Cutting the Australia Network = A Broken Promise

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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

 

THE HON JASON CLARE MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS
MEMBER FOR BLAXLAND

MEDIA RELEASE

CUTTING THE AUSTRALIA NETWORK = A BROKEN PROMISE

 

FRIDAY, 2 MAY 2014

If Tony Abbott accepts the advice of his Commission of Audit to cut funding from the Australia Network, he will be breaking an election promise.

A cut to the Australia Network is a cut to the ABC.

Before the election Tony Abbott promised hand on heart there would be no cuts to the ABC.

He said on SBS News the night before the election:

“No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST, and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.”

The ABC is funded to run the Australia Network. If Tony Abbott cuts it, he will have broken another promise to the Australian people.

The Australia Network is a vital public diplomacy tool that reaches up to 167 million households, giving Asia and the world an insight into Australian life and values.

Tony Abbott’s Commission of Audit has recommended that funding be cut from the Australia Network.

If Tony Abbott cuts the Australia Network he will have shown you can’t believe anything he says.

 

 

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Today Show

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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

TODAY SHOW

FRIDAY, 2 MAY 2014

 

SUBJECT/S: Commission of Audit Report Release; The Abbott Government’s Twisted Priorities.

Lisa Wilkinson: We are joined now by Education Minister Christopher Pyne, and Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek. Good morning to both of you. Christopher Pyne, I will start with you, the government has had access to these recommendations for some time now. How much influence have they had over the budget we will see in 11 days’ time?

Christopher Pyne: Well Lisa, I agree with the introduction to the segment that this is a report to the government, it's not a report of the government and therefore it is a shopping list if you like of all the various things that a government could do if it wanted to. Some of these things that the government will adopt, others it will reject. But the overall theme of course is that we have to get our spending under control. We have to start living within our means again, we have had years of rising deficits and ballooning debt and it isn't sustainable. And I think the Australian public know that. They know it's going to be a tough budget, and they are ready for that. And they changed the government last September because they wanted a group of people in charge of the budget who would make those tough decisions, who wouldn't keep living beyond our means. So it is going to be a difficult period for a little while but there is a light on the other side of the tunnel and that is if we can do the necessary things to get our spending under control we will be able to grow our economy again, provide the jobs that are necessary and set the country on a sustainable path into the future.

Wilkinson: You're right, the Australian people did vote you in in 2013, but it was on a promise from the Prime Minister that there would be no cuts to health, pensions or education. He did that many times on the show. Let’s have a listen.

FOOTAGE - Tony Abbott: The only party which is going to increase taxes after the election is the Labor Party. No country has ever taxed its way to prosperity. A) I'm not going to break election promises but if I change my mind I will go and seek a mandate for it.

Wilkinson: Christopher, these will have to be broken promises, won't they?

Pyne: Well, I think you will find in the budget that there won't be overall cuts to education and to health and to welfare but we will obviously reprioritize within our spending. The programs and projects that the Coalition thinks are more important. But obviously...

Wilkinson: The problem is the Prime Minister said no cuts.

Pyne: Well, there will certainly be cuts to some Labor programs.

Wilkinson: So, we are talking broken promises.

Pyne: No, because we always said overall spending on things like education in my portfolio, let's take education, the overall spending on education will continue to rise but there will be cuts within education to Labor’s program. You don't change the government and then simply keep the government's programs before and add your own. Obviously the public change the government because they knew that we would reprioritize spending, but spending will increase, it's just that we have to stop the rampant increases in spending that were occurring under Labor. Labor left us with $123 billion of accumulated deficits, and debt rising to $667 billion. But, of course, the government will need to keep spending money, governments always do, the question is whether we can afford the rampant increases of spending that Labor proposed and obviously we can't.

Wilkinson: Tanya Plibersek, your response?

Tanya Plibersek, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well Lisa, I think what you see with the Commission of Audit is the blue print for a budget of broken promises. You are quite right; the Prime Minister said no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no changes to the pension before the election. And now you have seen an array, a smorgasbord of cuts to those very things. You see an ordinary family on $100,000 a year set to lose $8,000 in family benefits. You see pensioners not only waiting longer for the pension, you see the pension growing more slowly and you see means testing of the pension to include the family home, $500,000 family home. Now, I don't know there are many homes particularly in those older suburbs in Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane that wouldn't hit that $500,000 mark. You see as well further cuts to health. This is basically the end of Medicare for anyone on more than $88,000 a year. When it comes to education, Christopher is talking about how - he's trying to rewrite the promises he made. He said before the election that you could vote Labor or you could vote Liberal and your school would get the same funding. Now he's back-pedaling, he's running from that promise as quickly as he can. He's trying to implant a false memory in the psyche of the Australian people.

Wilkinson: The problem is we can't keep spending the way we have been spending, there have to be cuts.

Plibersek: Actually, I really have to take Christopher on this one as well. Since coming to government, this government has more than doubled the deficit. They have added $68 billion to the deficit. Now, if they are so concerned about runaway spending, why does the Prime Minister have a $5.5 billion paid parental leave scheme? $5.5 billion a year and he's saying that's a budget emergency? People just don't believe it. The government is trying to amp up or hype up the idea of a budget emergency to justify the cuts they’ve wanted to make. They have never believed in Medicare, they’ve never believed in decent funding for public schools, never believed in the aged pension. This is just a set of excuses to make the cuts they have always wanted to make.

Wilkinson: Christopher Pyne, last night on the 7:30 Report the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann all but confirmed that that deficit tax will go ahead. Is that now confirmed?

Pyne: Well, in the budget you will see everything that the government is going to do and I don't think that the Australian public are mugs, Lisa, in fact I’m absolutely certain they are not. And they know that the Coalition of course supports the aged pension, they know that we support Medicare. They know we are the best friend Medicare ever had because we want to make it a sustainable health system.

Plibersek: You are getting rid of it, Christopher.

Pyne: What rubbish, Tanya. That's just nonsense and the public know that’s nonsense. You can't say things that are palpably untrue and expect the public to believe them.

Plibersek: So, people on $88,000 a year will no longer have access to Medicare.

Pyne: Well, the Commission of Audit is a report to the government it is not a report of the government and the Australian public are not crazy. They elected a new government last September because they knew that the unsustainable budget position that Labor had given us wasn’t something Labor was ever going to address, they wanted a government of adults who were going to address it, and we will keep that commitment.

Plibersek: Why do you want to spend $5.5 billion on paid parental leave every year if there is a budget emergency, Christopher? Is that the most important spending there is, is it more important than the aged pension?

Pyne: Well Tanya, I didn't realise you were the hostess of the program asking all the questions but nevertheless -

Wilkinson: I'm very happy for two to have a conversation. Happy to deputise to both of you.

Pyne: Lisa, that's what I thought you got paid to do but anyway, the truth is that the paid parental leave scheme is a workplace entitlement, it’s not a welfare entitlement. Tanya being from the left of the Labor Party sees everything through the prism of welfare and government spending. We see the paid parental leave scheme being a workplace entitlement for women.

Plibersek: It is still $5.5 billion a year, Christopher. And only a fraction of that, Lisa, is raised by the levy on business. Taxpayers will be paying for it and pensioners will be paying for it with a cut in the aged pension.

Wilkinson: The Prime Minister did make it clear that this was his signature policy, and it would not be touched. Is that another broken promise?

Pyne: We took the paid parental leave scheme to two elections it was endorsed last September.

Wilkinson: So, why back down so easily on it?

Pyne: Well, we haven't backed down so easily as you say. What we are doing...

Wilkinson: The Prime Minister has said the capping will go from $150,000 down to $100,000.

Pyne: Well, what we are saying is that women need to have a generous paid parental leave scheme, they a fair dinkum one so they can participate in the work force, they want to have children because we need to boost our population, and because that's good for productivity in the Australian economy. But it also has to be affordable and sustainable and I think the program that’s being placed before the Australian people by the Prime Minister is a sustainable one that will be supported. But the most important thing is that Labor can't really try now wear the clothes of economic responsibility when they came to government in 2007 they had money in the bank, there was no deficit, there was no national government debt. Six years later there was $123 billion of deficits, and debt rising to $667 billion. And this government is setting about fixing the mess that Labor left us and I think the Australian public expect us to do that.

Plibersek: We left such a mess when we came into government Australia did not have three AAA credit ratings. When we left government, we did. We had three AAA credit ratings. The world judges us as having a miracle economy, having survived the GFC in the best shape of any advanced economy.

Pyne: You keep believing that, Tanya.

Wilkinson: We will have to leave that there. Thank you to both of you. 11 days to go, it's going to be very interesting 11 days of speculation for sure. Tanya Plibersek thanks very much and thanks to you, Christopher Pyne.

ENDS

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Abbott Government's ‘New Paradigm’ on Aid is Code for Cuts

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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

 

MEDIA RELEASE

ABBOTT GOVERNMENT'S ‘NEW PARADIGM’ ON AID IS CODE FOR CUTS

 

WEDNESDAY 30 APRIL 2014

The 'new paradigm' on overseas aid announced by the Abbott Government last night is just code for massive cuts.

These cuts will affect some of the poorest nations and people on earth.

So far, the Abbott Government's cuts to overseas aid total around $18 billion.

The announcement of a 'new paradigm' is clearly softening the ground for more.

The Abbott Government says one thing on aid, but does the opposite.

The Abbott Government said it would provide certainty on aid funding.  Instead, it's cutting it by $18 billion.

The Abbott Government said it would focus aid on our region.  Instead, it's cut $250 million in aid from the Asia-Pacific.

Abbott Government slogans like 'new paradigm' and 'economic diplomacy’ are designed to obscure the Government’s cuts to the aid program.

The Abbott Government's 'aid for trade' agenda must not come at the expense of support for education, health, water and sanitation, gender equality, infrastructure and governance.  The aid budget must not become a trade budget.

Australia’s aid and development program is in our national interest. It enhances our international influence, helps to prevent conflict and terrorism and builds our relationships of the future.

The Abbott Government's cuts to aid jumped from $4.5 billion to $18 billion after Mr Abbott abandoned the commitment to increase aid funding from 2017-18 that was detailed in his Government’s own Budget update.

In contrast, the former Labor Government nearly doubled the aid Budget and introduced internationally recognised aid accountability and effectiveness measures.

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Lateline with Tony Jones

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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 

LATELINE WITH TONY JONES

WEDNESDAY, 23 APRIL 2014

SUBJECT / S: Australia’s relationship with Indonesia.

TONY JONES: The Opposition is backing painstaking evidence to get relations with Indonesia back to full strength after tensions erupted over asylum boats and revelations of Australians spying on the President and his wife. That phone-tapping operation happened under the Labor government's watch. The Opposition's Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, is on her first visit to Jakarta and she joined me from there just a short time ago. Tanya Plibersek, thanks for joining us.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, OPPOSITION FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPOKESWOMAN: Hi, Tony.

JONES: Now Prime Minister Abbott has used the Navy to stop asylum boats without destroying or apparently severely damaging the relationship with Indonesia. Why couldn't Labor have done that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it's fair to say that Australia's relationship with Indonesia over the long-term is a very good and sound one. It's a close friendship and it's got a lot to offer both Australia and Indonesia. But it's also certainly true to say that we've seen some significant friction in recent times and one of the reasons has been that the Abbott Government made announcements about what it would do on Indonesian soil and what it would do in Indonesian waters without discussing it with the Indonesian Government. Labor, in contrast, when we were in government, had a very significant change delivered by the Indonesian Government when they stopped offering visa-on-arrival to Iranians who were transiting through Indonesia on their way to Christmas Island. We did that in co-operation with Indonesia and I'd say that that's one of the most significant elements of the reduced flow of asylum seekers coming to Australia using people smugglers coming from Indonesia. The changes to visa-on-arrival has seen a very substantial drop in the number of Iranians, for example, coming to Indonesia.

JONES: But Foreign Minister Natalegawa seems to have moderated any previous criticisms that he's had. Yesterday he said the Australian Government's clamp-down has reduced the number of asylum seekers transiting through Indonesia and the risk of deaths at sea. Is he now coming to acknowledge the benefits of the Abbott Government policy?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think there's been a variety of different reports that have come out of the conference that you're referring to yesterday. What I would say is that I would be delighted to see the relationship back on track as quickly as possible. The fracture in the relationship between Australia and Indonesia has gone on way too long. I'd very much like to see an Indonesian ambassador back in Australia as quickly as possible, I'd like to see the steps that have been agreed by the Indonesia and Australian governments pursued and settled as quickly as possible because our relationship is an important one for both of us. Indonesia's an important strategic and economic partner for Australia, just as Australia is an important strategic and economic partner for Indonesia. And we have a really good history between us. It's important to get the relationship back on to a much more normal footing as quickly as we can.

JONES: But in terms of friction, do you accept that in fact much more damage was done to the Indonesian relationship by spying, the spying operation that tapped the phones of President Yudhoyono, his wife and others in his circle, presumably with the knowledge of the then Australian Government, your government?

PLIBERSEK: Well Tony, I've said to you before that we don't discuss operational intelligence issues, but I think it's fair to say that the handling of those allegations that were made was less - less than it should have been. When you have misunderstandings between countries or periods of tension, the most important thing to do is rely on your people-to-people relationships. Pick up the phone, talk these things through, not let them fester. And what we've seen now is the relationship off track for a substantial amount of time. There's an agreed process for getting the relationship back on track. I'd really like to see that brought to a conclusion. We're running into a period now of presidential elections in Indonesia and I think it would be very important to get the relationship back on track before a new president is elected because any new president, whoever it might be, of course will be focused in the first instance on their domestic issues. So, really, the sooner the better.

JONES: Well once again the Indonesian Foreign Minister is saying quite clearly there is a process for a return to full diplomatic relations. He's saying that is contingent on both sides agreeing to this code of conduct which will govern future spying operations. Now, this has been going on for some time. What are the sticking points? Has he told you?

PLIBERSEK: Well, Tony, I don't know, I'm not the Foreign Minister. You'd have to ask the Australian Foreign Minister to give you a report on what the sticking points are from the Australian end. What I can tell you is that -

JONES: No, I'm talking about from the - sorry, I'm talking about what Dr Natalegawa, the Indonesian Foreign Minister has said and what are the sticking points from his end?

PLIBERSEK: No, Tony, we didn't discuss these issues and I certainly wouldn't tell you if we had because we had a terrific meeting about a wide range of issues, but we weren't focused on this. Australia and Indonesia have a lot in common. We've got a lot of -

JONES: I'm sorry, I'm just going to - sorry, I have to interrupt you there because the Indonesian Foreign Minister himself said yesterday publicly that the agreement must include a commitment to refrain from employment of intelligence resources in a manner that would be inimical or damaging to the other country. Now this seems to be the missing clause. He's saying if this clause is inserted in the document, he'll sign it and we can get the agreement back on track. Did he not talk to you about this?

PLIBERSEK: No, we didn't discuss that, Tony. You've got his quote. I mean, you can make of that what you will. You don't need me to talk about my discussions with him to interpret that. This - in fact the relationship between Australia and Indonesia was part of our conversation. We both expressed our hope that it would get back on track quickly, but that - acknowledging that we've got a long and strong and close history together as nations, that the - that recent friction that we've had we certainly hope as a Labor opposition is resolved as quickly as possible. And I said that to him. But we discussed a range of things. We discussed South China Sea, Crimea, Ukraine. It was a very good and wide-ranging discussion.

JONES: Well I'll just make the point that the code of conduct and the completion of this code of conduct agreement seems to be the key sticking point and this seems to be the line that he wants in it and I'm just wondering if he conveyed this message to you in any way?

PLIBERSEK: Well no, Tony, and I mean, I think it's a little unreasonable for you to be asking me about the negotiations between two other Foreign ministers. You really need to talk to Australia's Foreign Minister or Indonesia's Foreign Minister about their discussions with one another. It's not for me to be commenting on their discussions with one another.

JONES: Tanya Plibersek, we'll have to leave you there. Thank you very much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Tony.

ENDS

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Australia Network China Deal Puts Pressure On Tony Abbott To Keep His Promise

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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

 

THE HON JASON CLARE MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS
MEMBER FOR BLAXLAND

MEDIA RELEASE

AUSTRALIA NETWORK CHINA DEAL PUTS PRESSURE ON TONY ABBOTT TO KEEP HIS PROMISE

 

TUESDAY, 22 APRIL 2014

The deal announced last week between the Australia Network and Shanghai Media Group will give the Australia Network the most extensive access to Chinese audiences by any Western broadcaster.

The contract puts further pressure on the Abbott Government not to break another election promise by cutting the Australia Network.

The Australia Network is a vital public diplomacy tool that reaches up to 167 million households, giving Asia and the world an insight into Australian life and values.

Other countries are investing heavily in their international broadcast operations.  So if Tony Abbott cuts the network he will be putting Australia at a diplomatic disadvantage.

The Abbott Government has been softening the ground for weeks to scrap the network and break its promise not to cut funding to the ABC.

Before the election Tony Abbott promised hand on heart there would be no cuts to the ABC.

He said on SBS News the night before the election:

“No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST, and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.”

The ABC is funded to run the Australia Network. If Tony Abbott cuts it, he will have broken another promise to the Australian people.

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Visit to Indonesia

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

 

Visit to Indonesia 

21 APRIL 2014

SYDNEY

 

This afternoon I depart for my first visit to Indonesia as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development.

I hope it will be the first of many visits.

Indonesia is a neighbour of paramount importance, and a great partner of Australia.  I look forward to doing all I can to help strengthen and deepen the relationship between our two nations.

During my visit I will be meeting with senior Indonesian ministers, members of parliament, as well as representatives from a number of non-government organisations.

 

 

 

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H. V. Evatt Memorial Lecture

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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

H. V. EVATT MEMORIAL LECTURE

 

SATURDAY, 14 APRIL 2014

H. V. Evatt was Prime Minister Curtin’s minister for External Affairs when Curtin made his famous appeal to the United States for help protecting Australia in December 1941, marking the beginning of the move away from sole reliance on Britain as the ‘great power’ which would protect us. After the war, Evatt recognised that, alongside our important new alliance with America, Australia should also be working with other small and medium powers to influence global issues.Evatt took us from a time where we would look first to one great power then another for our security, to being part of a global community which, critically, Australia helped to shape.

Evatt knew that to address truly global challenges, Australia and indeed all countries need to be able to act within a global community. Evatt’s role in the negotiations at San Francisco to draft the charter for the United Nations established him as a world figure and won him many friends among smaller nations. This led to his selection in 1948 as president of the United Nations General Assembly. Evatt’s prodigious energy was noted by one of his staff at the time, Paul Hasluck – a critic who later became a Liberal Minister for External Affairs. Hasluck wrote this about Evatt’s efforts in the San Francisco negotiations:

Day after day for ten weeks from early morning until late at night his concentration on the task and the intensity of his efforts had a ferocity that made me wonder what strange demon had possessed him.

I think the demon was Evatt’s determination that Australia’s voice should be heard as the postwar order was being built. Evatt explained why smaller powers needed a bigger voice:

No power is so great that it can ignore the will of the peoples of the world expressed through the [United Nations] Assembly and no power is so small that it cannot contribute to the making of world opinion through the Assembly.

The overwhelming challenge for Evatt was to put in place the right measures to secure and support global peace. He knew that no country working alone could avert a repeat of the rivalry between major powers and the disastrous global conflict we saw in the first half of the 20th century. Evatt understood that, for Australia, it would be through our major alliances and through multilateral agreements and relationships that we would contribute to a more stable and peaceful world.

Evatt helped build a world where the United Nations could provide an institutional framework for co-operation between countries to ensure peace. And the challenge of peace remains – we see the dangerous potential for conflict through unilateral actions today – despite the maturity of multilateral institutions. For the most part however, these institutions serve us well.

Post-Evatt Labor

Labor leaders and foreign ministers since Evatt have built on the tradition he helped create. Key parts of Whitlam’s foreign policy were in the Evatt mould –
• support for the US alliance; alongside
• a belief in the importance of multilateral institutions to maximise Australia’s interests and influence; and
• engagement with countries in the region, starting with the diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China.

Bob Hawke and Paul Keating also drew on Evatt’s legacy. The Hawke and Keating governments promoted Australia’s role as a middle power through multilateral forums such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation, and in arms control negotiations. The Hawke government’s role in creating the Cairns Group was critical to boosting Australian exports through the successful Uruguay Round of trade talks. Another of Hawke’s big achievements was driving the creation, in 1989, of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum as a vehicle to boost trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific. Paul Keating went on to strengthen APEC with his successful campaign to elevate the annual APEC meetings to include a leaders’ forum from 1993.

Critics sometimes complain when meetings such as these don’t produce big headlines and momentous decisions. But this misses the point. One benefit of such meetings is to improve personal understanding between leaders and other participants. The APEC leaders’ meeting of 1999 was of great benefit to Prime Minister John Howard as the East Timor crisis was escalating. Howard used the opportunity of the leaders’ meeting in Auckland to lobby for a peacekeeping mission to East Timor. This would have been much more difficult – perhaps impossible – if the countries had not all been gathered together for the leaders’ meeting. And Gareth Evans’ monumental success in Cambodia shows that backed up by the international community Australia can play a leading role in restoring peace.

Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard continued to strengthen regional engagement and gave energetic support for multilateral approaches to international issues, while maintaining strong support for the US alliance. Kevin Rudd was instrumental in seizing the opportunity of the G20 meeting to manage the global response to the GFC of 2008. The US Assistant Secretary of State, Kurt Campbell, said Kevin Rudd ‘was relentless in his making of the case; he persuaded key players, [and] made the case with a number of players who were a bit reluctant’. This gave Australia an influential role in the response to the crisis. Until then, global economic decisions had been dominated by the G8 – a group that excluded not only Australia but critical players such as China and other emerging economies.

Evatt and his Labor successors pursued international partnership to support peace, nuclear disarmament, an end to colonialism in Indonesia, even, more recently, an end to so-called scientific whaling. Whatever frustrations come with the slowness inherent in using international bodies to achieve significant change, it is difficult to see how a country like Australia – number 51 in the world by population size – would have been able to have the influence we’ve had otherwise.

And just as peace in the 20th century was a challenge impossible to address without engagement in international fora, we face modern challenges that cannot be addressed by countries working on their own. One of these challenges is climate change. It is clear that we cannot tackle a problem as complex as climate change unless countries across the globe co-operate. Yet under the Howard Government Australia stood aloof.

When Labor was elected in 2007 we joined the global fight. Kevin Rudd ratified the Kyoto Protocol – the international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is a great example of using a multilateral institution to tackle global problems. But now the Coalition is back, and to the consternation of many Australians, and indeed governments around the world, retreating from action on climate change. This isn’t just an abstract issue; here in the Blue Mountains you know too well the impact of extraordinary weather events on the lives and livelihoods of your community.

And for some of our neighbours climate change has imminent and potentially devastating consequences. Kiribati’s President has predicted his country is likely to become uninhabitable within decades because of inundation, and contamination of its fresh water supplies. And the recent floods in the Solomon Islands following an extraordinary weather event have tragically claimed 23 lives and left 9000 people homeless. Of course, fires and floods happened before climate change was an issue, but the frequency and severity of these extreme events will continue to increase unless we take substantial action now, and as the world’s largest per capita emitters of carbon pollution we must be involved in the global effort to slow global warming.

Poverty & inequality

Another global challenge which requires concerted action is poverty. Australia is one of 189 countries that signed up to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a shared world vision for reducing poverty. The MDGs aim to reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than US$1.25 a day by 2015 relative to 1990. The MDGs create a collective responsibility of all UN member countries to meet the goals and targets set out in the declaration by 2015.

Australia has played a role in this international multilateral effort by being generous in funding international aid. As opposition leader in 2007, Kevin Rudd committed a Labor government to doubling the Australian aid budget to 0.5 per cent of GNI (Gross National Income), or around $8 billion a year. At that time, the Coalition was spending $2.9 billion a year on aid. Between 2007 and 2013 Labor almost doubled the aid program to $5.7 billion – despite the tough budgetary environment. Why? Because it reflected our values – to support sustainable development, share the benefits of prosperity, and reduce poverty and inequality.

We recognise and embrace the benefits of contributing to global social and economic development and as a global community we’ve made significant progress on the MDGs, although of course significant challenges remain. Unfortunately, just a couple of days out from the election the Coalition announced cuts of $4.5 billion from Australia’s aid program over the next four years. The Prime Minister has recently confirmed a further $12 billion will be cut from Labor’s forward commitments on aid funding, over the three years from 2017–18.

The Abbott Government has also dismantled Australia’s specialist aid agency, AusAID, which has been delivering a globally recognised and effective aid program for almost four decades. And the government has narrowed the outcomes for the aid program. It has removed references to poverty reduction and sustainable development in favour of ‘advancing Australia's international strategic, security and economic interests’.

The government is making decisions about funding and priorities for the aid program by asking ‘What’s in it for us?’ This is happening at a crucial time in global efforts on poverty reduction. Right now the UN is developing a new framework to replace the MDGs when they expire in 2015. The OECD is clear that the challenge of addressing global poverty remains – and the post-2015 framework will rely on both an effective global partnership and an adequate volume of aid funding.

There is a very pragmatic answer to ‘What’s in it for us?’ with Australian aid. Countries we used to give aid to have become middle income countries and important trade partners for us; our health aid has reduced the spread of illnesses which potentially threaten Australia. But our aid program is also a reflection of our ability, as the 12th largest economy in the world, to do our share to lift others out of poverty. It is a reflection of our values. It means real progress for real people. The government’s decisions have consequences for our neighbours. What did we achieve with our increased aid funding and our expertise?

In PNG we:

• provided essential medical supplies to more than 2000 hospitals, health centres and aid posts;
• improved support for around 20,000 victims of sexual and family violence;
• reduced, in just one year, the mortality rate for drug-resistant TB in Western Province from 25 per cent to just 5 per cent;
• supported the abolition of school fees for the first three grades of school;
• delivered 1.6 million textbooks to 3500 schools across the country; and
• fixed over 12,800 kilometres of rural roads.

In Afghanistan we have supported:

• increases in school enrolments from around 1 million in 2001 to more than 8 million in 2013, including over 3 million girls;
• training for 3400 teachers;
• immunisation of 428,000 children against polio;
• family planning, antenatal care, postnatal care and vaccination for over 300,000 women;
• improved maternal health care, with at least 74 per cent of pregnant women now receiving at least one antenatal health care visit; and
• an increase in the number of births attended by skilled attendants from 24 per cent in 2007 to 39 per cent in 2012.

In Cambodia:

• In 2011, 5000 square metres of community and leasehold land was cleared of landmines and unexploded ordinance, benefiting more than 40,000 people;
• Since 2007, 2100 classrooms have been built or repaired, allowing more children to go to school and learn in better and safer conditions; and
• We provided training in HIV and human trafficking for at-risk communities.

In Timor-Leste we:

• helped over 30,000 farmers grow improved varieties of crops with yield increases of between 20 per cent and 80 per cent; and
• assisted more than 77,000 people to access safe water and 67,000 people to access basic sanitation facilities.

Labor’s commitments on aid funding reflected Australia as a mature and compassionate country. Equally, the Coalition’s cuts to aid are a reflection of its values. The Coalition Government has narrowed the focus of its aid budget, an approach it calls an ‘aid for trade’. Promoting trade in developing countries through aid is an important goal – but not at the expense of poverty reduction.

When we improved the security in PNG markets for PNG women, that meant a degree of economic independence, as they could safely sell their wares; it meant family income which could be spent on educating children. Of course economic development is important in poverty reduction. But aid should not be a back door way of buying market access. Increased trade with developing economies has to be part of a long game. It starts with reducing disadvantage and poverty and increasing the wellbeing and capacity of the community, promoting good governance and corruption resistance.

Reducing poverty and inequality is morally good, but it’s also economically sensible. There is growing evidence, including from the OECD and the IMF, that shows that inequality reduces economic growth. Reducing disadvantage and poverty is a good in and of itself, and must be a focus – particularly for those countries, like ours, that can easily afford to lend a hand. And it must continue to be the focus of the international efforts that will be marshalled in the post-2015 MDGs.

Conclusion

There are plenty of opportunities for bi-partisanship in foreign affairs. But there are important differences. Labor is not starry-eyed, but we do take a forward-looking, optimistic view of the benefits of multilateral co-operation. We take a broader view of the ways we can protect and advance Australia’s interests. And we take a more generous view of the role we should play to help those who need a hand up. Successful foreign policy mixes pragmatism and idealism, realism and liberalism. Of course states will act to maximise their own interests, and material power matters. But that’s not the end of our responsibilities, nor the end of our possibilities. States can and do co-operate. Institutions to promote co-operation and international law help that process.

The world has changed a great deal in the six decades since Bert Evatt was Minister for External Affairs. But the principles behind the foreign policy tradition he helped create remain a powerful example today. Labor values our strong relationship with the United States – and it is not surprising that we agree on most issues. But we also believe that a key test of friendship is being frank when you disagree, as Labor disagreed about the US-led war in Iraq in 2003.

Labor believes that our alliances and our strong relationships with our nearest neighbours and economic partners are critical to our security and prosperity. We are in the Asian century and Australia is ideally placed to reap the advantages of that.

Labor believes many of the big challenges of the world are best handled multilaterally, and that Australia can have a role and at times can lead those efforts. That’s why we pursued Security Council membership. That’s why we helped make the G20, rather than the G8, the pre-eminent body for tackling the global financial crisis. Bert Evatt exemplified these beliefs, and showed how Australia can maximise its influence by being a constructive neighbour and a generous and collaborative global citizen.

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Tropical Cyclone Ita

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THE HON. TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

 

SENATOR THE HON JAN MCLUCAS

SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND

 

MEDIA RELEASE

TROPICAL CYCLONE ITA

SUNDAY 13 APRIL 2014 

Federal Labor praises the efforts of local government authorities, emergency personnel and other agencies for their preparedness ahead of Cyclone Ita. But communities are urged to exercise caution as Cyclone Ita continues to move south.

“Communities across Far North Queensland have fared better than expected after Cyclone Ita crossed the coast late on Friday night," Acting Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek said.

“Most importantly, there has been no reported loss of life or serious injury.”

"We are incredibly grateful to the SES and other volunteers who are sacrificing time with their families and are away from their own properties to ensure the safety and wellbeing of others.”

“Considering the magnitude of Cyclone Ita as it approached, it appears Cooktown, Hope Vale and nearby communities including Rossville and Wujal Wujal have made it through.”

“Our thoughts, however, are with the business owners, farmers and local residents who have suffered significant property and crop damage.”

Queensland Senator Jan McLucas said the resilience of Far North Queenslanders has again shone.

"Credit must be given to Cook Shire Mayor Peter Scott, Hope Vale Mayor Greg McLean and Wujal Wujal Mayor Clifford Harrigan and their support teams for their excellent preparation and continued information to residents in the days leading up to Cyclone Ita’s arrival,” Senator McLucas said.

“People in and around Cooktown, Hopevale and Wujal Wujal heeded the warnings, undertook the necessary preparations and bunkered down.

“There is of course a lot of rain and potential flooding to come, but I am confident our region will pull through this testing time and ensure those who need support in the days and months ahead are taken care of.”

People should continue to act on the advice of the authorities, including the SES.  As our emergency broadcaster, the ABC is there to help keep communities informed.

Federal Labor will support the Prime Minister and the Queensland Premier in ensuring communities across the Far North are appropriately resourced as the recovery and rebuilding efforts begins.

 

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Transcript of Today Show ‘In the House’ segment with Karl Stefanovic

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Transcript of Today Show ‘In the House’ segment

with Karl Stefanovic

E&OE

Subjects: Arthur Sinodinos, WA Senate election

Karl Stefanovic: Welcome back to the show. As one Senator faces a grilling in New South Wales six more dig in for political survival as Western Australia heads back to the polls. Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek joins me in the studio and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull joins us as well. I guess you could say we have Malcolm in the middle.

Malcolm Turnbull: I'm in the middle of a very small cupboard in Melbourne, but anyway it’s good to be here.

Stefanovic: You look very big on the TV don't worry about that. Let's start with you Malcolm. Arthur Sinodinos, how did he go yesterday?

Turnbull: These things are always tough experiences. But I’ll just say this I have known Arthur for a long time, Australians have known Arthur for a long time. He was really one of the principal pillars of the Howard Government, one of the most successful governments in our history. He's been made an extraordinary contribution, he's having a tough period at the moment, but let's wait until this inquiry is over. Remember it's not an inquiry into Arthur, it's an inquiry into the water company and it's already been made clear by the Commissioner that there's no suggestion he's acted corruptly or anything like that. It is embarrassing, and would be, you know it's obvious no fun for him, but I don't think we should get overwhelmed by the rather - the circus that always attends these inquiries.

Stefanovic: It's not so much the circus so much, he did a good job of it yesterday himself?

Turnbull: Well, look, you know I didn't - I wasn't watching it, you know blow by blow, but these are very awkward and difficult environments to be in.

 

Stefanovic: Especially if you have done the wrong thing. He wasn't aware of an awful lot Malcolm: the lavish expenses, the extent of the political donations, the extraordinary salaries paid for by rate payers, nor could he remember warnings about the company's financial state. I could go on and on for about three hours.

Turnbull: Well don't do that, we will run out of time. If I may say, Arthur did the right thing and stepped aside while this is going on. Really the big issue now -- the big issue is the Senate election in Western Australia, the last federal election West Australians voted overwhelmingly for the Coalition, gave us a mandate to repeal the carbon tax and the mining tax and Labor is opposing that in the Senate. West Australians if they want us to deliver on what they asked us to do in September have got to vote Liberal on Saturday.

Stefanovic: I can see what you’re trying to do here but we’ll get onto Western Australia in just one second. But one more point about Arthur, the problem here for you is this guy was your Assistant Treasurer, it goes to your party's judgment. Do you concede now that you made the wrong call?

Turnbull: I'm not making any concessions. There should be no rush to judgment there. He's been in the box for a day. I mean look I used to be a barrister, barristers can be very - you can make people look unsure, uncertain, all of that stuff.

Stefanovic: Malcolm, he did a good job of it yesterday himself. He really did.

Turnbull: Karl, this is a very tough environment. Let's wait and see what the findings of the Commission are.

Stefanovic: All right, Tanya?

Tanya Plibersek: Can I just say a couple of things about this? This raises questions for the Prime Minister, because the Prime Minister has made Arthur Sinodinos Assistant Treasurer. That's the job that is responsible for corporate governance. Arthur Sinodinos was the person in Australia who was supposed to design the laws that make company directors and others responsible to their shareholders. I think it's very plain that that wasn't a good decision now. But what's even more curious is a couple of weeks ago when we were in the parliament one day Tony Abbott was absolutely backing Arthur Sinodinos, less than 24 hours he was happy to step aside. What did the Prime Minister know and when did he know it?

Stefanovic: Alright, they are trying to turn it into that Malcolm, your response?

Turnbull: Tanya is entitled to ask all these questions, the Prime Minister has dealt with them. Arthur, obviously was confronted with this. He thought about it, he made the judgment to step aside pending the conclusion of this inquiry. That was a very –that was the right thing to do, it was a very manly thing to do, if that's not an inappropriate adverb, and so he's done that, and we await the judgment of the Commission.

Stefanovic: This is a very difficult position, I gather, for the rest of the party, but I think Arthur, would you ever consider down the track allowing him back into something as serious as Assistant Treasurer, or is he gone, is he done, is he finished?

Turnbull: Well, you know the Prime Minister, who chooses the ministry, has said that he expects him to come back as Assistant Treasurer.

Stefanovic: He can't now, he can’t now.

Turnbull: Well Karl, that's your opinion. You're entitled to it. Let's wait and see the outcome of the Commission.

Stefanovic: Let's just go to WA now as Malcolm flagged before as he was trying to get us off topic. He's very clever that Malcolm, isn’t he Tanya?

Plibersek: He is.

Turnbull: It didn't work.

Stefanovic: You’re backing candidate Joe Bullock. This guy Joe Bullock is a very interesting guy, he described the ALP as an untrustworthy party full of mad members. This is the guy that you’re backing over there. He was recorded at a Perth function saying the party needs him in parliament or it would follow every weird lefty trend that you could imagine. He also said he would rather be expelled from the party than vote in support of gay marriage and abortion. This is the sort guy that you are backing?

Plibersek: That’s why we have a conscious vote on same-sex marriage and abortion and he’s got every right not to vote for it.

Stefanovic: What about the other stuff - an untrustworthy party?

Plibersek: Well I don’t know, he might have had a good dinner that night I'm not sure. He's someone who was worked for the working people of Western Australia for 30 years. I was just there a couple of days ago talking about penalty rates and the potential that people will lose up to a third of their take home pay, people who are cleaners...

Stefanovic: This guy is not your cup of tea, though, Jo Bullock?

Plibersek: We are a very broad party. We are, we’re a very broad party.

Stefanovic: Alright you two, finally very quickly because we are out of time, have you both started sucking up to Clive Palmer?

Plibersek: [Laughs]

Turnbull: Can I just say Karl, leaving aside Clive for a second, our candidates in Western Australia, David Johnson the Defence Minister, Michaelia Cash an outstanding minister and Linda Reynolds at No.3, a brigadier general, a woman, a brigadier general in the Australian Army reserve...

Plibersek: The trouble is Malcolm...

Turnbull: We don't have to be apologetic to our candidates.

Plibersek: People don't want to send a message to Tony Abbott that what Colin Barnett has been doing for Western Australia is just fine for the rest of the country, health cuts and education cuts.

Stefanovic: Joe Bullock if he gets in, it is unlikely, but he will be an interesting member for you. Thank you very much you two. We’ll see you next time.

Plibersek: Thanks.

Turnbull: Thanks.

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Transcript of ABC 720 Perth radio interview Drive with John McGlue

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Transcript of ABC 720 Perth radio interview

Drive with John McGlue

2 APRIL 2014

PERTH

E&OE

Subjects: Penalty rates

John McGlue: Just three days now until the all-important Senate election re-run here in Western Australia. The major parties are pushing as hard as you’ve ever seen to get your vote in the Senate. All the big guns are over here pushing whatever issue they believe is going to swing your vote on the weekend. My next guest on Drive believes that a potential attack on penalty rates by the Abbott Government is something that should resonate with West Australians. She’s the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tanya Plibersek, welcome to Drive.

Tanya Plibersek: Thank you, John.

McGlue: The Labor Party’s making a big play of this penalty rate issue, what hard evidence do you have that penalty rates are about to change?

Plibersek: Well, there’s the leaked terms of reference to the Productivity Commission inquiry into industrial relations which certainly include looking at penalty rates. We’ve heard just today from the West Australian Chamber of Commerce and we know that a very prominent business man here in West Australia who’s on the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council has also been in the media saying that penalty rates should be cut. So, the fact that the Government’s actually looking at cutting penalty rates and we’ve got this strong call from businesses in the West, I think would certainly be a call for concern for West Australians who rely on penalty rates to make ends meet.

McGlue: The Chamber of Commerce and Industry has suggested what it calls a sensible loading, one and a half times, what do you make of that? Is that something that you think is sensible?

Plibersek: Well, I think we need to be sensible at all times in industrial relations, of course. I’m not going to speculate about one particular rate, but I would say this: when you’re talking about workers who are relying on penalty rates to make ends meet, they’re not the high paid workers. They’re cleaners, they’re shop assistants, they’re people who work in aged care, they’re prison officers, they’re nurses, they’re paramedics. They’re the people who are, you know, cleaning the schools after kids have gone home until 10 o’clock at night. And a lot of these workers get up to a third of their take-home pay from penalty rates. So you take a cleaner, for example, that cleaner might be earning just over $17 without penalty rates, and say around, just over $22 with penalty rates. So, it’s all very well for people on very high incomes to be talking about the impost of penalty rates, but for many of these people it really is the difference between making the family budget meet at the end of the week.

McGlue: You talk about the difficulties for employees needing penalty rates, needing the income that comes from that to make ends meet. What about employers? By Labor’s own figures, that’s up to 30 per cent of the wage bill, can you understand how they feel, the employers?

Plibersek: Yes, I do and I think that it is really important we have a cooperative relationship between employers and employees. But I’d say again, that the people that we’re talking about are already some of the lowest paid workers in our community. If you’re talking about a cleaner who might be on $17 getting penalty rates taking them to $22, you’re not talking about highflyers. So yes, I have every openness to arguments that employers are making. What I’m saying is that if you’re taking our lowest paid workers, people who look after aging Australians in nursing homes and saying we want to take a third of their take-home pay away then that’s a very difficult thing for that person and that family.

McGlue: Do you know what it’s like to be an employer? Do you know what it feels like to pay wages, to be responsible for somebody’s wellbeing and for their financial situation? To lie awake in bed at night and wonder whether you’re going to make payroll? Have you ever been in that position? Have you ever employed anybody and run a balance sheet?

Plibersek: Yes I do. I have employed people and worked in small businesses before I went into Parliament. But I’m not saying that I’m an expert in this by any means. I think that there are millions of small business owners in Australia who do experience a great deal of stress every day and one of those issues is making ends meet, a lot of other issues around red tape and what it takes to- just in hours worked to run a small business are things that we can discuss and be open to and we’re already having those discussions with small business.

McGlue: But Tanya Plibersek, employing people isn’t a gaol sentence, it’s utterly discretionary. And in recent years in Australia we’ve seen a withdrawal of capital from productive investment. The banks will tell you that credit growth is growing modestly but deposit growth and term deposit growth are growing at considerably higher rates and essentially that’s capital gone on strike and if Labor is so determined to hold onto these high cost elements like penalty rates, how do you convince capital, how do you convince prospective employers to invest in new businesses and to employ the people who you, the Labor Party, professes to represent? How do you do that?

Plibersek: Well, about 3 per cent of Australian businesses employ more than 20 people. So if you’re talking about a drop in business investment and in fact there was a drop off the cliff in business investment at the beginning of this year. I don’t know that you can make a direct link between a worker being paid $22 an hour instead of $17 an hour and a drop in capital investment from businesses.

McGlue: But it’s all around the perception of the capital of businesses around the conditions in which they will operate, and the conditions and the backdrop against which they will invest. If they don’t think that business conditions are decent, they’ll hold back the capital which is what’s happening. That’s why businesses are so concerned about lobbying for changes on penalty rates.

Plibersek: Yeah and do you know what? I think that there is a real problem with business confidence in Australia and part of that is having a government that is telling business and the community all the time that there are big cuts coming in the budget, that our economy is in bad shape, when in fact we’ve had some of the strongest growth of any nation on earth. We’ve had some of the lowest debt and lowest deficits of any nation on earth. When we’ve continued to have 23 years of continuous growth in this country, by any measure our economy internationally is a very strong one and it would be terrific to have a government that wasn’t talking down our economy all the time.

McGlue: Well one of the concerns they’ve got of course is the fact is they’ve inherited such a big mountain of debt and they have also –

Plibersek: That is just nonsense.

McGlue: And they have also inherited a series of a budgetary position, a fiscal position which is at best parlous. And all of that happened under Labor.

Plibersek: That is just nonsense. If you look at Australian debt and Australian deficit compared to nations around the world you will see Australia’s position is better than most. It’s certainly better than the US its better than the UK, it’s better than Europe, it’s better than Japan, it’s better than most economies in the world. And what we’ve seen in the mid-year economic forecast from Joe Hockey is a cooking of the books. He has changed parameters in the budget so that debt looks bigger. He’s made a decision to make the budget look worse than it is. He’s got 68 billion dollars’ worth of parameter changes and that includes also an 8 billion dollar, over 8 billion dollars just given to the Reserve Bank. Money that the Reserve Bank doesn’t need, didn’t ask for, that’s just added to our deficit. Why? Because he wants to make the budget look as bad as possible so he can have the excuse he wants to cut programs, like cut education, cut health and cut all the programs that Australians rely on to live in a civilised community.

McGlue: Thanks for your time today. Thank you for coming in.

Plibersek: Thank you.

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