SPEECH - The Confucius Institute

Confucius Institute Speech

University of New South Wales

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Sydney

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In my last speech on China, which I gave in June to the US Studies Centre Alliance 21 Conference, I argued we all have a responsibility to avert conflict by cooperating to achieve win-win outcomes.[1]  I spoke about the importance of our relationships with both China and the US, and said that Australia must not find itself in a position of having to choose between two good friends.

Today want to speak more specifically on the diplomatic relations between Australia and China.

 

HISTORY OF CHINA’S INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

China’s foreign relations is historically characterised by dedication and patience.

In the 15th century, Zheng He was a pioneer of Chinese diplomacy.  As a six and a half foot tall Muslim eunuch, one could say he was a surprising match for a historical leadership role.  His close relationship with the Ming Dynasty’s Yongle Emperor, as a trusted adviser and confidant, led to him to ultimately direct the “new Treasure Fleet” of 317 junks crewed by 27,000 men on seven voyages.

During these voyages he visited what are now the modern day states of Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Kenya.  He brought with him tea, porcelain, and silk as tributes.

Legends remember him as China’s greatest mariner, who returned from Africa with a giraffe, an ostrich and a zebra.  Depictions of his voyages and the legends surrounding them were represented in the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony in 2008.

China was practicing modern diplomacy and projecting soft power long before modern times, and China now holds up Zheng He as the exemplar of its peaceful rise and its model of peaceful engagement with the world.

China continues this tradition and its innovative and forward thinking in its own foreign policy.

China shows leadership in South-south and BRICS forums.  Although it does not follow traditional donor-recipient norms, China has a very extensive aid program in Africa.  Investments of time and funds that China is making in these relations now are expected to pay off in the future.

45 years ago, in July 1971, then Opposition leader, Gough Whitlam, undertook an historic visit to China.  Whitlam’s visit, and his advocacy of recognition of the PRC are the foundation of Australia’s modern diplomatic relations with China.

More recently, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard recognised the need for regular and formalised dialogue with the Chinese leadership on key strategic and economic issues in order to strengthen political trust and understanding.  The establishment of a strategic partnership and a new bilateral architecture to guide the future of the relationship was an important accomplishment of our time in government.

Years of building relations and breaking down barriers have demanded unwavering dedication and persistence from world leaders.  This year in November, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke will make his 100th trip to China just in time for the 40th anniversary of ASEAN.

There is an unchanging purpose beneath the surface of thousands of years of diplomatic efforts – an investment that has as its return a safer and brighter future for both our nations.

In Hard Choices, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton describes these returns.  She details the years she spent negotiating with and forming a close personal relationship with her Chinese counterpart, Dai Bingguo and she reminisces of the occasion on which he showed her a picture of his granddaughter and said, “This is what we’re in it for.”[2]

 

MODERN CHINA AND CURRENT CHANGING LANDSCAPE

We have entered a new era of relations with China.  We are no longer just working to understand each other, we are interpreting China’s changing place in the world and repositioning Great Powers and Middle Powers within a new world order; we are working out where we stand, where China stands, and what that means.

There are two very contrasting sides to China’s emergence and we have to understand the significance of both sides.  China’s external face is one which projects increasing strength in the region and appears to be a rising world power.  But parallel to this external appearance, China’s domestic landscape is still facing immense challenges; the scale of these challenges is difficult for us to imagine even when you think that China has four cities with populations equal to that of the whole of Australia’s.

China’s “economic miracle” has brought new challenges to China’s population and leadership.  China has lifted millions of its citizens out of poverty giving way to a middle class with rising expectations to match their already rising standards of living.

The middle class wants better education, better healthcare, cleaner cities, jobs for their children, and of course a better future for their grandchildren.  And in the face of these rising expectations, China faces a set of development challenges – the pollution that comes with rapid growth and industrialisation, growing need for fiscal and structural reforms, and of course the challenges that come with a rapidly aging population.

President XI Jinping has articulated a response to this through his “China Dream” narrative which is essentially a call for greater equality in development and greater delivery for all citizens out of the miracles of China’s economy.

There have also been unintended consequences of China’s progress.

Jiang Rong, winner of the 2007 Man Asian literary award, gives a fictionalised account of the time he spent living with the nomadic herdsmen of Inner Mongolia in the 1970s.[3]  In Wolf Totem Jiang uses the destruction of a population of wolves as a powerful symbol of China’s traditional nomadic lifestyle giving way to development and urbanisation in the grasslands.

He likens the nomadic herdsmen’s suffering to that of China’s Last Emperor as their way of life ends and the ten thousand year old grassland is destroyed.

He writes of the Party cadres who come from Beijing and kill the wolves using modern weapons and motorised vehicles.  The key is that they’ve done this with good intentions – the cadres see the wolves as a danger to herdsman and sheep.  They also see the benefits of meat and pelts to the population.  Unintentionally, it is the cadres’ action that causes imbalance in the ecosystem of the grassland and the book ends with a Beijing dust storm caused by increased desertification following the destruction of the grasslands.

Personally, I was heartened earlier this year to see for myself the new trees which have been widely planted throughout the outskirts of Beijing.  These trees, along with other groundcover have been responsible for greatly reducing the size and scale of dust storms, and serve as prevention against further desertification.

The story of development everywhere in the world includes unintended consequences, and China has been no exception.  China’s capacity to respond to challenges on a scale we find difficult to imagine is remarkable.

What does this mean for our relations with China?  Australia can find common ground in challenges confronting both of us.

We too need a better response to the pollution that causes climate change.

We too need to continue making structural reforms to our economy, while simultaneously keeping unemployment low.

We too need to find new ways to ensure socially democratic values protect us against growing inequality.

We have more in common than meets the eye – and often it is our shared challenges which offer us the best opportunity to unite.

Inequality threatens us all.  Development without inclusive growth is false progress.  As our modern governments grapple with inequality, and Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century flies off bookshelves worldwide, we can look at what Confucius said on inequality:

“I have always heard that what worries the head of a state or the chief of a clan is not poverty but inequality, not the lack of population, but the lack of peace.  For if there is equality, there will be no poverty, and where there is peace, there is no lack of population.”[4]

Confucius said that 2500 years ago and it still resonates today when you consider our common timeless and borderless challenges.

 

RESPONSIBILITY OF BOTH SIDES

With China's heightened power comes heightened responsibility.

China will have to be a greater participant in the global economy and the systems of global governance.  It will have to be a constructive participant.  It will have to be a leader.

The rest of the world also has a responsibility.  We have a responsibility to make room for China as it rises, acknowledging its long proud history and growing economic importance to the world economy.  We have a responsibility to do this in a way that is true to our values.  We have the responsibility to see through the presentation of a false “choice” between the US and China.  We have a responsibility to see China’s rise with an open mind, and see that China’s economic growth is good for all of us.

We both have a responsibility as Australians and citizens of China to make a greater effort to understand each other.

We are all a part of this – and our relations have greater depth with each additional layer of society which engages in cross cultural Australia-China interests.  Good relations require the participation of students, business, and civil society.  They require businesses to invest over the long period, and the exchange of students and tourists in both directions.

No layer will find it easy or natural – language students from Australia will continue to struggle with their tones, Chinese tourists will continue to think sweet Australian breakfast items are disgusting, and business people will continue to be confused by the foreign norms guiding their counterparts.

Pierre Ryckmans, who passed away in Canberra this week, is an example of someone whose close engagement with China was a lifelong pursuit.  A sinologist and translator, he published under the pseudonym Simon Leys, and dedicated his life to the study of Chinese language and culture from a very young age.  It is that sort of lifetime dedication that leads us to better understand each other.

Fortunately, we can be driven by the adventure as well as the challenges ahead – as long as there are Beijing hutong alleyways unexplored by Australian visitors and pristine Australian beaches which Chinese tourists have not laid eyes on, our work is not over.

This work doesn’t start and end with governments and leaders, but as leaders we think at all times about the world our grandchildren will inherit and how working towards peace and prosperity today will benefit them in the future.



[2] Clinton, H 2014 Hard Choices, p 82

[3] Jiang, R 2008 Wolf Totem

[4] The Analects of Confucius

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TRANSCRIPT - ABC News Radio, Wednesday 13 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 NEWS RADIO

WEDNESDAY, 13 AUGUST 2014

 

Subject/s: AUSMIN meetings; Iraq; Ukraine. 

 

MARIUS BENSON, INTERVIEWER: Tanya Plibersek, you met John Kerry the Secretary of State last night, you were in the company with Bill Shorten. Was it a productive meeting?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well it was a very good meeting indeed, we covered a lot of ground. Internationally we talked of course about Iraq, and more broadly the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine. We talked about climate change, the G20, and of course also his oceans policy, he has been a great advocate of setting aside more of our oceans to be protected for the future.

BENSON: And on that list you’ve just gone through, was it just a sequence of agreements between yourself and John Kerry?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course we have a lot in common. There’s a number of areas where there is some agreement not just between our countries, but at a policy level the Democrats and the Australian Labor Party have been as one on the threat that climate change, for example, poses.

BENSON: Can I go to the issue of Iraq and the question of military action there. John Kerry made it unambiguously clear yesterday American troops wouldn’t be going in but there are, there have been, American air strikes on Islamic State forces in Iraq. Do you believe military action should be part of the potential mix in Iraq or should military action be completely ruled out?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it was extremely important to protect groups of people in northern Iraq in particular from potential slaughter and even genocide, and I think that’s what was being faced in northern Iraq. The first and most important thing was to provide them with food and water, people were starving and dying of thirst, and then to provide a path out of the areas that were encircled by IS, I think it was absolutely necessary to use force to provide a path out for those people.

BENSON: The Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon has called for the world to do more for the Yezidi people who have been the focus of concern in Iraq. Should Australia do more, specifically should Australia offer refuge to Yezidi people to come here?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course Australia should do more, and it’s a shocking thing to realise that last year we gave $7.7 million in Overseas Development Assistance, aid, to Iraq, and this year the government cut that amount to zero in this budget. Australia has the capacity to do much more for the people of Iraq and indeed the people of the Middle East more generally, where we’ve cut aid funding in other areas as well, that we’ve cut the amount of aid that we’ve given to Syria, we initially gave substantially more than we’ve given in more recent times just as the humanitarian crisis continues to deepen and worsen. Australia has the capacity to help in the Middle East and Iraq much more than we are.

BENSON: Can I turn to Ukraine, there’s a Russian convoy now, a convoy kilometres long of trucks heading to eastern Ukraine from Russia. Julie Bishop the Foreign Minister has said that Russia is trying to use humanitarian help as a pretext for occupation. What should the world be doing in response to that?

PLIBERSEK: Well if the Russians have an offer of humanitarian assistance they can hand over whatever they have at the border to the Red Cross. It should be international organisations providing any assistance in that eastern part of Ukraine that is under contention at the moment. There should be no reason for Russian trucks to roll into eastern Ukraine. It is important to send a strong message that Russian trucks wouldn’t be welcome in Ukraine, but the best way to do that is to continue as an international community to send a message as we did through the Security Council in relation to MH17.

BENSON: Just looking broadly at foreign policy on Iraq, Gaza, the Middle East generally, Ukraine, in the Asia Pacific region as well, it appears that Labor and the Government are in full agreement. Is foreign policy now a unity ticket between the Government and Labor?

PLIBERSEK: Well Marius I wouldn’t say that there’s complete agreement in all of those areas. Foreign policy has traditionally been an area where we look for a united approach as Australians and in many of these issues, and the horror that we all feel about what’s happening in Iraq, the distress that’s been caused by the deaths of civilians in Gaza, all of these things are areas in which our common humanity unites us. There has been areas that we have pointed to things that we would have handled differently but I don’t think there’s a great benefit in telegraphing to the world that we’re divided on these issues.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Marius.

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MEDIA RELEASE - Labor Welcomes Ausmin Outcomes

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

SENATOR STEPHEN CONROY

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE

 

MEDIA RELEASE

 

LABOR WELCOMES AUSMIN OUTCOMES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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STATEMENT - Humanitarian Situation in Iraq

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THE HON. BILL SHORTEN

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

 

TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

STATEMENT

 

HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN IRAQ

 

FRIDAY, 8 AUGUST 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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STATEMENT - The Conflict in Israel and the Palestinian Territories

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THE HON BILL SHORTEN

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

 

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

STATEMENT

 

THE CONFLICT IN ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

THURSDAY, 8 AUGUST 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT - The Today Show, August 8

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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
TODAY SHOW, CHANNEL 9

FRIDAY, 8 AUGUST 2014

 

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

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

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

WILKINSON: That was prior to the announcements overnight.

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

WILKINSON: What is our response now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clip played from Brandis interview.

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

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

WILKINSON: After being excluded from this initial policy?

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

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

TURNBULL: I can explain that if you like.

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

PLIBERSEK: Thanks Lisa.

ENDS

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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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TRANSCRIPT - Capital Hill, 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

TELEVISION INTERVIEW

ABC NEWS 24, CAPITAL HILL

WEDNESDAY, 6 AUGUST 2014

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

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TRANSCRIPT - Press Conference, 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

PRESS CONFERENCE

SYDNEY

WEDNESDAY, 6 AUGUST 2014

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS

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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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