THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC DRIVE MONDAY POLITICAL FORUM WITH RICHARD GLOVER
MONDAY, 11 NOVEMBER 2019
SUBJECTS: Remembrance Day; Bushfires; Digital campaigning and politics; 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics coverage.
RICHARD GLOVER, PRESENTER: The Monday Political Forum on Drive - Tanya Plibersek is Labor MP for Sydney and Shadow Minister for Education. Dr Andy Marks is Assistant Vice Chancellor of the Western Sydney University and Margy Osmond is the Chief Executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum. Welcome, thank you for coming in.
MARGY OSMOND: Good Afternoon.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Thanks for having us.
DR ANDY MARKS: G ‘day.
GLOVER: Marking Remembrance Day, of course, and Tanya you have the lovely little poppy there.
PLIBERSEK: And I notice you have got this lost boys book on your desk here. What incredibly moving photos of those very, very young men who went off to war. There was one photo in the paper today of a thirteen year old who enlisted. It is just beyond belief.
GLOVER: One boy is thirteen years and eight months - he is the youngest New Zealander, he goes and actually, has quite a good war if there any such thing as that.
OSMOND: Does that mean he came home?
PLIBERSEK: Well, coming home's good.
GLOVER: Paul Burns, the author came in a little earlier and when you are just flipping through this book it is so haunting because-
PLIBERSEK: It is.
GLOVER: Because these eyes, these baby-faced children who lied about their age to the recruiting sergeant, who probably said 'Oh yeah, go on - move on through'.
PLIBERSEK: You think about your own kids, you know, I have got a fourteen year old and he looks like these boys here.
GLOVER: Yeah yeah, It is a really, really haunting book. If you are passing by a book shop, I am not telling you to go and buy it but just go and have a look and flip through it, and ooh wow.
OSMOND: Doesn't it beg the question though - what motivated them to think that this was a neat thing to do?
GLOVER: Well, Paul says that they had it slightly different attitude to age, in that people would get apprenticeships when they were twelve...
MARKS: They were working.
GLOVER: They had a slightly different idea, but also, did you see the picture of Maude? There is a young woman, she is sixteen - actually, I think she is sixteen and she is so keen to be a nurse, even though she is not trained as a nurse because she is only sixteen. She goes and buys herself a full boys kit and twice tries to stow away on the ship so she can get to Egypt and help the soldiers, be a nurse...
GLOVER: And each time she gets caught out by - she's just got the boots slightly wrong, but everything else is perfect! It is not only the boys. Now, the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack has responded to a series of questions about the role of climate change in the current fires, by saying now is not the time for what he called the 'concerns of raving, inner-city lunatics'. Here he is.
GLOVER: That's Michael McCormack on Radio National this morning. Has he got a point that now is not the time to debate climate change policy, when so many people are in peril - Tanya Plibersek?
PLIBERSEK: Well, look, we are seeing the reports that tomorrow looks like it'll be a terrible day for bushfires, and so, of course, our communication has to be tomorrow, to tell people to stay safe, to follow the instructions of authorities. People who have lost their homes, been fighting to protect their homes - of course our thoughts are with them and with the people who risk their lives to do that. But in the longer term, it is important that we acknowledge, both when it comes to the frequency and severity of fires and droughts, that climate change will make these events more frequent and worse. We are already spending around $18 billion a year on emergencies. It's predicted that that will double by 2038 if we continue on the trajectory we are on, when it comes to the effects of climate change.
GLOVER: There was one of the Greens who seemed to suggest that Scott Morrison had blood on his hands at the 3 deaths - the 3 tragic deaths that have occurred as somehow his fault. That's too much isn't it?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think that sort of language really loses people. Everybody, now, is thinking about the people who have lost their lives, lost their homes, who are fighting to protect their communities, the people who are helping them - of course, that has to be where our thoughts go first today and in the immediate future. But, more broadly in the longer term, we have to acknowledge that our climate is changing and if we don't take further action to reduce pollution that the severity and the frequency of these type of events will worsen.
GLOVER: I think the other problem with what the Deputy Prime Minister has said is that is sort of implies that everybody who is fighting these fires is a climate change denier and if you have met people who work for the RFS, they are not and farmers are not.
PLIBERSEK: Well, farmers themselves are the first to tell you that they are seeing it on their farms, particularly because we have got this terribly, terribly long and intense drought. They are the first to tell you that they want to see some change in the future.
GLOVER: Not just raving, inner-city lunatics!
MARKS: But it is the National Party voters - so you saw swings of 37 per cent in Orange, 28 per cent against them in Dubbo at the State Election. They are the people who are feeling this and they are the ones who are telling them. It is their own constituency.
GLOVER: That wasn't about climate change necessarily, that might have been about water policy, for instance in those particular seats.
MARKS: But I think it is a consciousness and I think what it does it renders them as though they don't understand the complexities of climate and they don't have a voice in that. And, I think it is not like him and it is very unusual for him to take this line.
OSMOND: In my experience, you know, Michael McCormack is probably one of the great gentlemen of the Australian Parliament. I genuinely believe that. So, I think, today's commentary from him is a measure of just how emotionally charged the situation is and very much to Tanya's point, where we should be focused is on the people and communities that are feeling the pain.
GLOVER: OK but we can chew gum and walk, can't we?
OSMOND: We can, but he is not actually denying climate change as part of this. He is simply saying let's focus on what's absolutely important, because, once again as my colleagues here have said farmers are amongst some of the most impressive environmentalists, because it's their livelihood and they have a genuine affection for the land that they manage. You'll get a small percentage, and unfortunately probably, a squeaky wheel percentage that claim that, you know, there is no problem with the environment. But, anybody who is really doing this job and running the land - they are very focused on that, and I think that is probably what the Deputy Prime Minister is responding too, a bit of righteous indignation on their behalf too.
GLOVER: OK, but is it a matter of strategy - to win a war, you need strategy and tactics. You need tactics on the day of this particular battle you happen to be fighting and then you need a strategy to win the wider war. And that is what we need with climate change. We obviously need to fight these fires today and tomorrow, but at the same time we can have somebody, we can have the General back at the base camp thinking about what we are going to do tomorrow, can't we?
OSMOND: But, still, from a very human perspective, if I was the General back at base camp, I wouldn't be saying anything about that right now. I'd at least give it a couple of days until we know people are safe. Having said that, it is probably a conversation that perhaps, politically, we should all be much more engaged in for a much longer time.
MARKS: There is a reluctance to talk about it and talk about it seriously with the electorate. And that is what is troubling - on this issue and on a number of issues, we're told we should be quiet Australians and just shut up.
OSMOND: I would say this from a tourism industry perspective - all over the world now, the issues around extreme weather are affecting the industry so greatly that you are seeing major money being spent on research and activities and huge pressure being put on Government because if you rely upon the great outdoors, and we certainly do, you are going to have to look after it and understand the impacts.
GLOVER: You don't want it in flames. That's right.
PLIBERSEK: And, the problem for us is pollution is going up. It has been going up every year since 2014 - not going down as it has to.
GLOVER: OK, well this is the argument about figures, isn't it? They still say that we are going to meet Paris at a canter.
PLIBERSEK: Well, we all know that there is a lot of dodgy accounting going into that claim.
OSMOND: Are we allowed to do horse analogies like that?
GLOVER: Not anymore!
GLOVER: That's been banned, you should know that.
GLOVER: It's sixteen to six - Monday Political Forum here on Drive. Tanya Plibersek is here, Andy Marks and Margy Osmond. Now Labor publishes its internal review into its defeat at the last election, with at least some of the blame going to the number of bold policy changes. One example, franking credit changes, which were quickly labelled a "retirees' tax" and seem to bite particularly badly in certain electorates where there were a number of retired people. In a world of social media and viral memes, will both sides of politics become risk adverse, scared that those affected by any change are now going to be much more able to mobilise using their keyboards? Andy Marks, is the digital age become a - does it have an impact on politics and their ability to do things that are a bit risky?
MARKS: Yeah, it certainly does. It's reduced the risk envelope dramatically and it’s not the first time we've seen it. I think we had Julia Gillard's Carbon Pricing Scheme re-labelled almost instantly as a tax. So it’s something that's been building for some time. But it creates a shorthand in politics that doesn't allow you to go to into in-depth explanations of policy. That's the other factor for Labor, I think that people wanted less of the policy minutiae and more of the standing up for the values - what are the big picture things we stand for. And I know that they're there, both sides have those big picture views, but this election was sort of devoid of them.
GLOVER: We've always had scare campaigns in politics, I'm sure there were ones in 1880. But what is it about the world of Facebook and social media and Twitter and the fact that we're all on to these things that makes them so much more - I think a phrase some people use is 'you can weaponise a scare campaign' these days.
MARKS: You can be so targeted with it, I think that's the thing. You can go under the radar, you can go direct to a particular cohort and you can target particular profiles of voters. And that's where it becomes really dangerous. Not for either party, more so for the quality of debate in this country and again, I am really troubled by the term 'quiet Australians' and how that influences the way we engage with detail and politics. Australians deserve detail from both sides.
GLOVER: We want to be noisy, argumentative Aussies do we?
MARKS: We want to get a little bit worked up, right?
GLOVER: Tanya Plibersek, not only Labor, but the other side of politics too, does the current digital landscape make it harder to put up something bold? Whether it’s a bold thing from the right or the left.
PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s important still to be bold. You know you look at great reforms like Medicare or the National Disability Insurance Scheme, they don't come without controversy. You have to be prepared to make a case and explain yourself to the Australian people. I do worry a little bit about social media. What happens is people talk to other people who agree with them in ever-diminishing groups. And so I don't - I think the franking credits changes we suggested very quickly became a 'retiree tax' - which of course it wasn't, but that morphed into something else -
GLOVER: Dot dot dot "death duties".
PLIBERSEK: - which was the "death tax", and this was really absolutely, completely without basis. And yet it took off in the last week or ten days. It was the biggest weapon they had against us.
GLOVER: OK, you did the same thing to the other side with Medicare the election before, so it’s not a case of pure -
PLIBERSEK: No it wasn't the same thing because they had a Medicare privatisation task force and out of pocket expenses-
GLOVER: Oh it was - it was a reach.
PLIBERSEK: Out of pocket expenses are higher than they've ever been, but where is our "death tax"? Like there is literally nothing in any of our policies, right?
GLOVER: No I agree with that, yeah.
PLIBERSEK: We also have of course this massive spend from massive Clive Palmer. You know, we still don't know if it was $60 or $80 million that he spent. But that was more than twice what both Liberal and Labor were spending together, and it really drowned out all of the other, a lot of the other political advertising. I really do think we need to look at spending caps.
GLOVER: Do you think he was - if you could see into his mind - and I know that's an invitation you may not wish to.
GLOVER: But do you think he was always intent on not really getting any seats, he just wanted to spin the election against you?
PLIBERSEK: I'm really not sure. I don't think he's particularly upset at not having won seats. I think what he wanted was a conservative government to, you know, for whatever business interests he thinks align with the priorities of the government. But it’s an awfully large spend and I think it really does beg the question should we have spending caps in Australia? Because we don't want to have a situation like in the United States where you have to raise a billion dollars before you can run to be President. We don't want the biggest spenders to be the ones that always win elections here.
GLOVER: Yeah. Margy Osmond, do you think that the landscape, the digital landscape makes it harder to have bold policy?
OSMOND: I don't think there's any doubt about it, I mean welcome to the last election that we're all used to, election campaign. I mean I think that the nature of social media and the capacity for people with lots of cash to come in and skew the results - well this is the future, this is reality. So I think what we are going to see now is a whole new style of campaigning and that may be good or it may be bad. But hopefully somebody will figure out a way to better engage with the public and their social media as part of the conversation on elections.
GLOVER: The trouble is, and I'm not saying this particularly from Labor's side because I think it can work both ways, but that someone can 'cosh' you from behind and send a lie out there. Now in my view, Medicare from Labor was a bit of an exaggeration, just as the retirees' tax was an exaggeration, but you can be coshed from behind and the lie can be out there and can be out there gaining traction before you even realise it’s out there.
OSMOND: But that's not unique to politics, that is the whole world of business now, that is anybody who has a public profile. I mean I'm sure you know from Tanya's point of view, although she wouldn't be paying attention to it overmuch, but the trolling and other things that happen simply when you've got some kind of public profile now, it's just outrageous because people can. But look let’s be honest when I say politics has changed, well five years ago would you think the government and the President would be making all public policy by Twitter? We should be grateful. At least that's not happening here - yet.
MARKS: Not yet.
GLOVER: Just the odd, sort of "good on you Australia" from the PM. Monday Political Forum, Tanya Plibersek is the Labor MP for Sydney and the Shadow Minister for Education. Andy Marks is the Assistant Vice-Chancellor of Western Sydney University, and from the Tourism and Transport Forum, their Chief Executive Margy Osmond. Coming up, we're going to talk about the ABC and this pretty controversial decision to not bid for the radio rights to the Tokyo Olympics. It's a tradition that's gone on for over six decades but we're out of it now, we'll talk about that in a second. But let's check the traffic first.
GLOVER: Now the ABC has blamed budget cuts for its decision not to bid for the non-commercial radio rights for the Tokyo Olympics, saying the decision also acknowledged that people would be able to get coverage elsewhere. Maybe so. Then again, Olympic broadcasting is an ABC tradition full of pretty marvellous moments.
GLOVER: That's Norman May, the great Norman May, calling the 4x100 metres at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, just one of the amazing moments from this over six decades history. Has the ABC got a point though when it argues that, given budget restrictions, at least the public can access the content elsewhere TV, maybe commercial radio if they're not in too regional an area. Is that fair enough, Margy?
OSMOND: Yeah, look it pains me to say this but I think it probably is. I mean, I think the world has changed dramatically, every time we have another four year gap between the Olympics, you know it becomes a different creature as the years go on. I mean, I think that people have so many different opportunities to get the information elsewhere, they're getting constant feed on their phones, it’s all around them in every shape, form and fashion. So while I am an absolute dyed in the wool fan of radio, Richard I'd just like you to know that, I wonder whether that audible solution is really what a lot of the younger generation for example, or younger generations, are actually after.
GLOVER: Well, they'll be watching on telly anyway, on Channel 7 which will broadcast wholly.
OSMOND: Even the days when you used to come racing home from school in the afternoon out of the sheer excitement of seeing the summary of the Olympics on the TV that night. Some of the edge - well OK just me then, let's admit I'm tragic. But you know, that sort of, the edge is taken off that by the fact that you're getting that constant feed on the exercise and you also have to ask yourself a little about sport in general. It pains me to say this enormously, but you do realise that the first big Wallabies game in Tokyo, which was the Wallabies and Georgia, the wonderful Gardening Australia on the ABC rated better.
GLOVER: Long tradition though, Andy Marks, long tradition.
MARKS: Yeah, look I think they broke the mould, didn't they, with the kind of radio calling we just heard there. But I think it's the age of content and so people will navigate and find the content elsewhere. But it also speaks to the fact that I think that the Olympics is a bit of a juggernaut now and the ABC, yes there are budget cuts and yes it's focusing its attention, I think in areas that I think people are really intrigued about and it’s wonderfully turned it’s attention towards women's sport, so you've seen a big uplift in that which is great. The Olympics though, you know, they won't go unwatched.
GLOVER: OK. The ABC does not want to be a niche broadcaster though. We don't want to be put in the position where people say 'you do what the market doesn't want to be bothered doing’, so you broadcast the opera and let Channel 7 and Channel 10 and 2GB broadcast the stuff people actually-
OSMOND: It seems like this is money that could be invested in great Australian product as well, you know, rather than spending it on the Olympics or whatever else.
MARKS: Yeah, and you know they got $17 million yanked from them that went to all to commercial players to distribute content, so this is what happens when you yank $17 million out of the ABC. But the other factor there too, you know, the ABC have also brought us some pretty good niche stuff, I mean, you argue that I think some of the sports that covered are Jacks High, lawn bowling, electric television, Richard. Watching that thing roll down.
GLOVER: What about Pot Black, with the Winifred Atwell music?
MARKS: Looking for the felt, ripper, you didn't know what was going to happen! Chaos!
OSMOND: It's the sheep dog trials and anybody who says that's not sport is just kidding themselves.
GLOVER: Peter Gee, the greatest sheep dog caller in the world. Tanya Plibersek.
PLIBERSEK: I'm just disappointed that Margy was surprised that Gardening Australia rates as well as it does because it's one of my favourite shows.
OSMOND: No not surprised, gratified.
MARKS: Such a good show.
PLIBERSEK: It's a great show. $366 million, that's what has been cut from the ABC since 2013. This is the price of it and it's been done in several tranches but it's meant a 60 per cent drop in factual programming, a 20 per cent drop in ABC drama and a 13.5 per cent drop in documentary hours produced by the ABC. It's a choice, it's a decision of government. This is the price of it.
GLOVER: Okay, it's this or Bluey. Let's choose this. Monday Political Forum, Tanya Plibersek, Andy Marks, Margy Osmond. Now Rick Stein has been on Drive talking about his new book about French cooking and his admiration for the way French people treat meal times with such importance.
GLOVER: That's Rick Stein with me last week. That's the thing he admires about the French and he really wishes we could be influenced by it. What's the thing you've observed in a different culture that we could learn from here, Tanya?
PLIBERSEK: Well I was brought up, of course, with parents who came from Slovenia and you just don't visit a house without being fed. If you visit a Slovenian family there is no way you're getting out of there without trying everything that that family grows and makes and distils - and I love that. I think that sort of generosity to guests, and you actually often see it in poorer cultures, the guest is really revered and looked after. I love that, I think that’s beautiful.
GLOVER: Don't try and get out without a thirteenth helping of -
PLIBERSEK: No but I tell you what, it does also teach you how to say no successfully.
GLOVER: But in a very subtle way. Andy, what do you want to borrow from somewhere overseas?
MARKS: I would answer this question the same any day of the week it's the siesta. Knock off for two hours, pull the blinds down, turn off the phone, just catch a couple of zzzzs.
GLOVER: Would be pretty good, wouldn't it?
MARKS: Re-energise, back into it.
GLOVER: Yeah, they do work till 9 though. Are you happy to do that?
MARKS: I also like the new four day week they've tried in Japan. That looks really good.
GLOVER: Margy, what do you want to borrow from overseas?
OSMOND: Look, mine is a little more serious I suppose. Myanmar, one of the things that really stuck me is Buddhists in Myanmar when they cook for themselves they keep half for their family and they take the rest outside and they give it to either hungry animals or hungry neighbours or whatever else it may be, and the number of times I saw people clearing half of the food off their table to feed puppies and whatever else, I mean, it was lovely.
GLOVER: Okay, which is Tanya's point, in a way, the poorer the culture the more generous the culture.
OSMOND: Yeah, exactly right. But having said that, I'm not prepared to accept that we don't have our own great food culture and you know, honestly, let's think about Christmas lunch. Is there anything quite like it here in Australia?
GLOVER: Prawns on the beach.
OSMOND: Indeed, all of the above. Yes.
GLOVER: Fantastic. We are out of time but thank you very much to Tanya Plibersek, Labor MP for Sydney and Shadow Minister for Education, Dr Andy Marks from the University of Western Sydney and from the Tourism and Transport Forum, Margy Osmond. Thank you very much.
MARKS: Thank you.
OSMOND: Thank you.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you.