian lives.

The scale of human suffering has shocked the world.

Australia needs to work urgently with the international community to bring this terrible conflict to an end.

 

 

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AFP Mission in Ukraine

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THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

 

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

STATEMENT

 

AFP MISSION IN UKRAINE

SUNDAY, 27 JULY 2014

More than a week has passed since 298 people, including Australian citizens and residents, were shot out of the sky in an act of barbarous terror.

The nation’s shock and grief has turned to frustration as we wait for answers to this unspeakable crime.

This afternoon I spoke with the Prime Minister regarding the deployment of Australian Federal Police officers to Ukraine as part of a Dutch-led, unarmed police operation.

I offered the Prime Minister Labor’s full support for this mission.

The priority is and must continue to be the recovery of the bodies, their identification, and their repatriation to grieving families.

In a dangerous and volatile environment, this is the most sensible course of action.

There is no doubt this will be a difficult mission, but Labor has full confidence in the skill and professionalism of the AFP officers undertaking this task. I know all Australians will keep them in their thoughts.

Labor will continue to seek regular briefings from the Government as the mission progresses.

We owe it to the families of the victims to bring their loved ones home.

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Insiders, Sunday, 27 JULY 2014

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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
INSIDERS, ABC

SUNDAY, 27 JULY 2014

 

Subject/s: MH17; Middle East, Asylum Seekers, Paid Parental Leave, Greg Combet, Joe Hockey.

FRAN KELLY, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, welcome to Insiders.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Thank you, Fran.

KELLY: Tanya Plibersek, we've heard this morning from Angus Houston that this will be a police and civilian operation on the site in Ukraine, not a military one. It's unlikely, he suggests, that armed Australian soldiers certainly will accompany the police force to keep them safe. There seems to be some confusion around this. Have you had a briefing from the Government - can you clarify it for us. What do you know?

PLIBERSEK: We did have some briefings earlier in the week. Unfortunately we asked for a briefing on this latest development recently and we weren't able to get that. I guess what I would say is that Angus Houston is a highly experienced, very trusted commander, and in a situation like this, I would accept Angus Houston's advice about whether a police and civilian team is the best way to go. He is on the ground there. He is absolutely the right person to make that decision.

KELLY: Have you been able to speak to the ADF about any concerns, because initially when this was announced by the PM, the first question was, "Is it safe to send unarmed police into a war zone?"

PLIBERSEK: Earlier in the week I had the opportunity of speaking with the ADF and at that stage 50 officers had been pre-deployed to London. The ADF at that stage said that they believed that they had the resources, the training, the expertise to be involved in a recovery mission, and were comfortable at that time, that they would - if they were allowed onto the site, that they would be able to do the job.

KELLY: Are you happy with the level of information you are getting from the Government on this? You mentioned you had been denied a briefing?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think - we have had a number of briefings along the way. We haven't had all of our requests for briefings granted, but really at this stage I'm much more interested in supporting the Government's efforts. I don't think anybody really wants to be listening to me complaining about whether I get briefed or not. I think the most important thing is to take the advice of Angus Houston who is there on the site and make sure that we support his efforts there, whether it's with police, a civilian team, whether they need some ADF support for logistics and protection, he is the best person to make that decision.

KELLY: Tony Abbott has received accolades in foreign media and respect from foreign leaders for the leadership he has shown on this issue, particularly in terms of a tough response to Russia and pushing for a UN resolution. Do you join in that praise of the PM and how he has managed this?

PLIBERSEK: I think it was very important that Australia put the resolution at the United Nations Security Council and I certainly think that Australian leadership, given the number of Australian lives lost, was critical to convincing Russia to use its influence with the Russian-backed separatists in the area. I think it shows how important it is that international organisations like the Security Council have our support and work. It's times like this when those organisations really come into their own. We have gone out of our way, as a Labor Opposition, to be supportive of the Government's efforts. We think that this is a time for national unity. The families of the victims of MH17 want to know that both the Government, the Opposition and all Australians are 100% committed to bringing their loved ones home.

KELLY: Tanya Plibersek, can I ask you now as Shadow Foreign Minister you're also focused on events going on in Gaza of course. On Friday, an Israeli bomb struck a UN school site. There were deaths reinforcing comments from UN chief Valerie Amos when she said it was almost impossible now for Palestinians to shelter from Israeli air strikes in the densely populated Gaza Strip. In your view, is Israel's response to this, to missiles going over their border been proportionate?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think with over a thousand deaths and pictures every day of bodies being carried from rubble, including many, many children, I think the international community is very concerned with the level of civilian deaths and particularly the level of children who have been caught up in this conflict. It is critical that the 12-hour pause in fighting be extended immediately to a ceasefire and that parties return to the negotiating table to negotiate a durable peace. We cannot have a situation where every few months or every few years the rockets start firing from Hamas and Israel retaliates in this way, causing many, many civilian deaths. It is an unacceptable situation.

KELLY: The Australian Government supports the need for a two-state solution. It also supports Israel's right to defend itself and that's Labor's position too, long-held. This weekend at the NSW ALP Conference, a motion put up by Bob Carr was passed, which seems to go a little further, suggesting Labor recognises a Palestinian state if there is no official progress on a two-state solution. That's a distinct tilt, isn't it, towards Australia recognising a Palestinian state. What would that mean in practice, and is this a change in Labor's position?

PLIBERSEK: Well, not really. Labor for many decades has supported a two-state solution. That means an Israeli state behind internationally recognised secure borders, and a Palestinian state which is economically viable, which has responsibility for its own security. You can't have a two-state solution without a Palestinian state. The only change that's occurred in recent months has been a change in the Government's position. Until recently there was bipartisan agreement that the building of settlements was not in line with international law and that East Jerusalem - bipartisan agreement that East Jerusalem is occupied territory. It has seemed, from Julie Bishop's comments and George Brandis' comments that they have retreated from that position.

KELLY: On another issue, can I ask you about the asylum seekers, the 157 people who have been aboard an Australia Customs vessels now for a month. Reportedly they will arrive in the Curtin Detention Centre on Australian soil as early as today. Indian officials, in an agreement struck with the Government, will then travel to the detention centre to interview these people. Is that appropriate, in your view, in Labor's view, officials from another country, a country from where some of these people are fleeing, be invited onto Australian soil to interview them in this way?

PLIBERSEK: I think the whole handling of this has not been appropriate, these people floating around on the ocean for three weeks, they could have been processed on Christmas Island weeks ago and the only thing that stopped that was Scott Morrison's ego. I can't tell you how these people will be processed, the Government has not made that clear. We don't have the details and it is exactly the sort of thing you should ask Scott Morrison if you can get him to turn up to a press conference and get him to answer some questions.

KELLY: In your view, is it the job for the Australian Government to talk these people or the Indian Government?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think if people are on Australian soil, they should be dealt with by Australian authorities and it should have happened weeks ago.

KELLY: A couple of other domestic matters arising this week, the Productivity Commission released a draft report into the childcare system. It noted that funds for Tony Abbott's paid parental leave scheme would be better spent, perhaps some of them, not all of them, on improved childcare options. You've been a consistent critic of Tony Abbott's paid parental scheme, you've dubbed it a Rolls-Royce scheme. But if his is a Rolls-Royce scheme, is the current Labor scheme more like a Datsun 180B. It’s 18 weeks minimum wage, no superannuation. It’s out motored, lacks a bit of grunt. Why shouldn’t women who take time out of the workforce to have a baby get superannuation, doesn't it need to be upgraded?

PLIBERSEK: That's something that could be considered in the future.

KELLY: Would you support that?

PLIBERSEK: Well it's something you can consider in the future. Tony Abbott's scheme pays the greatest benefit to people who already earn the most money. It makes no sense to use taxpayers' dollars to give the biggest benefit to people who already have the most - that's been my criticism. Something else to be said about it, at a time when pensioners have been told the pension is too high, they should wait longer and get less, and when unemployed people have been told they should live on nothing for six months of the year, when funding has been cut from education, from health, despite promises before the election that that wouldn't happen, to introduce a scheme worth $5 billion a year or more makes absolutely no sense. If we are in austerity times and pensioners and students and unemployed young people and families on low incomes all lose money, how can it be that someone on a million dollars a year would get $50,000 from the taxpayer?

KELLY: On another issue, there has been a fair bit of attention on the biography of Joe Hockey, but there is a Labor autobiography coming out this week, Greg Combet, he is revealing in his memoirs that Julia Gillard suggested, in the dying days of her Prime Ministership, that she could step down and Greg Combet could put his hand up in a caucus ballot. You are a strong supporter of Julia Gillard. Did you know about that?

PLIBERSEK: That was obviously a conversation between the two of them, but what I would say is that Greg is a fine Australian and many people thought for many years that he could be a future Labor Prime Minister, and I guess the other thing I would say is what a contrast - here is Greg Combet's book which is about his battle for asbestos victims, his time as a minister fighting for policies that would put a cap on pollution and a price on carbon, and here is Joe Hockey, the longest job application in history, and by the sounds of the book, a very petulant one.

KELLY: But here’s Greg Combet, you could say, back then at the time really at the height of Labor's leadership tensions and the Prime Minister at the time suggesting perhaps another leadership change to somebody that the voters haven't even thought about. It is completely untenable, wouldn't it have been?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think from listening to Greg's interview earlier in the week, that was his conclusion too.

KELLY: What would you have concluded if that had have been put up?

PLIBERSEK: I'm not going to look back at history. What I would say is that Greg Combet is a great loss to the Parliament. He is a great Australian.

KELLY: Tanya Plibersek, thanks very much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.

ENDS

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Press Conference, Saturday, 26 July 2014

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TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

PRESS CONFERENCE

SATURDAY, 26 JULY 2014     

SYDNEY

 

Subject/s: MH17; Middle East, Asylum Seekers.

 

TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING OPPOSITION LEADER: I wanted to take the opportunity of commenting on the Prime Minister’s announcement that further Australian Federal Police Officers will be pre-deployed to London, in order to be able to search the wreckage site of MH17. Of course, Labor supports the deployment of further Australian Federal Police. We believe that our personnel are the best people for this job. Experienced, dedicated, very competent and we support their deployment. The next challenge is ensuring that teams are allowed onto the site, more than three or four at a time. It is critical now that the site is secured, it's a very large site for the wreckage, spread over I'm told 50 square kilometres. There needs to be a proper methodical search of the site from one end to the other. That can only happen with a large deployment of our own police force and any other members of the international team working together methodically across the site. It is critical that the Ukraine government now use all of their efforts to argue for access to the site. And that Russia uses its influence with pro-separatist rebels to allow teams larger than three or four people to have access to the site. We know that Angus Houston is on the ground now. He's a highly skilled, highly respected individual, and we support any efforts that Angus Houston calls for in terms of additional supports for the site.

JOURNALIST: Earlier this afternoon, the Prime Minister wasn't able to confirm the exact number of personnel that will be going over. Is that reasonable, that he wouldn't be able to do that?

PLIBERSEK: I won't criticise the Prime Minister for not being able to confirm an exact number. We were told several days ago there were already 50 people pre-deployed to London. Unfortunately we haven't had a briefing about this additional pre-deployment, but he has said publicly around 90 people. I think that that's acceptable. This is a critical thing, to get Australian boots on the ground. Australian lives lost, we know that we can make a contribution to the international investigation because of the professionalism of our Australian Federal Police and so we want to see a contingent able to thoroughly investigate the site as quickly as possible.

JOURNALIST: Will armed officers on the site increase tensions for separatists?

PLIBERSEK: Well, this is something that Angus Houston will have to examine very carefully. We don't want to send - we don't want to send unarmed Australian Federal Police into a situation where they might be injured, they might be taken hostage. Of course our first responsibility is to ensure that our Australian Federal Police are protected, can protect themselves. Whether or not having an armed guard would increase tension is something that Angus Houston is best placed to examine and to answer. Someone with his experience is the ideal person to make that assessment on the ground.

JOURNALIST: Thank you.

PLIBERSEK: I also wanted to say a few words about what's happening in Gaza at the moment. Anybody who's been reading the papers or watching television would be completely distressed to see image after image of people injured, bodies being carried out of the rubble. So many of these injured civilians are children. Children who've been sheltering in hospitals or in schools. It is completely unacceptable to continue to see this death toll rise to around 900 now. So Labor welcomes the 12-hour pause in fighting, but we say that this should be extended to a permanent ceasefire immediately. Too many people have lost their lives, too many of those people have been civilians, too many of those civilians have been children. It is critical, too, that parties come back to the negotiating table for a durable peace. We cannot afford a situation where every few months or every few years, the rockets start firing again. Civilians lose their lives. Hostilities increase. The only possibility for a durable peace is a two-state solution. An Israel behind secure internationally recognised borders, and a Palestinian State that is economically viable, that is able to provide its own security on its own territory. It is critical that the parties return to the negotiating table because too many people have lost their lives already in this tragic conflict.

I wanted to say a few words also about the asylum boat that's been on the high seas recently. It is extraordinary that Australians are still not being informed by their government, the government that they elected and put into place about what their government intends to do in this situation with asylum seekers who've been intercepted on the high seas. It appears likely that those asylum seekers will be brought now to Australia for processing. Well they could've been brought to Christmas Island weeks ago, as Labor suggested and processed there. The only thing that stopped the processing of these asylum seekers weeks ago is Scott Morrison's ego. It is important now that the government fully answer questions about where the asylum seekers are, where they're going, and what's going to happen to them. It is extraordinary that we have a minister who has, from the day he was elected, refused to answer the most basic questions about his portfolio - has put his own ego ahead of managing his portfolio responsibilities and who's now turned asylum seeker policy over to the High Court.

 

ENDS

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Doorstop Interview, Friday, 25 July 2014

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

FRIDAY, 25 JULY 2014

ULTIMO

 

SUBJECT/S: MH 17; Australian Federal Police deployment; Scott Morrison back-flip.

 

TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well thanks for coming out this evening. There’s no one better to search for Australians on this crash site than Australian Federal Police and if necessary, Australian defence personnel. Labor has supported from the beginning every effort to ensure that our police have access to this 50 square kilometre crash site. We are determined to see every Australian brought home and the sooner we have access to the site and the broader that access, is the better. Labor has supported from the beginning the sending of Australian Federal Police to Europe. We received a briefing yesterday from the Prime Minister’s office and the Federal Police and this extra deployment wasn’t mentioned but of course we support Australian Federal Police as the best people to search in this site for remains and for any evidence of what exactly has happened to MH17.

JOURNALIST: Does the Prime Minister have to spell out what the troops will be doing and how many will be going?

PLIBERSEK: My understanding is so far the Australian defence personnel that have been sent have for example been providing personal security to Angus Houston. This is a very dangerous area of Ukraine, there are heavily armed rebels on the site. They have been haphazard about allowing access to the site, its plain that not all of the rebel groups are cohesive, that there are different units operating that don’t follow a clear command structure. So, making sure that Angus Houston, that our police, Federal Police who are on the site, making sure that any consular officials who are on the site are safe. If that takes Australian defence personnel then of course we support that.

JOURNALIST: I guess the question was, does the Prime Minister have to spell out what they’ll be doing?

PLIBERSEK: Well look, so far the Prime Minister has said that there’s a small number of defence personnel and they’re there for reasons of providing security. I think that that’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. I think it’s important that Australians are aware that Australian Federal Police and Australian defence personnel in some instances, are there to support our efforts, our share of the efforts, of recovering the remains of people who have lost their lives in this terrible crash. I think it’s important that when they cleared that as part of the Dutch lead investigation, Australia is very, very keen to have its own people on the ground. We rate our people highly, we know that they are highly experienced. We know that some of these police for example have had experience in working through the rubble after the tsunami in Japan. They are highly experienced people and they can contribute to this operation and so we support the fact that they’ve been sent there. There are defence personnel providing security on the ground, that’s a good thing.

JOURNALIST: You’ve talked about the lawlessness in the region. Are you concerned about the safety of Australians troops or police in the region? Do you trust President Putin’s assurances that they will be safe?

PLIBERSEK: Well I am concerned about any Australians in the area, as I am concerned about the Dutch personnel, who are leading this investigation, as I am concerned about anyone who is working on this investigative and recovery effort. It is clear that these rebels have the backing of Russia. We hope that the Russian President is able to use his influence firstly to ensure access to the site, secondly to ensure that access is safe, and thirdly to ensure that we can have a big enough force on the ground to actually make an effort of collecting evidence across a very large site, to undertake that very large and difficult task appropriately. President Putin, I hope, is able to use his influence to ensure the safety of Australians. But I wouldn’t want to take any risks with Australian Federal Police. I wouldn’t want to take any risks with foreign affairs staff or consular staff who are on the ground. So it is important to have backup there in case it’s needed.

JOURNALIST: Just on another topic, on the issue of asylum seekers. Has the High Court challenge forced the Government [inaudible] deal with India, and bring 157 to Australia?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the announcement today shows that the last few weeks have been all about Scott Morrison’s ego, and nothing about making sensible decisions in the interests of Australia and certainly not in the interests of the people on board this vessel, including the children who have been detained for several weeks on this vessel. Labor said many weeks ago that as the vessel was close to Christmas Island it made sense to process people on Christmas Island, it’s only been Scott Morrison’s ego that’s prevented that.

JOURNALIST: What do you know about their legal rights once they do enter Australia? There is some conjecture that they are going to be sent to Curtin in the end. Obviously if they are sent to Curtin then that’s in the migration zone, so will they have legal rights to fight for asylum?

PLIBERSEK: Look I’m afraid I can’t answer that question; we’ve only read what you’ve read in the papers. We haven’t received any special information from Scott Morrison or from the Government, so it’s up to him to answer those questions, if you can get him to a press conference. Thanks.

ENDS

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