SUBJECTS: Liberal Party civil war; Labor’s plan for a fair go for Australia; Scott Morrison’s cuts to schools.

JOHANNA NICHOLSON, PRESENTER: [audio cuts in] Deputy Labor Leader and Shadow Education Minister, Tanya Plibersek. Tanya, thanks so much for coming in.



NICHOLSON: Obviously, there's no question about it, this has been a bad week for the Liberal Party. But do you think that there is a fundamental issue with politicians and politics that people in Australia will be looking at all politicians and saying 'the system is broken'?


PLIBERSEK: Look I think a week like we've just had certainly - it's unfortunate for democracy because people were looking at the Liberal Party thinking they're only interested in themselves and their own jobs, but I have to point to the contrast with Labor. We've been united and focused for the last five years. We haven't been talking about ourselves. We've been talking about what matters to the Australian people - a decent health system, great schools for their kids, jobs with good pay and conditions, bringing down energy prices and bringing down pollution - that's what we've been focused on for the last five years, and it's a pretty sharp contrast to the shambles we saw last week.


ANDREW GEOGHEGAN, PRESENTER: You were genuinely angry in Parliament when the Government decided to pull stumps and Parliament was effectively shut down. But I guess further to Jo's point, Labor went through this, and just a month ago there was talk about Bill Shorten's leadership, perhaps his being replaced. It goes to that point of is politics broken? OK you say you guys have fixed up your side, but what are Australians to think of what we've been through over the last six years or so?


PLIBERSEK: Well, two things. There was some stories written in News Limited a few weeks ago, not because there was anything genuine going on in the Labor Party but because News Limited are on a mission to see a Liberal Government elected. They were't trying to, you know, help out the Labor Party by running those stories. And yes, I was very angry when the Liberal Government closed Parliament last week. It's outrageous when Australians are going to their jobs every day, nursing the sick, teaching our kids, working in factories and offices and shops all over Australia, that the Government of the day can't be bothered turning up. We offered to pause Parliament, to let them have their party room meeting, fair enough. But to just end Parliament the way they did. We're not a dictatorship, we're a democracy, and that means our Parliament doing the work of the people, not on the whim of the Government but all the time.


NICHOLSON: Bill Shorten, your leader, had some kind words to say about Malcolm Turnbull this week. He spoke about his intelligence and his eloquence. Do you think in politics in general we need more good will, more bi-partisanship. You speak about energy policy, for example. Would you accept that Labor is partly responsible for the fact that we don't have an energy policy right now?


PLIBERSEK: No I don't accept that at all because we had a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme that was working to bring down pollution. Tony Abbott came in as Prime Minister and destroyed that. He tried to get rid of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, he tried to get rid of all of the measures we put in place to bring down prices and bring down pollution. He came in as a vandal. Since then, we have offered bi-partisanship. We have offered bi-partisanship on an Emissions Intensity Scheme, when that was the Government's preferred option. We offered bi-partisanship on a Clean Energy Target when that was the Government's preferred option. We even said we would talk to them about the National Energy Guarantee but we wanted the opportunity to have a more ambitious target for pollution reduction. The National Energy Guarantee did nothing to reduce pollution and was very questionable when it came to bringing down prices but we were prepared to talk to the Government, to put in place some sort of framework that we could improve on in the future. The reason we don't have an energy policy at the moment is not because Labor can't agree with the Government, it's because the Liberals can't agree with themselves on what the best way forward is. You've got the extreme right of the Liberal Party, the same people who are responsible for destroying the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, insisting that the only solution is new coal fired power stations that no business in the country wants to build, no bank in the country wants to bankroll.


GEOGHEGAN: So presumably this is when you begin your election campaign? We don't know when it is going to be but it would seem that Scott Morrison would want as much time as possible, which would perhaps put it out to May next year. Will you be campaigning against his record, certainly in the portfolios that he's had previously?


PLIBERSEK: Well of course we will because Scott - this talk that this is a new generation and a new broom is ridiculous. Scott Morrison was the Treasurer who was the main proponent of trickle-down economics as the solution to Australia's economic problem. He has been for years now arguing that it's more important to give the banks a $17 billion tax cut than to properly fund our hospitals or schools. As Treasurer, he is the architect of $17 billion cut from schools, $700 million cut from our hospitals, cuts to the pension, cuts to the energy supplement for pensioners, increasing the pension age. I mean, all of the things that we have criticised the Government for, he's been the architect of.


NICHOLSON: And so is your message going to change then with a new Scott Morrison Government or will it stick largely to the same?


PLIBERSEK: Well our message is about what's best for the Australian people - jobs with good pay and conditions, decent schools for their kids to go to, a strong health system, dealing with the blowouts in waiting lists for elective surgery, an energy policy that brings down pollution and brings down prices - all of these things remain constant in our offer to the Australian people. We have plans that do all of these things. The Government have been, have been wreckers when it comes to health and education, penalty rates for people working today, people have seen their penalty rates cut for working on a Sunday. Scott Morrison was right behind that. Nothing changes when we make this case to the Australian people.


GEOGHEGAN: I want to get onto education in just a moment. Before we do that, of course, a lot if speculation about Scott Morrison's new front bench. There is talk that Julie Bishop will step down and perhaps quit politics, if not now certainly at the next election. Would she be a loss to Parliament?


PLIBERSEK: Well I think she's certainly a loss to the Liberal Party. She would have been the most popular choice as Liberal leader if you asked the Australian people. But then again, if you asked the Australian people, Malcolm Turnbull was doing just fine. I mean it is a bizarre week that we have seen a Prime Minister that continued to be popular with the Australian people torn down by the extreme right of the Liberal Party who just relentlessly chased him down. Malcolm Turnbull got more votes than Scott Morrison. They've gone through all this turmoil and Scott Morrison got fewer votes than either Malcolm Turnbull or Peter Dutton. Julie Bishop, who arguably gave them the best chance of electoral success after Malcolm Turnbull, got the fewest votes. I mean I don't understand their thinking at all.


NICHOLSON: All right let's get onto your area of education. Simon Birmingham has been speaking on Insiders about that, so we might just have a listen to some of what he had to say.


[Simon Birmingham clip]


NICHOLSON: Simon Birmingham there on Insiders. Does the funding model for education need to change?


PLIBERSEK: It absolutely does. It is extraordinary. This is the first government that has ever united all three sectors - public schools, Catholic schools and independent schools - against a funding model. And I'll tell you what, if the Government thinks that they can solve this problem just by giving Catholic schools more money, they are completely misreading the situation. We've already committed to restoring the $250 million cut from Catholic schools but don't forget, the biggest cuts have been from public schools - 85 percent of the $17 billion cut has been cut from public schools. If the Government thinks they can fix this problem by giving money to one sector when all three sectors have been disadvantaged and public schools have had to worst deal, then they're nuts. They're nuts.


GEOGHEGAN: Obviously the Government is looking to appease the Catholic sector. Do you back that proposal, the so-called SES model, the Socio-Economic Status, where a school’s funding is based on the income tax paid by the school parents?


PLIBERSEK: Do you know what - we've had, we've seen no modelling from this proposal. I can't tell you for certain whether I back it or not because the Government has kept the figures secret. They won't even allow the school systems to see the economic modelling behind it. And where some people have been allowed to see it, they've had to sign confidentiality agreements. So I can't tell you whether we support the new model or not because there's not enough detail. The principle, that we fund according to a closer measure of parental means, appeals to me, but we need to see the modelling. But let me tell you this - this is not just a fight of the Catholic school system with the Government. Public school parents, public school teachers, they know that the biggest cuts, 85 per cent of the $17 billion cut, come from public schools. I spoke to Independent schools last week. They're completely unhappy with the Government as well. There is no solution that does not involve restoring the whole $17 billion that Scott Morrison, as Treasurer, has cut from our schools.


NICHOLSON:  Tanya Plibersek, we'll have to leave it there. Thanks for coming in this morning.


PLIBERSEK: Thank you.