TRANSCRIPT - ABC News 24, Wednesday 4 March

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Subject: Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran, Iraq.


CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: How did you feel this morning when you heard this news that the two prisoners were going to be transferred to the island where they would be executed?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: I think very many Australians are feeling very sad and concerned today. It is certainly not a good sign that these young men are being transferred and I think it's particularly concerning given there are still two legal challenges under way. There's an administrative-type legal challenge and of course there are before the judicial commission concerning allegations that have to be thoroughly investigated. I think there's obviously a very strong sense that people have now, too, of sympathy for the families of these two young men. This is not just a sentence on these two young men but on all of the people who love them, to take them away so permanently.

UHLMANN: Do you hold out any hope though that these legal challenges will do any more than the others have? Indonesia has clearly decided that it’s going to go ahead and execute these two young men.

PLIBERSEK: I think while there's life, there's hope. We have heard stories before of people who have been literally on their way to have their sentences carried out and the sentence has been commuted. So I think it's very important to hold out hope and to continue to explore every avenue. I have spoken today to the legal team of the young men, I have spoken to the Foreign Minister to say that very clearly that we will do everything we can as an Opposition to support the Government's efforts in this area.

UHLMANN: Has the Government done everything it can? Obviously you have actually worked quite closely with the Government, and it would seem the Government has done everything that is humanly possible.

PLIBERSEK: I believe that the Government have explored many avenues and indeed I think successive governments have done that over many years. We very strongly made the case to Indonesia that with almost 230 of their own people on death row in countries around the world, that their carrying out of this sentence undermines their case for their own citizens. I think that is a very important point to make. The Indonesian Government continues to advocate for their own citizens around the world. It makes it very difficult for them to make a convincing argument when, indeed, they are carrying out this sentence themselves.

UHLMANN: If Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are executed, do you believe it will damage the relationship between Australia and Indonesia?

PLIBERSEK: I think our relationship has been a strong one for many years and the important thing to focus on now is using the friendship and goodwill that has built up over many years, using the formal channels and informal channels to do everything we can to see the legal processes here, give them time to run their course. And to continue to plead with the Indonesian President, to continue to plead with him to understand that the death penalty doesn't- should never be used for any person anywhere. It's not an effective deterrent. We know that long gaol sentences are just as effective a deterrent as the death penalty. And we know too that the argument about Indonesian sovereignty, the sovereignty of the Indonesian legal system, no one challenges that. We completely accept that Indonesia has every right to the legal system that it has, what we are asking for is mercy in the application of the sentence.

UHLMANN: Australia has never tended to withdraw our ambassadors after events like this, although the Prime Minister's language has been fairly strong and said there would be an unequivocal response by Australia. Do you believe that like other countries that Australia should do something symbolic if this goes ahead and withdraw an ambassador?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's counterproductive to be discussing those things at this time.

UHLMANN: You don't think Australia should respond in any way?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's important to focus on the friendship between our two nations and to use the goodwill that we have built up over time for the benefit of these young men.

UHLMANN: Does the Australian Federal Police have a case to answer? It's been levelled against them that they should have not essentially handed these two young men over to the Indonesian police. Do we need to hear a better explanation from the police on why they did that?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s clear that most Australians would agree that it would have been better if these young men had been picked up as they arrived back in Australia. I think if we knew that they were coming, on a particular plane, at a particular time, of course it would have been better to pick them up here.

UHLMANN: Do you think we need a better explanation from the Australian Federal Police?

PLIBERSEK: I think our focus, the whole focus of our public discussion at this time has to be in pleading for clemency with the Indonesian Government and anything else can wait.

UHLMANN: Lex Lasry, who is now a Supreme Court Judge but did act for these two young men when he was a barrister, said today ‘I will never again go to Bali or anywhere else in Indonesia’. Do you think that Australians should respond that way?

PLIBERSEK: Chris, the difficulty with this conversation at this time is it just doesn't help. We need to focus now on reminding the Indonesian Government that they have their own people on death row in countries around the world and they weaken their ability to plead for their own citizens. We need to focus on the fact that the death penalty is not a deterrent. We have to focus on the fact that this is not just a sentence for these young men but for their families and for everyone who knows them. We need to focus on the fact that they have been rehabilitated in the Indonesian gaol system and are now making a positive contribution to the lives of other prisoners and the rehabilitation of other prisoners. I think that is the discussion we need to be having at this time.

UHLMANN: And all those things have been said and resaid by you and by the Government, by their families, by everyone in Australia and yet it has not moved the Indonesian President.

PLIBERSEK: And I say again while there's life, there's hope, and we need to exhaust every legal avenue here. We must have the time for the judicial commission to do its work, for the administrative legal considerations to be gone through thoroughly. It is important that we use all of our formal and informal communications to continue to make points, these points.

UHLMANN: A final question on a different topic - to Iraq. Yesterday we saw the Prime Minister commit to training troops, there will obviously be some push and pull in that, the Special Forces will probably come out, 300 Australian training troops will go in. The Labor Party were clearly displeased by the fact that the Prime Minister didn't make a ministerial statement. Do you believe the Prime Minister was trying to politicise the issue?

PLIBERSEK: I think when we're sending Australian troops into harm's way, the Australian public deserve a clear statement about why they're going, what the mission is specifically, how will we judge when we have achieved that mission. The best way to give that explanation to the Australian people is through the Parliament. There are elected representatives - that also gives the Opposition a clear opportunity to state our position on this. Which is that we are of course - we know that the 2003 war in Iraq was a disaster. But that this situation where we are being asked by the democratically elected government of Iraq to help it protect its people and its territory from an invading force, that is quite brutal, that that is a different situation, that we will apply the criteria that we have set out: that this is only in Iraq, only until the Iraqi Government can protect its own people, that it's not boots on grounds - it is a training and humanitarian mission - and that we will only stay as long as the Iraqi Government and military forces behave in a way that is acceptable to us - that we apply those conditions.

UHLMANN: Tanya Plibersek, thank you.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Chris.


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TRANSCRIPT - Sky News PM Agenda, Tuesday 3 March 2015

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SUBJECT/S: Iraq; GP Tax.


DAVID SPEEERS, PRESENTER: Joining me now is the Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Foreign Minister, Tanya Plibersek. Thanks for your time. Does Labor support this announcement?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: We were briefed by some defence personnel and intelligence and security personnel just before Question Time. And based on what we have been told in that briefing, we do. We support a training mission to help the Iraqi Defence Force raise its capacity to protect its own people on their own land.

SPEERS: Was there some concern in the left of your party though, as I understand it, in the caucus meeting today, some did raise concerns about this?

PLIBERSEK: No, I wouldn't say concerns. I'd say that there are many people in the Labor Party and in the Australian community who remember the disaster of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and they want to be very certain that we are not engaging in something here that doesn't have the support of the Iraqi Government and people or that is open-ended, that involves mission creep. We need to be very satisfied as an Opposition and I think as a nation that this is with the support and at the request of the Iraqi Government. And that it doesn't involve Australian soldiers taking a front line position fighting Daesh hand to hand, but it is indeed in the first instance a humanitarian and a training mission, and also that the Government has a clear plan here, a clear exit strategy. This should not be an open-ended engagement.

SPEERS: Well just on that final point, do you think there is a clear exit point strategy?

PLIBERSEK: We were certainly told that the second stage of the training mission has a two year period attached to it, that it will have regular troop rotations, it will be reassessed during that period. But, David, I think one of the issues here is it’s very important that the Prime Minister and the Government explain to the Australian people what it is exactly that Australian forces will be doing and how will they judge success. When will they know that it is time to go? These are important questions for the Australian public to be assured of.

SPEERS: Have you been assured of this, those key points you raise there, what they will exactly be doing, how we’ll judge success and how we’ll decide to bring them home?

PLIBERSEK: Yes, we had quite a detailed briefing today before Question Time, and we asked ourselves and the briefers to reassure us on all of the principles that we have set out for Labor support in the past. So that our troops won't be in front line positions, that this is only in Iraq and not Syria, that it is only so long as- until the Iraqi Government and Defence Force can protect their own people in their own land and that it is only as long as the Iraqi Government and Defence Forces behave in a way that is acceptable to Australians. So we have set out those principles.

SPEERS: Okay, I just want to be clear on this. Are you satisfied that what- that you understand exactly what they will be doing and that there will be a mechanism to judge success?

PLIBERSEK: We have had - yes. We have had a detailed briefing about what the Australian Defence Force will be doing with the Iraqi Defence Force. The type of training they will be providing and so on.

SPEERS: And all of your concerns are addressed?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I have to say it is something that we will continue to watch closely. I say for the moment based on what the Government has told us, Labor will support this additional training. But that commitment is not without conditions and it is not open-ended and I think it is important that the Government continue to talk to the Australian public, through the Australian Parliament, about exactly how the mission is progressing and what the expected exit strategy is.

SPEERS: So is it fair to say that you would still like a better explanation of exactly what they will be doing?

PLIBERSEK: I think we need continued explanations of what our defence personnel are achieving and certainly we know that they have achieved a great deal in the humanitarian area. They have been- they have managed to resupply communities that have been cut off and without supplies. They have managed to disrupt oil production facilities that Daesh were using to generate many, many, millions of dollars of oil revenue to fund their ongoing war on the Iraqi people. So we have played a good role –

SPEERS: But we also see constant reports about the Iraqi military being a corrupt outfit, payments going to so called phantom soldiers who don't really exist just to claim the money, you know, about corruption in contracting in the Iraqi military as well. How much confidence should we have that this is a worthwhile expedition?

PLIBERSEK: Well, David, I think it's very important to ask those questions along the way and there's a couple of things I'd say to that. Our training of the Iraqi regular forces, the Iraqi Defence Force, includes the sort of ethical training that Australian soldiers rely on as well. So that it does involve training about rules of engagement, about proper conduct, internationally acceptable conduct in the theatre of war. Secondly, Labor has always had, as part of our conditions in this area, that if we have evidence that the Iraqi Government is not behaving in an inclusive way, if the sectarian conflict escalates again, if the Iraqi Army is not behaving in a way that is acceptable to Australia, for example, if they were engaging improperly with militias, it would be - it is important for us to say as a country, these are our red lines.

SPEERS: And they haven't tripped those yet as far as you are concerned?

PLIBERSEK: Well, based on the information we have at this stage, we are satisfied that our conditions have been met. But I don't say this in a way that is open-ended. Of course we always support our defence personnel when they are overseas. But we need to continue to examine this mission to make sure that it is at the request of the Iraqi Government, with the support of the Iraqi people, to protect them, to assist the Iraqi Army to protect its own people on its own soil and it has to be that the Iraqi Army take the lead in this fight.

SPEERS: We were just talking a few minutes ago to Tom Switzer, a critic of this whole deployment. He makes the point this is mission creep. This is exactly what Daesh or ISIL want to happen. They want to see the US and its allies engaging more and more in this conflict. That’s what’s going to attract more people to their cause.

PLIBERSEK: Tom was a very strong and articulate critic of the 2003 war. I think he has consistently, over many years, raised some very valid concerns about mission creep and about, frankly, about the disaster that the 2003 Iraqi war was. I'm not surprised that Tom and many people like him want reassurance that it's not Australians engaging on the front line, that we are there in a humanitarian and training capacity until the Iraqi Army can stand up and protect its own people on its own soil. It's an international force. It's not a US led coalition of the willing as 2003 was. We will be one of four countries engaged in similar training of the Iraqi Defence Force, so the US of course, Spain and Germany, are also committing to a similar mission to the one that the Government has described today. So it has some important differences from 2003. But it is an extremely serious commitment and it's not something that we agree to lightly or that we agree to without conditions. We have explained our conditions and we will continue to monitor Australia's usefulness in this area and I hope we will see a very speedy end to our engagement there.

SPEERS: Now, let me ask you finally on domestic politics, the dumping of the GP co-payment today. Do you welcome the Prime Minister going so far as to say that it is dead, buried and cremated?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I think he said that about industrial relations in the past too and we have seen the resurrection, the zombie like resurrection of some of these policies again and again.

SPEERS: Not WorkChoices though.

PLIBERSEK: No, it is WorkChoices in everything but name and the attack on penalty rates and so on.

SPEERS: They haven't done anything on penalty rates, to be fair.

PLIBERSEK: They want to. They have been sending their backbenchers to soften people up –

SPEERS: They have said that they won't.

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, anyway, we will talk about the GP Tax. The Prime Minister said 53 times that this is necessary policy. I don't believe he's dumped this because he has listened. I think he has dumped it because he can't get it through the Parliament. And the thing that irritates me so very much about this argument is this notion that we have got an unaffordable health system. We spend, if you look at the OECD, we spend about in the middle of the pack. But for that, we get much better value. We are close to the top of the pack on life expectancy.

SPEERS: So we don't need to make any efforts to make it more sustainable?

PLIBERSEK: We spend about average but we get much better results for it and of course we have to make efforts to keep it sustainable. That's why when I was Health Minister I put a means test in place for the private health insurance rebate at a quarter of a million dollars for families –

SPEERS: Should we go further down that path?

PLIBERSEK: Just let me finish this point. Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott opposed billions of dollars of savings by asking people who were already going to buy private health insurance not to receive a government subsidy. The other billions of dollars of savings that I did as Health Minister was paying less for generic medicines when they came off patent, guess what, Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott opposed that as well. So they are not sincere in their efforts to reform the health system. The health system can always do with improvements. But the idea that we have an unsustainable system is wrong and someone should ask Tony Abbott and Sussan Ley - is it a good thing if Medicare bulk billing rates go up or is it a good thing if they go down because the answer you would get from this Prime Minister and this Health Minister is it's good when bulk billing rates go down. Well, that is the absolute opposite to what Labor believes and it is the absolute opposite to what the Australian people want.

SPEERS: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for that.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you David.



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TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Parliament House, Thursday 26 February 2015

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Subject: Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Of course, it was disappointing this week to hear that the most recent legal case run by the legal teams of Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran in Indonesia was unsuccessful. But I am pleased to hear this morning that the Australian Prime Minister has managed to speak to the Indonesian President about this case. Of course, Labor welcomes any effort made by the Australian Government to contact the President of Indonesia or the Government of Indonesia and plead for clemency for these two young men. Of course we admit, and they admit, that they have done a very wrong thing, and we understand the Indonesian legal system requires a tough punishment. But Labor believes that the death penalty is always wrong, wherever it happens and to whomever it is applied.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe the Abbott Government is doing enough?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s very important now that government and non-government actors are prepared to contact their colleagues in Indonesia. So there’s been a lot of work behind the scenes, bipartisan work - the Government and Opposition working together, the Attorneys General have written to the Indonesian Attorney-General, I’ve written with the Foreign Minister to the Indonesian Foreign Minister. We hear now that the Prime Minister has directly spoken with the President. For many months this contact has been happening behind the scenes and more recently it’s been happening more publicly. I think it’s very important that we continue do it in a respectful way that understands the Indonesian position on their legal system but nevertheless makes the strong point that Australians oppose the death penalty wherever and to whomever it’s applied and certainly for our own citizens we are pleading clemency.

JOURNALIST: Do you see any avenues left for them to pursue?

PLIBERSEK: Well there is still talk from the legal team of the young men that they will be able to appeal this most recent decision. And my view is while there’s life there’s hope, and it’s important we continue to use all these formal and informal avenues to make contact with the Indonesians.


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MEDIA RELEASE - Triggs Attack Compromises UN Human Rights Council Bid

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Labor is concerned the Abbott Government’s disgraceful attack on the President of the Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, is not only improper treatment of an independent statutory office holder, but will also compromise Australia’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

The Human Rights Council is the UN body tasked with promoting and protecting human rights. In considering Australia’s bid for a seat, Labor believes the international community will take an extremely dim view of the Abbott Government’s political interference with an independent statutory office holder undertaking her role in accordance with the law.

It was revealed in Senate hearings yesterday that the Abbott Government offered alternative work to Professor Triggs in an apparent inducement to give up her statutory role as President, which has a five year fixed term.

Professor Triggs is an eminent international lawyer of great integrity. Since her appointment in 2012 she has carried out her role with distinction.

Earlier this month, in response to the Abbott Government’s criticism of Professor Triggs, a UN working group urged Australia to “respect the rule of law and the international system for the protection of human rights by according the Australian Human Rights Commission and its President the respect that its role as the national human rights institution and her personal authority and high reputation require.”

The International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights has also raised serious concerns about the Australian Government’s behaviour in a letter sent to Prime Minister Abbott.

The former Labor Government announced Australia’s candidature for the UN Human Rights Council in June 2013.



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TRANSCRIPT - ABC Capital Hill, Wednesday 25 February 2015

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GREG JENNETT, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, Australia seems to be edging towards an additional troop commitment in Iraq, perhaps a training mission. How much has Labor been brought into the loop on planning for that?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well we haven't received a briefing about the proposal that John Key spoke about in the New Zealand Parliament.

JENNETT: Would you have expected one?

PLIBERSEK: We would expect a briefing before any decision's made. The Foreign Minister and Chief of Defence have both said today that no final decision has been made and we would certainly expect a briefing before any final decision is made and we would hope also that the PM would tell the Australian people about it through the Parliament, the Australian Parliament which is of course the best place to detail such an announcement.

JENNETT: As you've indicated, the trigger point for the renewed discussion that we're having right now has been John Key's statement in the beehive. Did it surprise you that it came from that side of the Tasman without being matched by a timetable in Canberra as well?

PLIBERSEK: I can't really understand why the New Zealand PM has said that it's likely that this mission will proceed and the Australian Government is saying that no decision's been made yet.

JENNETT: Now you're putting down an expectation that this should be when it's ready to be announced, announced in the Parliament. Do you think there's some risk that the PM might go to New Zealand and announce it from there and if so would that be the wrong call?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it's always a better thing with an issue of such importance to talk to the Australian public about it and the best place to talk to the Australian public is through the Parliament because elected representatives of the Australian population have an opportunity then to consider and respond. I think nevertheless when an announcement's made, if such an announcement's made, Labor will apply the considerations that we've brought into play in supporting the previous deployment and that would be that we support the request from the Iraqi Government for help to defend itself but on certain criteria. And that includes that there's no ground troops committed, that this is only within the borders of Iraq and not going into Syria, that it's only for so long as the Iraqi Government needs our help - until it can defend its own people - and it's only while the Iraqi Government and armed forces behave in a way that's acceptable to Australia.

JENNETT: So they're the tests that you would apply.Are you bothered at all by at least the perception of mission creep that we're going now into a training role, it seems, that goes above and beyond advise and assist? What next?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I can't answer that question because we haven't been briefed. And that's why it is important first of all that if any decisions are made the Opposition receives a full briefing and that we have the opportunity to have a debate in Australia about the parameters of our engagement. Of course we want to support the troops that are there doing such a fine job at the moment, fighting Daesh, which is a very harmful organisation. There's no question that it is right that the international community in response to a call from the Government of Iraq engages with our responsibility to protect, that we do support the Iraqi people to be able to defend themselves against some mass atrocity crimes and the threat of more mass atrocity crimes. The question is the parameters for that engagement, how far it goes and what our exit strategy would be.

JENNETT: And apart from the test that you've already outlined to us, what about numbers? Does Labor get caught up in whether it's 100, whether it's 200 or if the number came in as high as 500? Are there limits you would look to apply around that?

PLIBERSEK: Well, again, I don't think it's right to speculate about hypotheticals. I think we need to wait for a full briefing from our defence personnel about the appropriate level of engagement and why.


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TRANSCRIPT - ABC Radio National Breakfast, Tuesday 24 February 2015

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SUBJECTs: National Security, Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran, Newspoll, Leaked Liberal Emails.


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


KELLY: I’m well, thank you. Tanya Plibersek, the Government’s looking at changes as we heard yesterday, that could render some Australian citizens stateless. Is Labor satisfied such a radical move is necessary?

PLIBERSEK: Well unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of detail in the speech yesterday. We’ll very carefully consider anything that the Government puts to us but it’s not really clear at the moment what exactly the proposal is. I think, Fran, you would’ve seen the confusion from the Immigration Minister last night, Peter Dutton, on the 7.30 Report - wasn’t actually able to answer these questions about how any of these measures would take effect and what would happen if you had a dual national whose Australian citizenship was revoked and then the country of their original citizenship wouldn’t take them back. Peter Dutton wasn’t able to answer so obviously we don’t know the details, the details haven’t been described yet by the Government.

KELLY: In theory though, how does Labor feel about the notion of winding back rights like this, Bill Shorten said yesterday there should always be a strong presumption in favour of the liberty of individual citizens. But obviously, in certain times, difficult decisions need to be made, but in theory, what’s your view of either stripping someone of their Australian citizenship or for just a sole Australian citizen, winding back or curtailing the privileges so significantly?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t think we should speculate about measures that haven’t been described yet, but let me talk about the principles that have been applied in the past-

KELLY: Well they have been described in those terms.

PLIBERSEK: Well let me talk about the principles that we would apply as we have in the past. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Security and Intelligence has legislation presented to it, it goes through it in a great deal of detail, it’s got another tranche of legislation before it at the moment with data retention and the principles that we apply are that we want to give our security and intelligence agencies the powers they need to keep Australians safe, but we don’t want to give away the rights and liberties of Australians, the rights and liberties that make us the great country that we are. So it’s a balancing act there. If there is a necessity-

KELLY: Is the tipping point needing to be changed though, as the Prime Minister said on Sunday?

PLIBERSEK: I think- just let me finish on this. If there is a necessity for greater powers, they have to come with greater transparency and greater accountability and there are opportunities to increase the accountability and transparency when you’re talking about issues like data retention and like the measures that the Prime Minister was describing yesterday. We’re not going to give away people’s individual rights and privacies without expecting something in return which is the transparency and accountability that goes with any additional measures.

KELLY: Labor’s response yesterday was that it’s willing to consider all measures the Government puts up. Will you consider, have you got any inclination to agree with the Prime Minister’s assessment that more Muslim leaders should follow the leader, Western leaders, and speak out more loudly against extremism or at least describe Islam as a religion of peace and mean it?


KELLY: What did you think of that comment?

PLIBERSEK: I think it was the weakest part of the speech yesterday. I think Australian Muslim leaders have been unequivocal in their condemnation of Daesh, or ISIS or ISIL or whatever you want to call it - they’ve been unequivocal in their condemnation and it gets pretty annoying to be a strong voice for peace consistently, all the time, and have it unacknowledged in the way the Prime Minister did yesterday. And I should say also-

KELLY: Is it annoying- go on.

PLIBERSEK: I think David Irvine has said, and many other law enforcement people have told us that their greatest source of information, the most important source of information for them has been people in the Arabic speaking community who overhear something, who are worried about people that they know being radicalised. They are- the Arabic speaking and Muslim communities in Australia have been on the front line of defending Australia against these potential threats and I think that it’s important to acknowledge that and it’s important to say we are in partnership here.

KELLY: Given that, was it wise for the Prime Minister to so publicly accuse some Muslim preachers of not doing enough to preach Islam as a religion of peace or counterproductive?

PLIBERSEK: I think it certainly risked being counterproductive but I’m certainly very happy to say, and the Labor Party has said, Bill Shorten said yesterday, that we know that the partnership that we’ve had with the Muslim communities in Australia has been critical to the disruption of potential terrorist threats up till now.

KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast, it’s nineteen minutes to eight. Our guest is Deputy Labor Leader and Shadow Foreign Minister, Tanya Plibersek. Can I move on to the issue of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the two Australians on death row in Bali. Their lawyers are back in court today hoping to force President Widowdo to consider their cases for clemency, but the Indonesian authorities say it’s likely the pair will be sent this week to the prison island getting ready for their execution. What’s the latest you know about hope for these two? Or is hope running out now?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t think you can say hope is running out. I think it’s very important that this legal challenge be allowed to run its course and certainly we’ll be communicating with the Indonesian Government to ensure and to urge that this latest legal challenge be allowed to run its course. I have been in contact with the families of the young men and with their legal team and I’ll remain in contact with them. I think while there’s life there’s hope. I think it’s important that the Australian Government is consistent in its communications with the Indonesian Government saying that we would expect that this legal challenge be allowed to run its course.

KELLY: In terms of that, the Prime Minister’s comments last week reminding Indonesia of the $1 billion of tsunami aid a decade ago has unleashed, as we saw over the weekend, a protest campaign in Indonesia #CoinsForAustralia. Given that reaction was that the wrong call by the Prime Minister? Are you worried it’s harmed the chances of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s very important Fran now that we watch every word we say because these two young men are facing a very serious penalty and I wouldn’t want to worsen it by any loose language myself. I think what the Prime Minister intended to say is that Australia and Indonesia have a long and strong relationship and that we hope Indonesia would, as we do, remember and value, the length, and strength of that friendship.

KELLY: Tanya Plibersek if I could move to domestic politics, some sobering news for Labor in today’s Newspoll. Your primary support has fallen three points, your two party-preferred lead has narrowed to six points. Bill Shorten has lost ground as preferred Prime Minister but still in the lead. All this following a spill motion against Tony Abbott and division in the Liberal Party. What is wrong with Labor that the voters seem to be losing interest in you too? It does suggest you’re not giving them what they want.

PLIBERSEK: I’m not sure you can say what’s wrong with Labor when we’re still in the lead.

KELLY: Yeah but you’ve lost ground when the Liberal Party has been at its most divided it’s been in eighteen months, or years.

PLIBERSEK: I think we’ve said all along that the polling, of course it’s of interest to people, but it’s background noise in the work that we do down here in Parliament and in our electorates.  So polls go up and down what matters is what people do on election day.

KELLY: Do you also take notice of the fact that in this Newspoll voters seem to put Tony Abbott way ahead of Bill Shorten on the questions of who’s better to handle the economy and who’s best to handle national security. Two key measures for the electorate. Is it time Labor did something about that and maybe got some policy out in front of the voters.

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the greatest irony of course is that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey should be thought to manage the economy well. In this Budget last May –

KELLY: That’s the point isn’t it, given the unpopularity of this Budget, Labor is still marked down for its handling of the economy in comparison.

PLIBERSEK: And so far they’ve doubled the deficit, made debt unlimited, they continue to break promises like no new taxes, no cuts to pensions, no cuts to health and education. We’ll continue to campaign on those issues and of course as time goes by as the election comes closer we’ll give more detail about our policies.

KELLY: And just finally leaked emails from the Liberal Party, so not really your business in a sense, the Federal Treasurer Phil Higgins and demanding something be done about the conflict of interest he says is there with Peta Credlin and Brian Loughnane. Peta Credlin, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, she’s not an elected member of Parliament she’s got quite a lot of heat and attention, do you have some sympathy for her in that position?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t think that the fact that she’s married to the Federal Director is anything for us to be commenting on or to have a view on. I think people are perfectly able to be professional at work and carry out roles that might be complementary or in conflict. I think what the leaked emails show is that Tony Abbott has a real problem with his party. His backbench are revolting, his frontbench are now revolting. You hear stories about ministers who’ve said they would have changed their view if they’d had the opportunity to vote a different way now in a spill motion. There’s seven of them who say that they’d vote a different way on a spill motion. These emails, the substance of them isn’t important, the fact that they’re being leaked is what’s important.

KELLY: Tanya Plibersek thank you very much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Fran.


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TRANSCRIPT - Sky News PM Agenda, Wednesday 18 February 2015

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Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

DAVID LIPSON, PRESENTER: Well, for the latest on the Bali Nine ringleaders on death row, I'm joined now by the Shadow Foreign Minister, Tanya Plibersek. Thanks very much for your time. You have stayed in very close contact with the Government throughout this. What is the latest you are hearing?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, not just from the Government, David, but from contacts within the legal team and supporters of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. There does appear to have been a delay in transporting these two men to the island where the sentence was to be carried out. Of course, any delay is a good thing. It gives the legal team a greater opportunity to fully test all of the avenues that are available to them.

LIPSON: Does that delay mean the pair won't be executed this month, as far as you understand?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I can only go from the same reports that you’re reading. It certainly does increase hope that the carrying out of the sentence isn’t imminent.

LIPSON: The Prime Minister today issued what many are seeing as his toughest warning yet to Indonesia, where he says that Australia will feel grievously let down if these executions go ahead. He has also reminded Indonesia about the relief in the form of $1 billion in aid after the Boxing Day tsunami that Australia gave Indonesia. He is clearly throwing everything at trying to save these two men. But in your view, it is okay to reference the tsunami and the aid that came after that?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I'm sure what the Prime Minister meant to say is that Australia and Indonesia have been good friends for many, many decades and it is a difficult time at the moment. We are using all of our diplomatic means, formal and informal contacts, around the clock trying to assist these two young men. I think remembering that we have been good friends, Indonesia and Australia, for many decades is part of that.

LIPSON: There has, though, been, particularly in the last week, a whole lot more, as it is termed, megaphone diplomacy. We have always been told that that is not helpful. Why has that begun, from both sides of politics, mind you?

PLIBERSEK: I think we have been taking that advice of diplomats all the way along for years now. Every time there has been a contact at a senior level between the Australian government and the Indonesian government the case of these two young men has been raised. Over the course of five Prime Ministerships, I think it is, five Australian Prime Ministers have raised this with two successive Indonesian Presidents. There has been behind the scenes efforts and quiet diplomacy going on the whole of that time. That has intensified recently because of the end of the moratorium or informal moratorium on the death penalty that we saw under the previous President of Indonesia. So efforts have intensified and some of those efforts have certainly become more public in recent times because it has appeared that the carrying out of the sentence was imminent. I think it is important, even when we are being more public in our urging of Indonesia to show mercy to these two young men, that we continue to remember that the best approach is one that is respectful of Indonesia and its right to make its own laws, but pleads mercy for two young men that Australia believes have fully reformed - are terrific examples of the Indonesian gaol system allowing people to reform and turn their lives around. And we have also said, of course, that it really does weaken Indonesia's argument internationally for its own citizens on death row if they are carrying out the death penalty within Indonesia. So efforts have become more public in recent times but I think it is wise to continue to make those diplomatic approaches in a way that is respectful and consistent about Australia's opposition to the death penalty wherever it occurs.

LIPSON: I know that you have had some direct contact with particularly the families of the two men. Without breaching any privacy, can you give us a sense of how they are doing and also, if you know, how the two men on death row are doing?

PLIBERSEK: Look, the families are devastated. I mean, how could you be anything else? They know that these young men have done the wrong thing but after 10 years in an Indonesian gaol where they have really made huge efforts to turn their lives around, and to influence other prisoners to turn their lives around, to then have this sentence carried out just - you know, they feel like they are having their loved ones ripped from their arms. You know, they are inconsolable. I can't talk about how Andrew and Myuran are doing from any direct contact with them but I'm in direct contact with their families, their legal teams and so on and they are trying to keep their spirits up in the most difficult circumstances.

LIPSON: Tanya Plibersek, the Shadow Foreign Minister, we do keep our fingers crossed. Thank you so much for joining us this afternoon on PM Agenda.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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TRANSCRIPT - Sky News AM Agenda, Tuesday 17 February 2015

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Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Beheading of Coptic Christians, Copenhagen attacks, Malcolm Turnbull

KIERAN GILBERT, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time. In the words of one of the lawyers for the two members of the Bali Nine, the court proceedings in Indonesia remain live, they remain a possible course of action, but the Attorney-General keeps threatening to move them and proceed with the execution. What’s your reaction to these developments to where things stand at the moment?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I have spoken to the legal team of these two young men and they do believe that they still have some legal processes that need to be completed. I think of course that we need to go through every possible legal channel before the young men are moved.

GILBERT: What’s the likelihood of that, given the comments out from the Indonesian government, the Attorney-General on behalf of President Joko Widodo, it doesn’t look promising, it hasn’t for many days now?

PLIBERSEK: Well we continue, both the Government, the Opposition, former Prime Ministers as you’ve identified today, many, many prominent Australians continue to be in contact with their contacts in Indonesia, urging that either mercy be shown to these two young men or at the very least, that the legal processes that are currently still live be allowed to run their course.

GILBERT: What do you say to those, and some Australians share this view as expressed even last night on national television, that these individuals knew what the punishment was before they undertook this crime and that the Indonesia law has to be respected in that sense?

PLIBERSEK: Of course we understand people having that view and I understand particularly people who say that Indonesia is a sovereign nation and it has its legal processes and we wouldn’t expect people to seek to interfere in Australian legal processes. What I would say is that after ten years in jail, these two young men are a terrific example of the reform that can happen within the Indonesia jail system and it would be beneficial for Indonesia to claim credit for the reform of these two young men, to use them as an example of what can happen when people are given the opportunity of a second chance.

GILBERT: While some members of the Bali Nine, the- I should say, my apologies, the Bali bombers, Amrozi, Muklas and Samudra were executed. A number of those involved, including Abu Bakar Bashir, weren’t, I guess this comparison comes up a bit and this is, you know, part of the reaction, such a fierce reaction in Australia to this imminent execution I guess.

PLIBERSEK: Look I think Australians were deeply wounded by the Bali bombing, losing so many of our own people at that time. But even at that time, there were Australians saying that the death penalty shouldn’t be enacted for the Bali bombers that were caught. So I think you actually need to have a principled opposition to the death penalty wherever it occurs and whenever it occurs, and in fact the Indonesian government is arguing for its own citizens on death row in other countries. I believe it weakens the argument of the Indonesian government for its own citizens to be shown clemency if they’re not prepared to show clemency to the citizens of other nations. And I’ve made that point directly to the Indonesians that if they want to see mercy for their own people, if they go to other countries and argue for mercy for their own people, they need to have a principled position against the death penalty for citizens of other nations and indeed for Indonesian citizens within Indonesia.

GILBERT: It’s hypocritical, isn’t it, otherwise? Their current stance is absolutely hypocritical.

PLIBERSEK: Well I think you can say it certainly weakens the argument.

GILBERT: What about the Government’s reaction, I know that there’s been strong support for what the Government’s done thus far, you and Julie Bishop have been in close contact over this matter, what about if sadly these two young, rehabilitated men are executed via firing squad, two of our own citizens, there’s got to be some diplomatic response, doesn’t there?

PLIBERSEK: Yes, and I think the time for having those discussions is well down the track. I think now our focus has to be on making every effort to save the lives of these two young men.

GILBERT: Should the Federal Police have to answer for some of this as well, given that they tipped off the Indonesian authorities when they could’ve picked them up back in Australia?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s unquestionable that it would’ve been better to pick these young people up when they returned to Australia. And I would’ve been quite happy for them to do long jail terms in Australia. They’ve done something very, seriously wrong. It was a large quantity of drugs and they should’ve received serious sentences, but it plainly would’ve been preferable for them to be caught in Australia, dealt with in our Australian judicial system, served time in an Australian gaol and hopefully be rehabilitated here as they have been in Indonesia.

GILBERT: What’s your sense, do you think the Federal Police recognise that mistake?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I don’t think it’s productive to have that conversation now. I think our focus really has to be on all of the measures, formal, informal, diplomatic, business, all of the channels we can use to continue to plead for the lives of these young men.

GILBERT: What about boycotting Bali as a destination, that’s been discussed on social media and elsewhere that Australians should boycott Bali as a tourist destination. Your thoughts on that?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s, you know, it’s up to individuals to make up their own holiday plans but when this issue was first raised, I really thought at the time that the decision makers in Jakarta who are proceeding with carrying out these sentences, I frankly don’t think that they’re paying much attention to the livelihood of your ordinary Balinese person. I should also say that any Australian who has travelled to Bali would know that there’s a great deal of mutual affection between the Balinese people and Australians. I think- I certainly don’t believe that a boycott of Bali would make a great deal of difference to decision makers in Jakarta. I don’t think their lives would be affected at all by that.

GILBERT: Okay, let’s move on to a couple of other issues internationally. This shocking incident, beheading of 21 Coptic Christians, Egyptians, by ISIS sympathisers in Libya. Now this has brought Egypt into the fray- attacking this group in Libya. What’s your reaction to this story? Is there any, I suppose, benefit in having Egypt as part of this fight despite the horrific circumstances under which this has taken place?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s very important to say firstly that this is an appalling crime, and that Coptic Christians have been persecuted in a, for a long time, in many different scenarios, in a number of countries in the region. It’s very important that the Coptic community here in Australia know Australians stand with them and are appalled by what’s happened in Libya. Egypt is a potentially very important figure in the fight against DAESH in the Middle East and I think it is important to have Egypt engaged constructively.

GILBERT: And finally to Copenhagen and the shootings there, another reminder of the risk and the very real threat of lone wolf terror attacks, as if we needed any reminder.

PLIBERSEK: Again, an appalling attack and I think it does raise these complex questions of how do you predict a person or a group of people might be planning something like this when they’re not part of an organised network. I think it’s very important that we continue to give support and resources to our security and intelligence organisations to keep Australians safe and that we continue to work with international partners to work out how we might best predict the type of people who might be inclined to this sort of attack.

GILBERT: Finally, on a lighter note to finish our interview this morning, Tanya Plibersek. Your regular sparring partner, Malcolm Turnbull, last night was on the ABC, generated a fair bit of response to his appearance, I suppose everything he does at the moment generates a reaction, but I guess it must be a relief for Labor to have the speculation on the other side of the fence for a change after the last few years?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think certainly Malcolm’s been biding his time and been building his support amongst the backbenchers in the Liberal Party for whatever it is he’s got planned. I guess what I would say is whether it’s Malcolm Turnbull or Scott Morrison or Julie Bishop or any of the others who think they’ve got a shot at leading the Liberal Party, the problem’s not the salesman, the problem’s the product. And all of those same people sat around the Cabinet table and agreed to the poisonous and unfair Budget that’s turned so many Australians off the current Government. Unless they can articulate a policy difference, rather than just, you know, a different way of expressing the same policies, I don’t know that they’re going to make that many inroads. Australians have rejected the Budget because it’s unfair, it’s full of broken promises and it hurts ordinary people. Unless they’re going to chuck the measures that are detailed in the Budget, I don’t know that the actual salesperson is going to have much of an easier time than the current salesperson.

GILBERT: Okay, Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time this morning, appreciate it.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks, Kieran.


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TRANSCRIPT - ABC News 24, Monday 16 February 2015

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Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

KIM LANDERS, PRESENTER: Joining us now is Opposition Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek. Tanya Plibersek, do you hold out any hope that these executions can be prevented?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Of course I do, Kim. I think while there’s life, there’s hope. And for years now, successive governments have raised the case of these two young men, previously with SBY and now with President Jokowi. Those efforts have obviously intensified in recent months and weeks as it has become apparent that the carrying out of the sentences might be imminent.

LANDERS: Do you agree with the Foreign Minister’s decision, Julie Bishop’s decision, not to fly to Indonesia to try to personally lobby for these two men?

PLIBERSEK: I think the most important thing to do is take the advice of our skilled diplomats on the ground in Indonesia. A lot of these efforts have been behind closed doors, behind the scenes, they’ve been informal approaches at many different levels, through government to government relations, Australian businesses to Indonesian businesses, right across the broad spectrum of different ways of trying to influence an outcome here. The people who are on the ground in Indonesia, experienced diplomats, have the best insight into what would help and what would potentially be harmful.

TONY EASTLEY, PRESENTER: This has been going on for years, you mentioned that just then, it seems to me that the pressure has only been wound up in the last five to six months. Was it a mistake for that to be so short, if you like, a campaign? Should this have been tried years ago?

PLIBERSEK: I think most people would say that the previous president SBY had something like an informal moratorium on carrying out death sentences. Certainly there hadn’t been any for some time and it seems that the new president has a different attitude, he’s made it a point of some pride I think to carry out these sentences that have been long delayed and so of course efforts have intensified more recently as it’s become apparent that the sentences might be carried out.

EASTLEY: But it’s a case of too little, too late though, isn’t it?

PLIBERSEK: I think what you have to take into account, Tony, is sometimes by making an issue of something, you really solidify the position that you’re trying to change and I think that may have been counterproductive in the past. Up until now, a lot of our efforts in recent months have also been behind the scenes for that reason. But as we talk to our diplomats now, as we talk to the legal teams that are representing Andrew and Myuran and their families and supporters, a conscious decision really has been made to be more public in the approaches that we’re making.

LANDERS: How strong, if these executions go ahead, how strong does Australia’s response need to be?

PLIBERSEK: I think our response to the death penalty should always be strong and consistent. We should always say that Australia stands against the death penalty for anyone, anywhere. Whether it’s Australians in Indonesia, Americans in America, Chinese citizens in China, our opposition must be principled. I think any other discussion should be left to a later date. I think the most important-

LANDERS: But there already is some- sorry.

PLIBERSEK: I just think the most important thing now is to really focus on the best interests of these two young men and talking about- anything that sounds like retaliation is a big mistake right now.

LANDERS: Even so, the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, she has already canvassed the possibility of Australians considering travel boycotts to Bali, for example. She’s also said everything’s on the table, whether it be withdrawing diplomatic representation while no decisions have been made. Do you have a sense of what the official response needs to be from the Australian Government to express its displeasure?

PLIBERSEK: Well certainly we need to be thinking those things through and discussing them but I think any type of megaphone diplomacy is a big mistake at the moment. I would also say on the Bali boycotts, I don’t think that that’s a particularly effective threat to make. I think the elite decision makers in Jakarta are really a long way from the livelihood of a taxi driver in Bali and Australians have a great deal of fondness and respect for the people of Bali and I think that’s reciprocated.

EASTLEY: So there wouldn’t be any Labor bipartisan support for a boycott?

PLIBERSEK: I don’t think it would make any difference, Tony, I really don’t. If I thought it would make a difference, it would be a different matter.

LANDERS: Are you comfortable that no stone has been left unturned in trying to spare the lives of these two men? Whether it be from the Australian Government, our diplomats, our business community, even just members of the public.

PLIBERSEK: So I’m in contact with our diplomats, former diplomats, business figures, non-government figures, the legal team of the two young men, the families and friends and supporters of the two young men, the Mercy Campaign and I have said to all of them that if they feel that any stone has been left unturned, they should raise it with me.  And I have myself raised different approaches, new approaches with the Foreign Minister and she’s been very open to that. There is an enormous amount of cooperation with the common aim of having this sentence commuted - with having mercy shown to these two young men. I believe the best thing we can do at the moment is take, as closely as we can, advice from diplomats and former diplomats and the legal representations of the young men because those people are in the best position to know the full range of things that have been attempted. A lot of the approaches that have been made actually haven’t been made in public for very good reason.

LANDERS: Had you heard about these allegations, for example, that have been raised today about some sort of bribes being sought by the judges who did sentence these men to the death penalty?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course I’ve read what you’ve read in the newspapers. I would say that Indonesia’s made great strides in recent years with its own Independent Commission Against Corruption style body that has actually gone after some very senior political figures, there have been convictions for corruption in recent years that wouldn’t have happened years ago, so there are more stories coming out over time. It is important that when an allegation like this is made, all of the legal processes have the opportunity to be exhausted because the very last thing we’d want is any uncertainty.

EASTLEY: Tanya Plibersek, just finally, are there any, there’s still questions to be answered about how this all came about, and that is that the AFP was tipped off about this smuggling ring?

PLIBERSEK: Yes, it’s another one of those things I think is best discussed sometime down the track. We would-

EASTLEY: But it needs to be discussed, you say?

PLIBERSEK: Look it would obviously have been much, much better if this whole group of nine people were arrested coming back into Australia. It would’ve been better if they were dealt with in the Australian legal system. I have, I’m sure- I’ve been contacted by a lot of people saying that they would’ve liked to have seen these young people convicted and indeed serving long gaol sentences in Australia, but here in Australia.

LANDERS: Tanya Plibersek, we thank you very much for joining us today.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Kim, thank you, Tony.


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STATEMENT - Message in Support of the Mercy Campaign

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I commend the tireless work of the Mercy Campaign in support of clemency for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Your petition of more than 150,000 signatures shows that Australians stand with you, shoulder to shoulder.

These two young men have done the wrong thing.  They have broken the law, and deserve to be punished.

But the Opposition is united with the Government in urging mercy for Andrew and Myuran.

We oppose the death penalty, for every offence, for everyone, everywhere.

Andrew and Myuran have demonstrated genuine remorse.  Over many years they have made enormous efforts to rehabilitate themselves, and to help reform other prisoners.  They deserve an opportunity to continue repaying their debt to society.

Indonesia pleads mercy for many of its own citizens on death row overseas.  Australia only pleads the same.

Our thoughts are with Andrew, Myuran, their families, and friends.

While there is life there is hope.  We will not give up.


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