Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development












SUBJECT / S: Child Abuse Royal Commission; Budget; Indonesia; Thailand


LYNDAL CURTIS: Tanya Plibersek, welcome to Capital Hill. If I can ask you first about a couple of issues of the day. The Government says that it has - it is not taking decisions to limit resources to the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. He has redirected some funding. We don't yet know the full details of what it's done, do we?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: We know that money's been taken from the area that offers legal support to victims making a statement. Now, you've got to really imagine this.  Think about this - these are people who sometimes for the first time in their lives are talking about the things that happened to them in their childhood. In some cases these are incidents that have affected their whole lives and some people would say ruined their lives. The reason that there is support there for those people to make a statement is because it's an incredibly difficult thing to do.

CURTIS: But if that money was not spent, in budgeting terms, you can reallocate it without it necessarily having an effect on that area.

PLIBERSEK: And if this- well, the first thing to say is it should have been made easier for people to access that funding if it’s been a problem. We also need to look into the future. Is there money taken from next year and the year after? It looks as though there is. So, that's not an underspend. That's a deliberate removal of funding from the child abuse Royal Commission - that’s a Royal Commission that victims of institutional child abuse have fought for decades to have established because this is a great tragedy, it is a great sore on Australia's soul that this issue has never properly aired. It's being properly aired but the resources must be there for victims to make their statements.

CURTIS: On the question of the general Budget, the Opposition has supported the deficit levy which has passed the House of Representatives. Are you being careful to pick your fights with this Budget?

PLIBERSEK: We were initially told that the income tax increase was going to hit people on $80,000 a year and we were very worried about that. But at $180,000 a year, it's not such a concern to us. It is important for us to focus on the key issues here, the key issues of fairness and broken promises. Now, on $180,000 a year, we're not so worried about that. It is clearly a broken promise. The Government said no new taxes, no tax increases. It is a tax increase. But our main concerns are things like the cuts to family benefits that will very much hurt middle income families and particularly families with a single bread winner or a sole parent. We're very concerned obviously about the attacks on Medicare. This is a fundamental change to operation of Medicare in this country and issues like higher education, what's being done to our young people, the future being snatched from them.

CURTIS: On your old portfolio, the Indonesian ambassador has come back to Canberra. Does that signal a thawing, a repair in relations between Australia and Indonesia?

PLIBERSEK: Look, it’s a very good step. It is step in the right direction but the fact that we're still talking about this 6 months after the Ambassador was first recalled just shows how much trouble the relationship's in. It is a good thing, I welcome it, but it's a very poor state of affairs when we still don't have a code of conduct signed, we've still got cooperation suspended in dozens of areas. Australian businesses are concerned about the suspended cooperation. We've got senior retired diplomats who are expressing concern about the relationship, we’ve got-

CURTIS: Although this was as a result of the spying allegations which was an activity taken while the Labor Party was in charge.

PLIBERSEK: No it is a result of the way this Government has handled the relationship with Indonesia. They've made statements about what will happen on Indonesian soil and in Indonesian waters without ever talking to the Indonesians. And when these allegations were made about spying, Tony Abbott could have picked up the phone, he could have spoken to the Indonesian President who has long been a good friend to Australia. More recently, Tony Abbott's once again refused an invitation to go to Indonesia, he's dumped the invitation at the last minute again without speaking to the Indonesian President so that the Indonesian Foreign Minister is out at sea trying to explain why our Prime Minister's made that decision. I mean, it is a very amateur hour approach to one of our most important neighbours.

CURTIS: And finally on Thailand, there is no timeframe yet from the military who mounted the coup for a move back to democracy. Is it a concern? Would you like to a timeframe at the very least?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. It is very important that we see a timeframe for a return to democracy. It is very important that the main political parties understand that they need to participate actively in democracy. If they don't like the election results, well maybe they need to campaign better. And for the government parties to understand that once you win an election it's important to continue to respect and strengthen democratic institutions within the country.

CURTIS: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Lyndal.



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