TRANSCRIPT: TANYA PLIBERSEK - TELEVISION INTERVIEW - ABC AFTERNOONS - THURSDAY, 21 MARCH 2019

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
 
 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
TELEVISION INTERVIEW
ABC AFTERNOONS
THURSDAY, 21 MARCH 2019
 
SUBJECTS: Comments by the Turkish President; online trolling of women; One Nation; Senator Fraser Anning; NSW State Election.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, PRESENTER: I'm joined now by the Deputy Labor Leader, Tanya Plibersek. Tanya Plibersek, welcome.
 
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hello.
 
KARVELAS: Let's just start with Turkey. The Turkish President has backtracked on those inflammatory comments he made about Australians and New Zealanders. He's praised Jacinda Arden. Are you satisfied by this response?
 
PLIBERSEK: Look I'm very pleased to see that there has been a moderation in the language. We've seen where this sort of intemperate language leads and it's not good. Australia and Turkey have had really wonderful relations for many decades. As many young Australians have, I went to Gallipoli in my early 20s and I was so moved to see the monument to Australian soldiers there, with the words of Kemal Ataturk on that monument. This is a very special relationship, over a century after the First World War, and I wouldn't want anything to imperil the opportunity of other Australians to go to Gallipoli and to see what has become a sacred place, I guess, for Australians. 
 
And you know, I've been to Turkey more than once, and every time I've been there I've felt so phenomenally welcome by the Turkish people. We've got a strong Turkish community here in Australia that play a vital role in our Australian community. The relationship has always been a good and close one, and I really do hope it continues to be a good and close one. 
 
I think these words were particularly hurtful at a time when New Zealanders are still mourning, they are still grieving. It's awful to think that any world leader would add to their pain by making intemperate remarks, so I am pleased to see the moderation more recently.
 
KARVELAS: Are you confident there's no lingering danger for Australians travelling to Turkey for ANZAC Day?
 
PLIBERSEK: I think it's very important that we take the advice of our Department of Foreign Affairs. Any travel advisory they issue, Australians should heed that. And we should be watching over the next little while to make sure that the travel advisory says that it's safe to go.
 
KARVELAS: Tanya Plibersek, there's been a lot of pressure on Scott Morrison about a report that he had discussed capitalising on anti-Muslim sentiment in a 2010 Shadow Cabinet meeting. Now, the Prime Minister has denied this. Do you accept his denial?
 
PLIBERSEK: I think there's a lot of people who were in that meeting who seem to be saying contrary things, and I heard you mention that Greg Hunt is the only one who seems to be prepared to back him in and Greg Hunt wasn't actually at the meeting - so I think it says a lot about Greg Hunt that he's prepared to give the Prime Minister an alibi for a meeting that he wasn't actually at. 
 
I mean, who would ever know? I think there's a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between different attendees at the Cabinet meeting who seem to have slightly different recollections of what went on. I think it would've been, I guess, more convincing if the Prime Minister had been very clear at the time of these initial reports that he didn't agree with those sentiments and that he was prepared to strongly disassociate himself with those sorts of sentiments. It's a shame that we're having this discussion now rather than several years ago, I guess.
 
KARVELAS: Okay. But judging the Prime Minister on his current actions, his response to Christchurch, the kind of language he's used about unity. Are you satisfied with the tone that the Prime Minister's currently taking, or do you think these historical stories are important for context?
 
PLIBERSEK: Look I think the Prime Minister has been appropriate in his comments on the terrible tragedy in Christchurch. But would I say that he has always been a unifying force in our national discourse? I don't think I could say that. No, not at all.
 
KARVELAS: I just want to get your comment as the Shadow Minister for Women on Tayla Harris and the kind of online trolling that she has been dealing with, the strong remarks she's made. There's obviously been a strong national outpouring of support for Tayla. But as the Shadow Minister for Women, what do you make of the response and do you think we need to take this trolling of women - women in sport in this case, but generally women - more seriously?
 
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, of course I do. And I think it's fantastic, she hasn't needed people to stand up and defend her because she's done such a great job herself, but there has been an outpouring of people, men and women, saying how inappropriate some of the trolling has been, and also how inappropriate the initial response of one of the media organisations was, in taking down the photograph instead of just dealing with the trolls. So it is very important that we stand up to call out this revolting sort of trolling of a beautiful, strong, talented sportswoman like this. 
 
I think it goes beyond this as well though. I really am so concerned about some of the stuff that lives online. The trolling in this instance is one good example, but the sort of violent and degrading pornography that people have access to at the click of a finger, the horrible extremist sort of language in a whole range of political areas, including this right-wing extremism that has motivated people in the incident in Christchurch. I really do think as a society we are losing the battle with some of the really malign influences that live in the internet.

KARVELAS: So, what - what's the answer then, Tanya Plibersek, obviously the Prime Minister...

PLIBERSEK: There's not a simple answer. I wish there was a simple answer. 

KARVELAS: Yeah, he's put it on the G20 Agenda, but is there something more immediate that, at a domestic level, Australia should be doing? 

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, look, of course we have to look at necessary - you know - if there's legislation that would help in that area, we have to be open minded about that. But I think the first and most important thing we have to do is talk to our kids and talk to our young people about responsible use of the internet. We have talked about - Labor's said that we would support a digital licence for Year 3 students in the way that you used to get a pen licence; so that we start talking to people - kids - quite young about how to be responsible users and consumers of news and other information online and responsible - post responsibly as well; communicate with their peers responsibly. So, we need to start with people's own internet use online, talking to kids and young people about how they use the internet. 

KARVELAS: Just on this preference deals with One Nation, that's been a big conversation this week. The Prime Minister says there won't be any deals with One Nation but I understand that, today, Michael McCormack says the Greens should be put last; Michael McCormack, of course, being the Deputy Prime Minister and of course, the Nationals leader. We know that the Nationals take a pretty strong position against the Greens, they think that they're extremist and they've made that argument. In that context, is that fair enough? 

PLIBERSEK: I honestly, you know, like the Greens are trying to, you know, do me out of my seat - I've got no particular affection for them but to compare the Greens with One Nation or Fraser Anning, I think is completely misguided. We have people in the Senate - Fraser Anning, One Nation - who are using white supremacist slogans, who are seeking to divide Australians. I mean Fraser Anning talking about the Final Solution. Pauline Hanson, a history - years of this sort of incredibly divisive language. I know that the Nationals don't like the Greens but to make a comparison like this I think is completely misguided and over the top. 

KARVELAS: It's emerged, actually, you mentioned him - that Senator Fraser Anning spent more money on travel for his family than any other MP last year, this included interstate travel outside of Canberra and Queensland. Is that unusual and is there anything that can be done about it? 

PLIBERSEK: Well, you see the sort of events he attends, like I don't understand why a Queensland Senator's going to a far right rally in Victoria. How is that representing his electors in Queensland? I really don't understand some of the public events that I've seen him attend. As for the family travel, that's for him to answer - it's an unusual pattern but it's really up to him to answer, I couldn't comment on that. 

KARVELAS: I spoke to Mark Dreyfus earlier this week and he says Labor doesn't believe Senator Anning can be suspended from the Senate - that's a Greens proposal, they think he should be suspended, not just censured. Is it worth pursuing actually suspending him or do you think that's the wrong action? 

PLIBERSEK: Well, we absolutely should censure him and I'm confident that a bipartisan censure motion will pass the Senate at the first opportunity, and I really think that the very best punishment for Senator Anning is for the voters of Queensland to vote him out at the next election. I think, you know, he got 19 votes last time he stood for the Senate. I hope he gets no more than 19 this time. It's not really clear the legal basis that the Greens are using for what they've proposed. So, I think if we could rely on the people of Queensland, that would be a safer bet. 

KARVELAS: All right. New South Wales Labor leader, Michael Daley, has had a pretty difficult final week on the campaign trail. Video emerged of him making racist comments plus a pretty poor performance in last night's leaders debate. How badly has this damaged Labor's chances of winning? 

PLIBERSEK: Look I think New South Wales Labor have run an extraordinary campaign even to be in the running when, you know, it's over a dozen seats they would need to win to form government. The fact that they are even competitive is a real tribute to my state colleagues, to the people running the campaign in head office, it has been a terrific campaign - and a very poor campaign from the Liberals. I mean, honestly, the fact that they are pursuing demolition of the stadiums, despite knowing how very unpopular this is throughout Sydney and throughout regional New South Wales is inexplicable. Like, it is actually quite inexplicable that they are persisting with this multi-billion dollar plan to make themselves even less popular as a government. 

KARVELAS: Okay, so that's on a policy front that you oppose, okay. But, I'm asking about the specific comments which have been widely seen as racist. Were you offended by them? 

PLIBERSEK: Look, I thought they were inappropriate comments, I don't think they reflect the general view of Michael Daley, let alone of the broader Labor party but if you're really looking at who's struggled in this campaign, I would have to say the Liberals, with their obsession with building stadiums and their refusal to properly fund hospitals, schools, roads, infrastructure and so on, are the ones that have really struggled. 

KARVELAS: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time. 

PLIBERSEK: Thank you. 

ENDS