SUBJECTS: Tax cuts; Adani; Julian Assange; Electric Cars; Dutton’s disgraceful disability attack.

JON FAINE, PRESENTER: Yesterday the race officially began but unofficially it’s been running for ages. We go to the polls on the 18th of May. The Labor Party are, it seems from my perspective, somewhat more organised than the Coalition certainly than the Liberal Party side of the Coalition. We will undoubtedly have opportunities in future to talk to people from the other side. Yesterday they had no one to talk to us and today the Deputy Leader of the Labor, Shadow Minister for Education and Training, Tanya Plibersek is in Melbourne and has very kindly made time to come into the studio. Tanya Plibersek, good morning to you.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I'm very pleased to be here, good morning.
FAINE: We're told this is going to be an election about trust, in which case I put it to you, both leaders are in trouble.
PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is about trust. It's who you trust to have a better plan for Australia, we've got a plan for better investment in hospitals, in schools, in cancer care, for fairer tax cuts that are the same or bigger for 10 million Australians, including 3.6 million at the lower end are getting a bigger tax cut under Labor. It's who you trust to make sure that wages actually grow -
FAINE: The Prime Minister this morning says that your tax plan will cost tax payers an extra $340 billion over a decade.
PLIBERSEK: Well first of all goodness knows what they're modelling, Treasury doesn't model policies for the Opposition, the Parliamentary Budget Office does, so this is a politicisation of Treasury and they won't release the assumptions that they've used. But we make no excuses, we've got a bigger tax cut for 10 million working Australians, bigger or the same for 10 million working Australians, and we make no apology for closing loopholes that are predominantly used at the top end. This is a government -
FAINE: Talking about -
PLIBERSEK: -That tried to give $80 billion of big business tax cuts, they were only stopped by the Senate. We know where their priorities are.
FAINE: All right. You claim that negative gearing is a loophole, the other people, the other side and in particular - the property industries - say no it's an essential ingredient in Australia's property mix. The Shadow Treasurer, your colleague Chris Bowen, has had to back pedal on, speaking of assumptions, on the assumptions in his negative gearing comments. That's embarrassing and affects your credibility as a party doesn't it?
PLIBERSEK:  Well it's not, and just talking about negative gearing, people who currently negatively gear will still be able to do it. We're saying in the future, people who want to negatively gear should direct that investment into newly constructed property, that means -
FAINE: That's a fraction of the market.
PLIBERSEK: Yes, which means that we would have more newly constructed property. We do have a problem with construction coming up. We're worried about declining property construction in Australia. We know that we haven't built enough new homes for many years to keep up with demand. This is a way of making sure we're creating jobs with negative gearing investment, and creating new homes, we're adding to stock not just bidding up the cost of existing housing stock.
FAINE: How uncomfortable -
PLIBERSEK: And, can I just say one more thing, how is it fair that actually someone buying their tenth or their thirtieth home actually get a really generous tax subsidy, and a struggling first home buyer is still finding it almost impossible to save a deposit because the cost of rent is so high? Is that the sort of society we want to leave our kids and grandkids?
FAINE: Which is a question everyone voting will have to ask themselves. How uncomfortable is it sitting on the fence on Adani? Here you are in Victoria undoubtedly saying 'oh Adani, tut tut tut' but up in Queensland the Labor Party's going 'Adani! Oh lots of jobs.'
PLIBERSEK: We are absolutely consistent, we say this project has to stack up on its environmental credentials and its economic credentials. We've said -
FAINE: They got their final federal approval just this week.
PLIBERSEK: It's not their final federal approval, there are still about at least half a dozen approvals that need to be gone through, the Queensland government -
FAINE: Do you think that was properly granted, the permission for groundwater studies, and the rest given the seal of approval by the Environment Minister?
PLIBERSEK: No, I'm deeply concerned about the process they've used. It's been not at all transparent and when you have pressure from Liberals in Victoria saying 'you mustn't approve' and the LNP in Queensland saying 'if you don't approve we will make sure you are not in the Cabinet in future' then you have to doubt how the Minister can have possibly made those decisions independently.
FAINE: So if Labor's in power will you revisit those approvals?
PLIBERSEK: We'll see what the situation is after the election but there are, as I say -
FAINE: That's the fence sitting that I started off with.
PLIBERSEK: We have to follow the science and the law. We have to follow the science and the law, and we don't know the basis for these decisions, we don't know what the outcome of future decisions will be from the State Government. But I tell you this much, I think the jobs numbers are overstated, I am concerned about some of the environmental information that we've had from this. We can't rely on an Indian mining company to bring jobs to central and north Queensland - that's why we have made such a concerted effort to invest in infrastructure projects in central and north Queensland, road projects, port projects, the construction jobs that come with them and also boosting our tourism and agriculture sectors in those areas. Central and north Queensland do need jobs but we can't be waiting around for the Adani mine to provide them given the inflated jobs figures that they've given up till now.
FAINE: Should the Australian government do more to help Julian Assange now that he's in  custody?
PLIBERSEK: I think they should offer the same consular assistance they offer any Australian who get in trouble overseas.
FAINE: Are you sympathetic to his plight?
PLIBERSEK: I am pretty concerned that someone who was accused of two sexual assaults never was prepared to face up to those accusations, but every Australian, it doesn't matter who they are, every Australian overseas, doesn't matter how bad their crime, actually gets consular assistance and he should get that same consular assistance.
FAINE: Why do so many people on the left, who you'd think would be supportive of the women in this situation, actually find that the charisma or whatever it is of Julian Assange overrides that?
PLIBERSEK: I don't know. That is a mystery to me.
FAINE: So you have, it sounds like you have little sympathy for him?
PLIBERSEK: It's not about whether I have sympathy for him or not, he deserves the same consular assistance.
FAINE: Well you might be a very powerful figure in the government that's going to determine whether we support and assist him.
PLIBERSEK: What happens to him is a matter for the British legal system now, it's not a matter for the Australian legal system. He should get the same consular assistance as any Australian who gets in trouble overseas. 
FAINE: We will have more to say about Julian Assange a little later in the program. Electric cars are the big push from Bill Shorten and your party, ever driven one? 
PLIBERSEK: No I don't think I have, they are about 0.2% of the car stock here in Australia. 
FAINE: You stole my line...It seems they are wildly optimistic if not exaggerated projections about how quickly the uptake will go. 
PLIBERSEK: Well it’s interesting that Labor’s projections and Liberal projections on take up of electric vehicles have been pretty similar, it's only now that Labor’s actually got a policy that the Government’s saying that electric vehicles are worse than halitosis. But -
FAINE: It reminded me of some the optimistic and exaggerated claims made by your predecessor Stephen Conroy about the supposed benefit of the NBN. 
PLIBERSEK: Well the benefits of the NBN would have been realised if we didn't have the second rate NBN that Malcolm Turnbull gave us. But on electric vehicles, Norway is now at about 60 per cent of new vehicles sales, most of Europe is -
FAINE: Norway is tiny!
PLIBERSEK: Well, yeah but it shows you that this is possible. Most major car companies aren't doing new research and development into new cars with internal combustion engines, all of their further research and development is about electric vehicles, this trend is coming whether we -
FAINE: But Australia is an entire different market as car makers have discovered to their peril ever since -
PLIBERSEK:  - and do you know what we are getting -
FAINE: - they started selling cars in Australia years ago -
PLIBERSEK: - we are the junkyard of the world. We are getting cars in Australia that don't meet the vehicle emissions standards of Europe or the United States and we have got fewer choices for electric vehicles in Australia than most other countries. If you want to buy an electric vehicle in Australia you are looking at least $60,000 in most cases, many of the cars that are on sale here, put it this way - very few of them cost less than $60,000. I think there are four models that cost less than $60,000. In the UK right now you can buy an electric vehicle for $35,000, of course that changed the market. We don't have many charging stations here, we've got -
FAINE: Oh we are vast country compared to any of the European jurisdictions -
PLIBERSEK: We've got a $200 million fund with $100 million of Commonwealth money to be matched by partners, to build fast charging stations, of course that also changes. There are, you look outside, you are talking about a vast country, it is true that there are some people who are driving long distances over the Nullarbor, most of us in our day to day lives are shooting around the city on short journeys. If we can get our electric vehicle fast charging stations rolled out, and if we can have affordable models for people to purchase here in Australia I think you will see significant take up. We also as governments have a role in purchasing these vehicles as fleet vehicles -
FAINE: (inaudible)
PLIBERSEK: I know that the New South Wales Government is doing this, the New South Wales Liberal Government has a target for its own fleet. We would have a target for our own fleet. 
FAINE: And you’re being used as a draw card for a lot of the marginal seat campaigns which is why you are here on Victoria at the moment -
PLIBERSEK: I don’t like used, that a slightly pejorative -
FAINE: Okay, you are being deployed.
PLIBERSEK: Deployed is better. Thank you. 
FAINE: Thank you and I accept the correction, thank you Tanya Plibersek. Are you going to be going up to help Ali France, or Ali France I think she calls herself, who is campaigning against Peter Dutton in marginal seat Dickson up in Queensland. 
PLIBERSEK: Yes. Yes in fact I was there a couple of days ago campaigning with Ali, and she's a magnificent candidate and -
FAINE: For people that don’t know her background and why she is attracting - not just because she taking on Peter Dutton but -
PLIBERSEK: Alright. She is a journalist, she was working in palliative care, she's got two young kids, she's an international champion sportsperson canoeist, and she's missing a leg, and she is also consequently been a fantastic advocate for people with disability, and I guess your Melbourne listeners might not know that pea-hearted Peter Dutton overnight attacked her for her disability. She lives about 7 minutes outside the electorate she's contesting, and she hasn’t found a house -when she gets home after a long day, she takes her false leg off and she gets around the house in a wheelchair -  she hasn't found a wheelchair accessible house to move into, so Peter Dutton attacking her for -
FAINE: What did he say?
PLIBERSEK: He said that she is using her disability as an excuse for living outside the electorate. Now this is from the bloke by the way, I think at last report I saw owns nine homes and spends most of his time in his Gold Coast mansion. Actually tried to move seats from Dickson to a safe Gold Coast seat because he didn't want to represent the people of Dickson, attacking a woman who spends her working life as a journalist, working for palliative care, just a fantastic human being. She actually lost a leg protecting her kids in a car park accident, and he is using this against her. I mean what kind of person does this, actually having someone like him sitting around the Cabinet table tells you why this Government could build this flimsy surplus on the back of 70,000 people missing out on the National Disability Insurance Scheme packages that they thought they would get this year. 
FAINE: Tanya Plibersek we are tracking every minute of interviews with politicians during the campaign and we will move on and make sure we have matching time available next week for Liberal Deputy Leaders, candidates, Ministers and the like. Thank you for coming in while you are in Melbourne today. 
PLIBERSEK: It's a great pleasure. 
FAINE: Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Education and Training, Tanya Plibersek.