TRANSCIPT: ABC News Breakfast, Thursday 12 May




SUBJECTS: Labor's investment in schools; Immigration policy; Anthony Albanese; Greens-Liberals deal; Panama Papers; Malcolm Turnbull.

DEL IRANI, PRESENTER: For more on this and Labor's campaign fight we are joined by Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek, joins me down from Melbourne. Good morning to you Minister, thanks for your time, thanks for joining us on News Breakfast this morning.


IRANI: So we are barely a week into the Federal election campaign and you are already planning to drop one of your candidates in the Federal seat of Fremantle, Chris Brown, as we just mentioned. This is not a very good look so early on is it?

PLIBERSEK: Look, our National Executive will be meeting later today and I am not going to talk too much about the details of this until that meeting has taken place. Candidates are asked in both their paper work and during interviews whether there is anything in their history that they should disclose and I think it is important for each of our candidates to make that full disclosure before they go into the preselection process.

IRANI: Yes, but Minister the information we have at hand is that Mr Brown did. He says that he has disclosed it and he was apparently told by an ALP staffer that there was nothing to worry about. So what has changed?

PLIBERSEK: I don't think there is any point in going through all of the, 'he said on this date, he was told'. None of that can be discussed until the National Executive has met. That is going to happen later today and after that I am sure there'll be a full statement about what will happen in this case. It is important that we know the background of our candidates. We have candidates with very diverse backgrounds and some of them have had trouble in their lives before and it has not been a bar to them being candidates, but we need to know up front.

IRANI: Okay, well let's talk about the Labor branch in Western Australia. All three sitting Labor MPs so far have retired and now as we've just been talking your candidate has been dis-endorsed. There seems to be a lot of dysfunction in this state branch?

PLIBERSEK: I don't think that is the case at all. It is a very hard working branch and we are hoping to win seats in Western Australia at this election. We have got some excellent candidates there. They have been working very hard on the ground. It is true that a number of our experienced people are leaving but that, however much we miss those people personally, it does give us the opportunity for renewal and for new people and we've got terrific candidates who are, I am very confident, going to pick us up a few seats in Western Australia.

IRANI: Well the biggest threat to Labor in Fremantle are the Greens Party - are you worried now with the dis-endorsement of Chris Brown that the seat might be under threat?

PLIBERSEK: I think it has always been a tough seat for us and I am sure that whoever is selected will work very hard to keep the seat a Labor seat. You'd take us to the Greens now and we've seen some extraordinary revelations in recent days about how the Greens and the Liberals will be working together. No doubt they will be working together in Fremantle just as they have worked together to increase the Liberal vote in the Senate - with the Senate voting changes. Just as they are working together to unseat me in Sydney and Anthony Albanese in the neighbouring seat to mine. So yes, I am sure there will be a lot of cooperation between the Greens and the Liberals in Fremantle just as there is around the country right now.

IRANI: Okay, let's now talk about another issue that has been making news very early into the election campaign and that is signs of disunity among your ranks particularly on the boat turn backs policies. Tanya Plibersek this is going to be a very long election campaign - how can you be sure that there is not going to be more defiance of this policy from your party in the coming weeks?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I don't think there is any disunity at all. We have candidates that support Labor Party policy but they are concerned about elements of the Government's policy. And if you look at, I presume you are going to speak about the candidate for Macarthur and his comments about offshore processing, none of us are comfortable with the way that the Government is running Manus Island and Nauru. People have been there for too long. These places were never meant to be places of indefinite detention. The Government has completely dropped the ball on third country resettlement. It is unacceptable that people have been there, in many cases, for a number of years. This Government must work immediately to resettle people in our region. Our policy is a strong policy because it balances compassion with stopping the boasts. We want to bring 27,000 people to Australia - we want to double our humanitarian intake but we need to make sure that p eople get here safely - that we don't restart the dangerous trade of people smuggling across the ocean.

IRANI: But Minister, let me just interrupt for a moment because you did mention the problems on Manus and PNG. Your policy is almost identical to the Coalition's. How do you plan to solve these problems?

PLIBERSEK: Well, our policy was always that people would be processed and there would be a regional resettlement arrangement, not that people would be indefinitely in these camps on these islands. So there is a great deal of difference. We have also said, of course, that we would double Australia's humanitarian intake, that there would be independent oversight when it comes to these facilities - that children, in particular, would have an independent children's advocate. That there would be mandatory reporting of potential child abuse or neglect rather than the culture of secrecy and, in fact, organisations being punished for speaking up about their concerns about the treatment of asylum seekers or refugee children. We have said, of course, we would get rid of temporary protection visas, that we would restore the UN Convention on Refugees to our domestic legislation. But we do not want to start the dangerous trade in humans that saw hundreds of people drown. We don't want to see that again. We know that people smugglers don't care whether their clients or customers make it alive to the end of their journey. They are just interested in a very wicked trade in human life.

IRANI: Alright, Tanya Plibersek, I am running out of time - so I wanted to ask you about your reaction to the announcement overnight about the Government spending on border protection - is this money well spent?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I have not seen the details of that yet but I am actually very surprised that you are not asking me about the revelations in the latest lot of Panama Papers today that show that our Prime Minister clearly has questions to answer. We have got the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who stands up and does full interviews about his Father's economic arrangements. But we've got a Prime Minister who now seems to have some very sharp questions to answer when it comes to his own involvement in companies set up in the Virgin Islands.

IRANI: Alright, we will be putting questions to Prime Minister Turnbull on that - but meanwhile we had the Greens' leader, Richard Di Natale on Lateline last night. He said he is disappointed that Labor has rejected the prospect of a coalition deal with his party. Is there any chance you will reconsider, especially if there is a hung parliament at this election?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely not. We want to win this in our own right - we want to govern according to Labor values. The sort of values that saw us set up and defend Medicare all these years, that saw us set up and defend the NDIS, that show now that we are the only party interested in fully implementing the Gonski school education funding reforms including today's announcement of an extra $1.8 billion for our regional schools - contrasted against a government that is only interested in giving $50 billion worth of tax cuts to our largest companies and a double tax cut to people who are earning more than $180,000 a year. We are interested in a Labor Government governing according to our values and prosecuting our policies for more jobs, more opportunity, a stronger health and education system and strong action on climate change.

IRANI: And Minister just before I let you go, on education funding, Bill Shorten is claiming that $37 billion school funding will provide an economic lift straight away but that data seems to be wrong because the 2.8% GDP lift actually won't happen for another 80 years. Has he been misleading voters on that GDP boost number?

PLIBERSEK: I think you have got the numbers wrong there, but there’s two things I would say about the immediate benefit. The OECD says that if we had all our people educated to Year 12 level at a good quality education today, our economy would be larger today. And if you look at the work that David Gonski did, who obviously chaired this very important report into needs-based funding, David Gonski with his background in finance and business, is also clear about the benefits that would accrue to Australia if we have a proper system that gives every child in every school, every opportunity. David Gonski says unless we invest in the kids who are falling behind, we will have an economic drag in our nation. So, we've got some very strong evidence about the economic benefit. But just let me pause for a minute and say any parent, anywhere, who has got any common sense, knows what a great education means for their kids. They know that it means that their kids will be better able to adapt to our changing economy and to seize the opportunities of the new jobs that are being developed all the time. We don't know what kind of work our kids will be doing in ten and twenty years’ time but unless we educate them well, they will not be able to grab hold of those opportunities for their own personal benefit and also for the benefit of our nation.

IRANI: Alright Tanya Plibersek thank you so much for your time this morning.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.