THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC RADIO NATIONAL BREAKFAST WITH FRAN KELLY
THURSDA, 26 JULY 2018
SUBJECTS: By-elections; Emma Husar; My Health Record.
FRAN KELLY, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Labor Leader, she joins me in the Breakfast studio fresh from the hustings in Longman. Tanya Plibersek thanks very much for joining us.
TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It's great to be with you.
KELLY: You've spent a lot of time in the last few weeks, well quite a few weeks, campaigning in Longman and Braddon. Will Labor win those seats on Saturday?
PLIBERSEK: Well they're both very difficult seats for us. They're both very close. We've only held Longman once in about the past twenty years before Susan won it against expectations last time, and Braddon is a seat that has changed hands about seven times since it was established in 1955, so they're tough seats but we are confident that we've got the best candidates and we're confident that we've got the best policies. The response we're getting on the ground is very, very good because we're talking about health and education, jobs with decent pay and conditions, the things that matter in peoples' lives not tax cuts for big business and multi-millionaires.
KELLY: There's certainly are challenges for Labor but there would be challenges in any by-election. Bill Shorten says you're the underdog. Why? Why would you be the underdog? I mean it's an indictment isn't it given the average swing against the government of the day in by-elections is 5.5 per cent on a primary vote and 3.8 per cent two party preferred.
PLIBERSEK: These are two of our most marginal seats so Longman is about a 0.8 percent margin, I think and Braddon is about 2.2 per cent.
KELLY: But by-elections for 98 years...
PLIBERSEK: We won them both on preferences last time and it's a bit gutless isn't it of Malcolm Turnbull to be pointing to this when he won't even stand candidates in Perth and Fremantle. Now Perth and Fremantle are seats that the Liberals could win with a good candidate and a good campaign. Why isn't Malcolm Turnbull even prepared to give people a chance to vote for a Liberal candidate in those seats? He's already lost those seats because he didn't bother turning up. What about Mayo, a seat that has been a jewel in the crown for the Liberal party for generations, frankly generations of the Downer family. How can Malcolm Turnbull be struggling in Mayo?
KELLY: But how can Labor be struggling in a by-election? What does it say about support for Labor nationally?
PLIBERSEK: It says that these are two very tough marginal seats where we've got the best candidates and the best policies but we are working against the fact that they're seats that have most commonly been held by the LNP in Queensland or by the Liberals in Tasmania.
KELLY: You're also working against the fact that One Nation is polling in Longman, let's look at that. Polls show up to 18 per cent in the seat, One Nation preferences will flow to the LNP's Trevor Ruthenberg this time, support for Pauline Hanson personally I've been told is approaching rock star levels in some parts of the seat. Here's some local voices, that went to air, some vox pops from 7.30 the other night, let's have a listen.
KELLY: People disillusioned with the majors, Pauline is honest, what does that say about the major parties? They don't think you're honest? Isn't that the flip side of that?
PLIBERSEK: I tell you it's extraordinary that people think Pauline Hanson's on their side, especially if they're pensioners.
KELLY: But they do.
PLIBERSEK: She's voted for pension cuts; she's voted for cuts to family tax benefits; she has voted for cuts to their children's schools, in fact she has voted with the Government more than 90 per cent of the time on significant pieces of legislation. She may as well be in the Liberal party because she is voting at every opportunity to hurt the same people that the Liberal party hurt.
KELLY: But the voters, some voters, are believing her and they're not believing you. What does that say about the disconnect? For your party?
PLIBERSEK: I think we have a bigger challenge when it comes to democracy itself at the moment Fran. I think that there's disillusionment with democracy, major parties, our big institutions not just in Australia but around the world. That's why we're focusing on this campaign and during the general election campaign on the things that have the biggest impact on people's lives - a decent job with fair pay and conditions, a great school for their kids to go to, a hospital when they need it, being able to go to the GP without their credit card. These are the things that make the biggest differences and that's where we'll continue to focus.
KELLY: Bill Shorten has been pretty savage in his take-down of Pauline Hanson, calling her an imposter. We've just heard from you the list of points that Labor has been making at every turn-
PLIBERSEK: A very small section of the list of points you could make against her.
KELLY: -against Pauline Hanson. How much is this about taking out insurance in the event the seat is lost on Saturday? You can just blame it on the fact that One Nation's got the votes?
PLIBERSEK: We're in there fighting every single day because we are confident that we've got the best candidates. But because this campaign matters to send a message to Malcolm Turnbull too. A message that cuts to health and cuts to education won't be tolerated. What sort of Government decides to give a $17 billion tax cut to the big banks during a banking Royal Commission, at the same time that it's cutting $17 billion from our children's schools. People need to send a message to Malcolm Turnbull that what matters in Australia are decent jobs and decent services for Australians to rely on, not tax cuts for the big end of town.
KELLY: You say it's a knife-edge in at least those two seats we've been discussing, if Bill Shorten becomes the first Opposition Leader in 98 years to lost a by-election seat to the Government, why would he be the right person to lead Labor to the next general election where you need a swing? You need to gain seats not lose them. You need a swing towards Labor not against it?
PLIBERSEK: We're not contemplating losing those seats. It's a tough fight, we are fighting up to the very last minute. But Fran, you know the story as well as I do, if we had an election anytime in the last two and half years, any weekend, based on all of the published polls we would have won, and we would have won with a good margin.
KELLY: Yeah but the only poll that counts is the one-
PLIBERSEK: And last election, we picked up 14 seats. We did a lot better than anybody expected us to do. The polling consistently since then has been that we would win any election held any weekend since that last election. We have been strong, we have been united, we have been disciplined, we have been focusing on the policies that matter to improving people's lives. That's because of Bill Shorten's leadership.
KELLY: You are the Deputy Leader, if there is a loss for Labor at any of these by-elections would it be sensible though to at least have a discussion about the leadership?
PLIBERSEK: The last thing we need to be doing is focussing on ourselves. Our responsibility is to the people who rely on Labor governments, who rely on our industrial relations policies that deliver decent quality of life because people have got good pay and conditions at work. Our responsibility is to make sure that we can run a good health system, a good education system, that we can do something about climate change-
KELLY: -But presumably you think your responsibility is to win and gain government?
PLIBERSEK: Of course we need to win. But we will win not by focusing on ourselves but by focusing on the people who need us.
KELLY: Would Labor be in a better position if Anthony Albanese was leader?
PLIBERSEK: Fran, we would have, like I say, would have actually won any election any weekend since the last general election. We won 14 seats at the last election. We are not taking anything for granted. But the idea that what we need to do is start staring at our own navels; people will not forgive us for that. What matters is what we can do for the people who rely on Labor governments.
KELLY: It's quarter to eight on Breakfast. Our guest is Tanya Plibersek she's the Deputy Labor leader. Labor could be facing another by-election in a marginal Sydney seat of Lindsay if Emma Husar quits over the allegations that are out there now, bullying and misuse of her staff. Is that why you are going very softly on this alleged behaviour, because you can't risk her quitting and a by-election?
PLIBERSEK: I don't think we are going softly. We've set up an internal investigation, an independent investigation into these allegations. Of course Emma deserves to have her say and to have these allegations properly investigated. But we've got a duty of care not just to Emma, but also to staff who have made complaints. It's in everybody's interest that we get to the bottom of this quickly and thoroughly.
KELLY: But it seems like this is not a surprise. I've learnt today in one of the papers that a senior Labor staffer was deployed to Emma Husar's office more than a year ago to try and fix her very high staff turnover, 20 staff have moved through four positions in just over two years. Bill Shorten said he wasn't aware of the allegations until last week. Were you? When did you first hear of this?
PLIBERSEK: Well you have to appreciate I don't know the ins and outs of the day to day running of my colleague's offices.
KELLY: No but you're a Sydney MP and this is another Sydney MP and we now know a very senior Labor staffer was put into that office to try and fix the problem. Did you know that?
PLIBERSEK: No I didn't know that but like I say you wouldn't expect me to know the kind-of day to day workings of the staffing in my colleague's offices.
KELLY: Well I might expect you as Deputy Labor Leader to know if there's troubleshooting going on.
PLIBERSEK: I've got to say that I can't run everybody's office day to day. And Fran, I don't know what part of these things is true or not. That's why we're having an independent investigation. Everybody deserves natural justice, everybody deserves due process. We've got a responsibility to be fair to Emma, we've got a responsibility to be fair to the staff who've made complaints. It's in everybody's interests that we're fair to both parties.
KELLY: And can I just ask you finally about the Government's My Health Record? It's still attracting plenty of controversy. You were a Health Minister, you worked on the previous version of this scheme, I think it was called e-Health. Labor wants My Health Record suspended now until the problems can be fixed, the problems of privacy can be fixed. Is that Labor's position?
PLIBERSEK: No, not that the record should be suspended. There have been some calls that the reversing of the opt-out/opt-in position should be slowed down or suspended. I've got an e-Health record. I actually think it's a fantastic project. It will really save lives over time. What concerns me is the implementation by this Government. I also support the Australian Census. I can't believe our Government stuffed up the Census. I support Centrelink but they've stuffed up Centrelink with robocalling. I think the NDIS is a terrific program but they've stuffed up the NDIS implementation-
KELLY: So you've got an e-Health record?
PLIBERSEK: -so the program is not the problem. The problem is the way this Government...every implementation task they've had they've turned to dust.
KELLY: But do you share concerns about patient privacy, about access to these records by police without any kind of warrant?
PLIBERSEK: Yes I do. I share concerns when the Health Minister says the police can't access the record without going to a court but the police say they can, it's a problem. The Government needs to explain what the situation is here. But the project, having an e-Health record, is absolutely vital over time. That's why it's so important that the Government get the implementation of this right. The other concern I have-
KELLY: So until that's fixed should people opt-out?
PLIBERSEK: Well I'm not. It's up to people, people can make their own minds up about this stuff. I'm not opting out. If other people choose to opt-out that is entirely their decision. It's a free country. They should do what they think is in their best interests. For me, being able to check the last time my kids had a tetanus injection anywhere I am at any time, that is a really important benefit.
KELLY: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for joining us.