The Abbott Government needs to confirm immediately that Australia will continue to be a strong contributor to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

The Coalition is ripping $4.5 billion out of Australia’s international aid budget. But Tony Abbott won’t tell Australians, or the international community, where the axe will fall.

Mr Abbott’s cuts to international aid must not be allowed to compromise the important work of the Global Fund in fighting AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in developing countries, including some of Australia’s nearest neighbours such as Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste.

Since 2002, with Australia’s help, the Global Fund’s more than US$22.4 billion of programs in around 150 countries have saved an estimated 8.7 million lives by providing anti-retroviral treatment for people living with HIV, and tuberculosis treatment for 9.7 million people.

Around 21 per cent of the Global Fund’s grants are directed to Asia and the Pacific.

These grants have resulted in more than 500,000 people on lifesaving HIV treatment; 46 million insecticide-treated bed nets distributed; and the treatment of 6.6 million cases of tuberculosis.

In 2013 alone, a commitment by the former Labor Government saw Australia give $100 million to the Global Fund – the largest contribution our country has ever made in a single year.

The Global Fund is an international financing institution established in 2002 to dramatically increase resources for the fight against the three pandemics. It is a partnership between government, civil society, the private sector, and affected communities.


Add your reaction Share

Transcript: Today Show 29 November 2013

coats arms











Subject/s: Qantas, NBN, GrainCorp sale, schools’ funding.


Karl Stefanovic: Well joining us now to discuss this [Qantas] and the rest of the week in politics is Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, morning Malcolm.

Malcolm Turnbull: Morning.

Stefanovic: And Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek.  Nice to have you in the studio this time.

Tanya Plibersek: It’s a pleasure.

Stefanovic: And sorry for cutting you off this time. Malcolm, let's start with Qantas. Are you prepared to remove the foreign ownership component cap on the company? Are you prepared to guarantee the debt?

Turnbull: Well these are all matters that are going to be considered. I think everyone's in favour of Qantas remaining very much an Australian company but Alan Joyce has a very good point in this sense, that he is fighting against - his competitors are, for the most part, state-owned airlines that are heavily subsidised one way or another by their governments so Qantas really is battling. And Virgin, its domestic competitor and of course an international competitor too, is largely owned by state-owned airlines. So it is a real battle for Qantas.

Stefanovic: If it is the case that you say the majority of people want to hold onto it as an Australian company, Transport Minister Warren Truss reckons Qantas can't expect to have taxpayers bankroll the debt guarantee so there is divisions even within your own party on where to go.

Turnbull: There's no division at all. I mean Warren's expressed a point of view there but this is something that we will consider as a Cabinet when we hear what Alan Joyce actually is going to put to us. He's had discussions with a number of ministers including Warren including me, including Joe obviously and we'll look at that collectively and come to a decision.

Stefanovic: Tanya, you supported Qantas in general but you stopped short of bankrolling as well?

Plibersek: Well we need to know specifically what the proposal is before we can start commenting. At the moment we've heard a few thought bubbles from what was supposed to be a private meeting from Joe Hockey. But I've got to say, my dad worked for Qantas for 21 years and I'm pretty attached to it as an Australian brand. I think most people, when they get onto a Qantas plane love the feeling of hearing Australian accents, knowing that the maintenance record, because it's done here in Australia is so high. There's a really very strong attachment.

Stefanovic: Would you support if you're able to give a debt guarantee, would you support that in place of equity?

Plibersek: Look, we need –

Stefanovic: Wouldn't that be a reasonable outcome?

Plibersek: We need to see specific proposals. I'm not going to start speculating about what they’re proposing.

Stefanovic: Malcolm, is that something you would support?

Turnbull: These are all things that can be considered but as we all know, as Tanya knows, these are matters that we consider collectively as a Cabinet and we'll have those discussions there.

Stefanovic: And the other side of it is, as Ross Greenwood pointed out before, how long do you keep propping up businesses?

Turnbull: Well, that is a fair point but I think where Joyce is right is that he is competing - his competitors are being very heavily supported by governments. If you look at these Middle Eastern airlines they are, all of them, and there are plenty of others, I'm not just picking on the Middle Eastern ones, but most of these airlines that he competes with have got a lot of support from governments and that is, you know, he is not operating on a level playing field.

Stefanovic: What will happen with Graincorp today?

Turnbull: [laughs]. You should ask the Treasurer.

Stefanovic: I can't at the moment, you're here. You know what's going to happen, what's likely to happen? Are they going to stop that investment?

Turnbull: Karl, it's a matter for the Treasurer and I couldn't tell you.

Stefanovic: It will be interesting to see what happens there. Probably in another hour or so, right? He knows.

Plibersek: He could if he wanted to. He doesn’t want to.

Turnbull: You're so well informed. You should break the story yourself.

Stefanovic: Let's move onto something you do know about, broadband. You've copped it in Fairfax today. You've levelled you out saying the Coalition's plan is poorly planned, unlikely to be completed on time and slashes revenue projections. It's a Malcolm Turnbull carve up, your response?

Turnbull: [laughs] What they've got is they've got a document which was prepared at the Labor Government's request more than 6 months ago by the NBN Co management, Michael Quigley and Ralph Steffens, both of whom have now gone. This document is A) out of date; B) it is defending a failed project. It has no credibility, absolutely none. Fairfax should have actually made it quite clear what the provenance of that document was and the truth is that we will know what is actually going on the NBN very soon because there is a big strategic review under way at the moment, being overseen by the board of the NBN Co, we've got KordaMentha, Boston Consulting Group, Deloittes, a big team in there to find out the real state of the project is at the moment, where it's heading under the old plans, what our options are for doing it sooner, cheaper and more affordably. It’s a very objective study and that will be produced shortly. What Labor is trying to do - they're trying to muddy the waters because they're afraid of the truth and you've seen Stephen Conroy's appalling conduct in the Senate yesterday bullying and harassing witnesses from the department. This is a desperate attempt by Conroy and Labor to avoid the day of reckoning when taxpayers find out how reckless and misconceived this project is.

Stefanovic: Was Stephen Conroy out of line yesterday?

Plibersek: No, I'll tell you what this is. This is the incoming –

Turnbull: You're endorsing what he did yesterday?

Plibersek: This is the incoming government brief. Every department prepares for a new government information about the policies that they're going to have to implement. Malcolm could solve this very quickly by releasing his incoming government brief. Instead -

Turnbull: Can I just correct that Tanya –

Plibersek: - No, no, let me finish.

Turnbull: No, I don’t want to interrupt you –

Plibersek: Malcolm you are interrupting me –

Turnbull: You are making a mistake. It's not the department’s brief. This was prepared by the company, it’s not the departments brief.

Plibersek: For an incoming government.

Turnbull: It was prepared by the company to go to the department and it's not the department's brief. This was a very partisan -

Plibersek: Well why don't you release the department brief?

Turnbull: Because you know -

Plibersek: Why is it a secret document? I released my incoming government brief last time we came into government. Your government’s released none of them. What this is Karl –

Turnbull: This is not the department's brief, it's the company's document.

Plibersek: This is setting up to break another promise. This is a secret document that doesn't need to be secret and it's a set up to break another promise just as has happened with education promise.

Stefanovic: Finally and quickly-

Turnbull: Our promise is to tell the truth about NBN and we’ll honour that, it’s something that your government, your previous government, never did.

Plibersek: You promised to deliver faster, cheaper broadband and this is showing it's going to be slower and worse and won't meet the needs of business or domestic consumers.

Turnbull: It doesn’t show that –

Stefanovic: We've got to finish on one that –

Turnbull: Fairfax has published a totally political document written by a management team that had conspicuously and consistently failed to meet every forecast they ever made.

Plibersek: Well why don’t you release the incoming government’s brief?

Stefanovic: Why didn't you say that after the first question?

Turnbull: I had to get fired up, see.

Stefanovic: He's fired up now. Finally and very quickly, today's meeting of education ministers that promises to be an interesting one. Fly on the wall would be great. NSW Liberal Education Minister Adrian Piccoli says this "There's no doubt that what seems to be happening is that States that signed up to Gonski are being punished –

Plibersek: That’s right.

Stefanovic: And States that didn't sign up are being rewarded". He goes on further and he says, "All of this is immoral."

Plibersek: Yeah it means the kids who need extra –

Turnbull: I think he's jumped the shark, don't you?

Plibersek: I think it shows Karl, the important thing about this is that the kids who need extra funding because they've got poor English language, poor reading skills, disabilities, they've missed out on something, they're going to miss out on funding. Before the election the Liberals said there was no difference between their education policy and ours. We promise $9.4 billion over 6 years. They've taken that down to $1.8 billion. There's a big difference for Australian children.

Stefanovic: Finally Malcolm.

Turnbull: That's not true.

Plibersek: It is true.

Turnbull: We are committed to the same funding envelope as Labor -

Plibersek: That's not right.

Turnbull: Made over the forward estimates -

Plibersek: But not over 6 years.

Turnbull: And we've committed to an additional $230 million for Queensland, NT and WA who didn't sign up to Shorten's various deals and what we are going to do is to develop a fair national and consistent plan, policy because what Labor did –

Stefanovic: Without all the guarantees.

Turnbull: What Labor did in their desperate –

Plibersek: So why then are the Liberal education ministers so opposed to Christopher Pyne's proposal?

Turnbull: Well look Adrian Piccoli obviously thought he cut a pretty good deal.

Plibersek: He did.

Turnbull: And he thinks he got a better deal than anyone else.

Plibersek:  NSW kids will miss out on $2 billion. You shouldn't have said you're going to give them the same amount of money if you're not Malcolm. It's a broken promise.

Turnbull: We have made a commitment to keep the funding envelope the same and we're going to have a national and consistent deal across the country.

Plibersek: You've already cut $1 billion from it.

Stefanovic: Alright we’ve run out of time.

Plibersek: You've already cut $1 billion from it. You've broken a promise to kids and parents. It's unforgiveable.

Turnbull: The only person who cut $1 billion, in face he cut $1.2 billion out was Bill Shorten.

Plibersek:  No that’s not right.

Turnbull: Chris Bowen admitted that he did yesterday.

Plibersek:  That’s not right.

Stefanovic: This is why it’s so good having you two on. We could do three and a half hours of this.

Turnbull: We get along so well.

Stefanovic: Well you do, it’s interesting. It's Fordo's birthday today too.

Turnbull: Happy birthday to him.

Stefanovic: Oh say it with conviction.

Turnbull: How old is he anyway? State secret?

Stefanovic: 26.

Plibersek: Malcolm is going to sing happy birthday Mr Fordham like happy birthday Mr President. [hums Happy Birthday tune]

Turnbull: I cannot sing a note.

Stefanovic: Oh Tanya can do it.

Plibersek: [Laughs] No I can’t.

Turnbull: Can I tell you something?

Stefanovic: Yeah.

Turnbull: If we're in church or somewhere, anywhere where the national anthem is being sung a hymn or whatever, if I'm standing next to Lucy and I start to sing I get this sharp elbow in my ribs. Her view is, and I think she's right, that it's in the public interest that I just move my lips silently.

Stefanovic: Finally, something we all agree on. Thanks, guys.


Add your reaction Share

Media Statement: Readout of meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi












The Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition met with Myanmar’s Opposition Leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, this afternoon as part of her first official visit to Australia.

Mr Shorten and Ms Plibersek conveyed the Opposition’s support for the political reforms underway in Myanmar, and discussed the importance of increasing people to people and economic ties between our two countries. This visit to Australia helps strengthen our bilateral relationship.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a global leader in human rights and democratic reform, and one of the greatest figures of our time.

The Opposition welcomes Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s involvement in World AIDS Day activities while she is here in Australia.

HIV/AIDS remains a serious challenge for many countries, including some of Australia’s nearest neighbours.  Australia must do everything we can, through our aid program and otherwise, to increase access to testing, treatment, and prevention, particularly in developing countries.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi indicated that openness and compassion are critical to responding effectively to HIV/AIDS in Myanmar.

She also expressed that that business confidence to support investment and economic growth was essential – and that political stability and enforceability of the rule of law are critical to this.



Add your reaction Share

Statement: UN vote regarding Israeli settlement activity





Change in Australia's Position on UN vote regarding  Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories

Today, the Foreign Minister must personally explain why the Abbott Government has changed Australia's position on a United Nations vote calling for a stop to Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories.

This change is something that seems to have occurred with little or no consultation.

It's also quite extraordinary that the Government would make such a change without reporting back to the Australian people about it.

Ongoing tension around settlements highlights the need to progress, as quickly as possible, the direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to resolve outstanding final status issues.

The expansion of settlements outside areas that will clearly remain part of Israel under a territorial exchange agreement undermines the prospect of a lasting peace through a two state solution.

25 NOVEMBER 2013


Add your reaction Share

Media Statement: Arctic 30


TP: We know the relationship with Indonesia is under strain at the moment. And it will be very important for the Government to take steps to restore normal relations. Our relationship with Indonesia is one of our most important. We’ve got strong security links with Indonesia, we’ve got cooperation to stop people smuggling, to stop terrorism. We also have very strong economic links with Indonesia.

At the moment, the relationship is under a great deal of strain, and it’s very important that the Australian Government take steps to restore normal relations. We can’t let problems like this fester. Our friendship is a long one and a strong one, and I’m confident that we can restore normal relations but it will take some work.

Question: Is there bipartisanship on this?

TP: Well absolutely. The Opposition sees our relationship with Indonesia as critically important, and we will support any steps the Government is taking to restore normal relations with Indonesia. I think the key difference is that before the election, the now Government, the then Opposition, made some injudicious comments about their policies and they came into Government with a relationship that was already under stress. The Coalition said a number of things about buying back the boats and turning back the boats and so on that the Indonesians were concerned about. The Coalition was making announcements about things that would be happening on Indonesian soil and in Indonesian waters without ever having discussed it with the Indonesians. Tony Abbott on his first trip to Indonesia locked Indonesian journalists out of a press conference.  So you see the level of media coverage in Indonesia at the moment isn't helped by the fact that Tony Abbott offended the whole of the Indonesia press core on his first visit there. So we need to take a few steps back and look at the lead-up to this most recent strain in the relationship, go back to basics and restore friendly relations with a nation that is a near neighbour and a good friend.


Journalist: (inaudible) in 2009, there are allegations that happened under the former Labor Government. Shouldn’t the Opposition now be doing more to help patch up this relationship?


TP: Well as I say we are absolutely committed to working with the Government to restoring good relations with Indonesia, and abs­olutely we need to support any moves they make to restore the relationship to its normal footing. We never comment on matters of national security or intelligence, but I would say there is a deeper issue here, and there is a deeper issue of the diplomatic relation between our nations. We need to work on a relationship that has been stressed for some time and is now at a very strained stage, we need to make sure that the difficulties between us don’t fester and that we very quickly restore good relations between our nations.


Journalist: Should the Prime Minister pick up the phone and speak to the Indonesian President?


TP: Look I think it’s very important that the Prime Minister take the advice of the professionals in this area. The diplomats that he has in Indonesia, he’s got a Department of Foreign Affairs that can advise him, a range of people who  have long-standing and good relations with Indonesia that can advise him. I’m not going start dictating what the government should do. I would simply say that it is important that we re-establish good relations with Indonesia. It’s important for Indonesia and it’s very important for Australia too.
Journalist: What should Julie Bishop be doing to restore that relationship?


Well in the same way that I’m not going to dictate what the Prime Minister should do, I’m not going to dictate what the Foreign Minister should do. She has a range of very good, very professional advisers now that can tell her the best way forward. But it is important that we move forward, at the moment it seems we seem stuck in a spiral that’s worsening – we need to ensure that we get back to normal good relations as quickly as possible.


Journalist: If Bill Shorten is talking about (inaudible) and you’re out here this morning talking about missteps that have led up to this incident, are you doing your bit to push this along? Shouldn’t you be on Bill Shorten’s ticket calling this (inaudible) Australia?


TP: Well I would say that I’m doing exactly that, I’m out here saying that the Opposition is ready to stand with the government to repair the relationship. I’m giving some context explaining why the issue has progressed in the way it has. But I can’t be clearer than to say that he Opposition is absolutely committed to working with the government on any measures that they take to restore good relations with our neighbour.


Journalist: Can I just ask you about Mark Textor’s Tweet yesterday, he was criticising, and it wasn’t clear in fact who he was criticising, but he was referring to a 1970’s porn star when talking about one of the Indonesian officials.


TP: Look I did have those drawn to my attention and I frankly I was quite shocked. They’re highly inappropriate comments and I’m pleased to be told that they have now been taken off the Twitter feed, but I was frankly quite shocked at the comments. This is a person who is in the Prime Minister’s inner circle. The Indonesians know that he is a long-standing adviser to the Liberal Party and I think these sorts of loose comments can do nothing to restore the relation between our two nations.


Journalist: Just onto the debt ceiling, is it damaging for Australia’s reputation that this issue hasn’t been resolved?

TP: Well it could be resolved today - it could have been resolved last week. The Opposition has offered the Liberal Government a $400 billion debt ceiling - an extra $100 billion dollars. If they want more than an extra $100 billion, then maybe they should say why. Maybe they should release the mid-year economic forecast which is due now. This is a government that came to government saying that they are going to cut debt, and they want to increase it by $200 billion without saying why. And this goes back to the fact this is not the government that they said they’d be. They said that debt was the problem, and that more debt wasn’t the answer. They said they’d cut debt and they want to increase it.

Journalist: The carbon tax is due to be voted on today in the House of Representatives and there is a stalemate expected in the Senate. Has Labor changed its view on the issue?

TP: Well absolutely not, we have said for many years now - since I think 1988 - in our party platform that climate pollution causing climate change is an environmental economic problem that we need to take action on. In 2007, there was bipartisan agreement on that. John Howard went to the election, Labor went to the election, promising to take action on climate change. Ever since then we have said that this nation has to take action on climate change. We introduced an emission trading scheme that was working, it was cutting dirty power generation and increasing clean energy generation. Now the new government want to scrap that scheme without describing in any detail what will replace it. They claim that they can drop pollution with their new scheme but they don’t say how. They also say that if it costs more than expected then we’ll just skip our pollution target. Most Australians agree that there is something happening to our climate. They can see that our summers are getting hotter, that our weather is changing. That affects our economy, it affects our oceans, and it affects our farming communities. They agree that we need to take action. The government is saying ‘Trust us, repeal these bills and we’ll do something about climate change down the track’. It’s not good enough. Thanks everyone.



Add your reaction Share

Media Statement - Mr Colin Russell










The Labor Opposition calls on the Abbott Government to step up diplomatic efforts to help secure bail for Australian, Colin Russell, who remains in pre-trial detention in Russia.

Mr Russell is one of 30 Greenpeace activists (the ‘Arctic 30’) from around the world facing charges following a protest at the Gazprom Arctic oil drilling platform.

We are advised that three Russians have recently been granted bail, but it is understood a Russian court yesterday extended Mr Russell’s pre-trial detention by three months.

The Australian Government should explore, directly with the Russian Government, whether assurances can be given to secure bail for Mr Russell.

Reports indicate the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding UK citizens involved.

Prime Minister Abbott and his Foreign Minister must act as well, to urge proportionality and fairness in Russia’s response to the Arctic 30.


Add your reaction Share

Statement: Prime Minister Abbott's Comments on the Use of Torture











Today Prime Minister Abbott failed to explain to the Parliament his suggestion that torture can be excused in some circumstances.

When asked about torture at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held recently in Sri Lanka, Mr Abbott said:

“…we accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen.”

Mr Abbott today refused to explain those comments to the Parliament.

Australia is a signatory to the United Nations’ Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol.

The Labor Opposition unequivocally condemns the use of torture, without exception.

The Prime Minister’s comments signify a radical departure from Australia’s commitment to human rights and damage Australia’s standing in the international community.


Add your reaction Share

Transcript: Press Conference - Friday, 8 November 2013








Tanya Plibersek: Australians aren’t getting the Tony Abbott they voted for, in recent days we’ve seen the lie of the budget emergency scare campaign that was used before the election with the government almost doubling the debt ceiling and adding 50 per cent to the deficit in the few months they have been in office. We’ve seen also a range of other areas where Tony Abbott said one thing before the election and another thing after the election. In particular I want to talk today about the fact that Tony Abbott has taken an axe to the CSIRO and a number of other expert advisory groups. It looks like the CSIRO could lose up to a quarter of its staff. The CSIRO is the preeminent scientific organisation in Australia. It’s internationally recognised for the terrific research it produces and now it’s under threat. Before the election Tony Abbott said he would not touch health and medical research. He said, even since the election, science is absolutely critical to progress and scientists are the explorers and adventures of the modern age. We are lucky here in Australia that our scientists are the best in the world. He said I’m pleased to pledge the incoming government will continue to support science to the fullest extent possible. What’s changed in a week? I’d like to know.

First of all, Tony Abbott refused to appoint a minister for science that rang alarm bells for people in the scientific community. Now we see these huge cuts to CSIRO because of the reductions in public service mean up to a quarter of their staff may lose their jobs. That will impact scientific research in Australia. I also want to talk about the expert advisory groups Tony Abbott has announced he wants to disband today. Again, this is an example of saying one thing before an election, and doing something completely different after an election. Take the housing supply council for example. Tony Abbott said before the election he was concerned about the cost of living for families. Well housing affordability is one of the biggest impacts for ordinary families.

The housing supply council has done excellent work since it was established reporting on how we can increase housing supply. It has experts on it from the building industry, from finance, academics and others looking at how we can boost housing supply and consequently improve housing affordability in Australia. Many Liberals like Kevin Andrews, Marise Payne and others have used the work of the housing supply council to make comments on housing affordability and housing supply and yet on the same day we have a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare about housing affordability and the stress it is placing on families we get rid of the very body that is being used by local government, by state governments, by industry itself to help boost housing supply. There are a number of other expert bodies as well, the expert body on firearms. Right here in New South Wales and in other parts of Australia too, we have significant problems with gun crime right now and the Abbott Government getting rid of the expert body that was set up, coming out of moves from John Howard to restrict firearms, to help us control firearms in Australia.

We’ve got an expert advisory group on ageing. Today we read in the papers that Australians might live to an average of 100 years and the body set up to help encourage active ageing is being disbanded by this Government. You see a pattern of saying one thing before the election and doing something completely different after the election. But you also see an even more worrying trend which is ignoring the advice of people who are expert in their field, who are working in the field day to day.

I want to talk for a minute about what is happening in climate change as well. We hear today that Australia will not send a minister to the talks in Warsaw. This is extremely concerning; I think one commentator said today if you’re not at the table in these discussions, you’re on the menu. I think that is extraordinary that neither the climate change minister Greg Hunt nor the minister for foreign affairs who has taken over responsibility for climate change negotiations will be going. It is usual at these discussions to have at least ministerial representation, if not prime ministerial representation. The only possible explanation for this absence of Australia from the table is that we don’t take climate change seriously. I think that Tony Abbott knows, Julie Bishop knows, Greg Hunt knows that we would be laughed off the international stage because we are the only country that is going backwards when it comes to controlling pollution. This is a further indication to the international community that this new government does not take climate change seriously, that they are not interested in the economic or environmental consequences of climate change and they are not interested in putting a global cap on pollution and working to limit the effects of climate change.

The other thing worth mentioning when it comes to climate change is of course the pricing impact. Joe Hockey has been claiming for some time now prices will fall if the carbon tax is repealed. We hear now from experts in industry, in business, in energy production that prices are not likely to fall.  So what we’ll have is a dangerous lemon of a policy from the Government, we won’t see prices fall, we won’t see pollution fall, the only falls we see are in the production of renewable energy and the jobs that go with the clean new energy industries.

Finally, I think it’s worth saying when you look at the attacks on expert advice and the way the Government is sticking its head in the sand on climate change in contrast with the way they have found $360 million to provide superannuation benefits for high income earners, you get a schizophrenic approach to what the most important issues are facing Australia today. I think if the Government continues to go down this path we’ll be able to save a whole lot more money, we’ll just get rid of all expert advice and Wikipedia everything like Greg Hunt did when it came to climate change. Any questions?

Journalists: Just in regards to the CSIRO, the CSIRO said only 300 jobs have gone, are certainly not the number reported this morning, is that a bit more of a relief?

Plibersek: Well I think any jobs losses at the CSIRO are a concern, it’s always important that organisations are as efficient as they can be, but the CSIRO like most government organisations has been facing quite regular reviews of its capacity, capabilities and its efficiency. 300 jobs is a lot of jobs, I’ve seen 550 reported, I’ve seen one in four reported, this is all speculation. What we know is there is a cap on hiring and renewing contracts and a large number of CSIRO staff are on contracts of two years or four years, of course they feel their employment is threatened and the top quality research that they produce is consequently threatened and this is, I’ve got to say, in absolute contrast to what the Prime Minister said before he was elected which was that he was a supporter of science and health and medical research.

Journalist: [inaudible]

Plibersek: Look, I can’t answer what type of research will be hit hardest but anyone of the hundreds and thousands of Australians, for example who used the CSIRO wellbeing diet, knows the research the CSIRO produces is really important in our day to day living in Australia. It has real impact on ordinary Australians, the choices they make, the decisions they make. But the other thing the CSIRO does is not just that very day to day applied research, they also do some very important basic research, the sort of research that underpins industry development here in Australia, the sort of research that underpins major scientific discoveries right across all the areas of science in Australia.

Journalist: Isn’t it actually true there has been no cut in funding by the Government, they have just said there will be a hiring freeze in place and they will be no cut in funding at all?

Plibersek: Well, they have said they are sacking 12,000 public servants, it seems like a large number will be coming from the CSIRO. When they sack those public servants that is a saving to the Government, that’s why they are doing it. So it’s not clear how much of the burden of that the CSIRO will bear but we hear they will bear a particularly large proportion of the burden because they have so many staff on contract.

Journalist: Isn’t it true that a large part of funding for CSIRO comes from external sources and has been dropping for some time?

Plibersek: It’s very important that the CSIRO partner with industry. That’s why I say that they are one of the best organisations in the world for applied research, research that transforms the everyday lives of Australians and partnership with industry is an important part of that. There is no criticism of that, it’s a good thing. What we can’t do is loose the experienced researchers employed at the CSIRO for short-term savings in staffing costs.

Journalist: [inaudible]

Plibersek: I think the fact this Government has added 50 per cent to the deficit including measures like giving $9 billion to the Reserve Bank of Australia they didn’t need nor want, shows the nonsense of this argument that deep cuts are necessary. The Government’s able to find $360 million to give 16,000 high income earners a superannuation tax break, they can afford to fund science properly too.

Journalist: Channel 10 last night aired some pretty severe allegations regards to a navy ship and abuse on that ship, how concerning are those reports form a Labor point of view?

Plibersek: Of course any report of any abuse or assault on any naval vessel is something that must be absolutely thoroughly investigated. We of course support a thorough investigation of all the allegations but I won’t comment on the details until the investigation is complete.

Journalist: [Inaudible]

Plibersek: I’m not going to comment on allegations until there has been a proper investigation. What I will say is in the past when these instances have been alleged and subsequently been proved, I think it’s been very important Navy has taken them seriously; they have taken them seriously in recent years. I think there is culture change in the Navy because of the increasing openness and encouragement to people to report allegations of abuse, but on these specific allegations I won’t comment any further because it is important to have a proper investigation take place.

Journalist: [inaudible]

Plibersek: Well I’d say Peter Varghese is an extraordinarily talented and highly regarded bureaucrat but it is extraordinary that we should have a head of a department explaining Australia’s relationship with Indonesia rather than the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It is the job of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to manage that relationship, she’s in Indonesia at the moment, she should be the one who is accountable for the decline in diplomatic relationships with Indonesia and she should be the one explaining the steps she has taken to repair that rift.

Journalist: [Inaudible]

Plibersek: I would say it’s a relationship that Labor handed over in fine working order that in just a few months has come under strain. I’ve said over the last few days that is very important that the Minister for Foreign Affairs seeks to rebuild that relationship. Indonesia is an important trading partner for us, an important security partner, our good relationship with Indonesia is good for us, good for Indonesia and good for our region buts it’s a relationship that’s not at its best today.

Journalist: Why do you think that is the case? Is that because if the way the boat issue has been handled? What do you see as the cause of the problem?

Plibersek: Look I think there have been a number of missteps by the incoming government. They started before the election with announcements made about what the Australian government would do in Indonesian waters and on Indonesia soil that were not discussed with the Indonesians. They were compounded when the Prime Minister went there for his first trip and excluded Indonesian journalists from his press conference. I think that it’s very clear there have been a number of missteps that have put the relationship under strain and that it’s a relationship that’s imperative the Foreign Minister now re-build and account to the Australian people for those missteps and how she will repair the relationship.

Journalist: Qantas has let go 300 workers today closing their Avalon operations. Do you think the Abbott Government should have stepped up to offer assistance?

Plibersek: Well I think it’s terrible, a tragedy when any Australian worker loses their job and particularly when you see the closing of a major workplace like this. I think the important thing today is to focus on the needs of those workers and their families, for the Government to work closely with Qantas to ensure that as many workers are transferred to other jobs as possible and provide assistance to those who can’t be transferred to find new employment quickly. I think the focus for today has to be on supporting those workers and their families find ongoing employment as quickly as possible. Thanks everyone.


Add your reaction Share

Statement on Typhoon Haiyan - 10 November 2013


The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Typhoon Haiyan

The Opposition’s thoughts are with the people of the Philippines who have suffered such terrible loss as a result of Typhoon Haiyan.

Our thoughts are also with other nations, including Vietnam and Laos, who authorities report remain in the path of the devastating typhoon.

It is understood an Australian man is among the dead. We express our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

The Opposition stands ready to assist the Abbott Government, in any way we can, to facilitate Australia’s contribution to relief efforts.

10 NOVEMBER 2013


Add your reaction Share

Opinion Piece - Rocking The Boats: Abbott Needs to Salvage Indonesian Ties








Over the last several weeks, many have looked on shocked as the Abbott Government has turned Australia’s once strong relationship with Indonesia sour.

Unfortunately this is hardly a surprise.

Indonesia is an important neighbour.  It is an important trading partner and friend.

In Government, Labor worked with Indonesia to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.

From closer defence ties to helping build two thousand schools, Labor carved out a deeper partnership with Indonesia.

We handed over a relationship in fine working order – strong and productive.

Despite claiming their foreign policy would be “more Jakarta and less Geneva”, Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop have weakened that relationship in just a matter of months.

The new government has taken a number of diplomatic missteps.

Before the election, the Liberals made claims about how their asylum seeker policies would operate on Indonesian soil and in Indonesian waters without discussion or consultation with Indonesia.

Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop failed to talk to Indonesia about their ‘turn back the boats’ or ‘buy back the boats’ policies leading the Indonesian Foreign Minister to describe these announcements as ‘unilateral’ and ‘worrying’.  The Indonesian Foreign Minister warned Julie Bishop that “Indonesia cannot accept any Australian policy that would, in nature, violate Indonesia’s sovereignty.”

People smuggling is a regional problem that requires regional cooperation.  The Liberals’ unilateral announcements undermine that cooperation and have plainly made the Indonesian government disinclined to accept asylum seeker boats which Australia has sought to return.

We know this through the Indonesian media – not our own government which refuses to answer questions about the ‘turn back the boats’ policy it took to the election.  The Jakarta Post is telling Australians more than our own government.

While Tony Abbott made much of his first official visit to Indonesia, he was forced to spend much of his time apologising for things he said during the election campaign, and came back empty handed on both his ‘turn back the boats’ and ‘buy back the boats’ policies.

The state of our relationship with Indonesia is the result of the Liberal party in opposition and now in government continuing to insult our neighbour.

Diplomacy is a two way street.  You can’t act disrespectfully to our international partners and expect cooperation in return.

The recent stand off on asylum seeker boats is a very practical manifestation of that, but it is just one example of the deteriorating relationship.

Julie Bishop visited Indonesia last week, but has refused to explain to the Australian people how she will repair our relationship with our neighbour. It is plain that her belated efforts to fix the friendship have failed so far.

The Vice President of Indonesia is visiting Australia this week.  The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister must meet with the Vice President to reassure Indonesia of the Abbott Government’s goodwill.

The test for the new Government is to restore the long standing and friendly diplomatic relationship with our neighbour.

Anything less undermines future cooperation with Indonesia, and the stability that brings to our region.

Originally published online by the Sydney Morning Herald


Add your reaction Share