SUNDAY, 15 MAY 2016

SUBJECTS: Milk prices, refugee policy, Labor's plan for investment in rural regional schools, backpacker tax, election.



DEB KNIGHT, PRESENTER: So what is in store for week two of this marathon campaign? Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek joins us now along with Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce who is in Armidale NSW for us. The dual of the deputies: good morning to you both.


BARNABY JOYCE, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Good morning Tanya. Good morning Deb. How are you?

KNIGHT: Very well - beautiful day in Armidale. Now Tanya, first off, we must say the asylum seeker policy of Labor - the protests that you are encountering - it's very much overshadowing the Labor message.

PLIBERSEK: I don't think it is at all. We had a public meeting yesterday and someone came into the public meeting and made a point. It's a democracy. I think it's fantastic that people get to speak up in our Australian democracy -

KNIGHT: But that grabbed the headlines rather than what Bill Shorten was speaking about.

PLIBERSEK: Well, that's about reporting really isn't it? This is obviously an issue because there are a lot of people who are very critical of the Government's mishandling of this. They are very critical that people have not been resettled off Manus Island and Nauru, that processing times have more than doubled under this government for asylum seekers so it is not surprising that members of the public speak up.

KNIGHT: Labor candidates are also speaking up though. Are you surprised at how many candidates have actually been publically opposed to Labor's policy? They've had to tow the party line.

PLIBERSEK: Well, actually they're opposed to the Government's policy which is indefinite detention on Manus Island and Nauru and what I'd say is our policy is to make sure we stop the boats but that we are compassionate - that we bring more people. There are 61 million displaced people around the world and we need to make sure that we are looking after our fair share of those people but that we bring them here safely, that we don't allow the boats to restart.

KNIGHT: Will you be softening Labor's stance?

PLIBERSEK: No, absolutely not. We've made it very clear that we will continue to make sure that the boats don't restart, that we're not putting people smugglers back into business, because they are wicked people who take advantage of desperate people from around the world. On the other hand, we also need to be aware of doing our fair share as a strong country and a wealthy country. There's a great deal of need in the world and we're not doing our share at the moment. And letting people face indefinite detention on Manus Island and Nauru is not something we ever contemplated when we set up these centres.

KNIGHT: Alright, we'll see what sort of reaction Bill Shorten gets on the ongoing campaign to that. Barnaby, over to you now. You're being singled out by dairy farmers who say that their industry is very much in crisis due to cuts to milk prices by these big processers, Fonterra and Murray Goulburn. There was an appeal from two farmers who appeared on our show yesterday. Take a look.

DAIRY FARMER: To me, Barnaby Joyce seems like a ‘can do’ kind of guy. I honestly think that if we could sit down with Barnaby Joyce for an hour, and just discuss what the factory is actually doing to us, we could get this retrospective payment stopped immediately and stop it from happening in the future. And then we could sit down and talk about the future and where we need to go in the dairy industry.

KNIGHT: Pretty blunt there Barnaby. You're campaigning on a 'wombat trail' in Victoria, in their backyard this week. Can you help them?

JOYCE: Well definitely, what we're going to do is, I'll first of all get on the phone tomorrow and start talking to the processors and also the retailers. They also went through in that interview the comparison between the price of a bottle of water and the price of a bottle of milk and this is something that I think is anathema. I think it's incredibly wrong that water basically in a bottle is priced more than milk and I think we have to have a strong yarn to the retailers about this and basically ask them that if that they want to fix it, that would be great. But if they don't then they ask the Government to fix it which they always complain about. But that's an option that we can always keep up our sleeve. I've already made sure -

KNIGHT: Would you support a levy on shoppers?

JOYCE: No, I'll make sure that we go down there and have a yarn to them first before we suggest anything Deb. I've already made sure that farm household allowance, we've changed the regulations on that so it's more available, so Mum and Dads on these farms can get up to $1000 a fortnight just to keep groceries on the table. We have concessional loans available and made sure that rural financial counsellors are also there. We've made recommendations to the ACCC for this to be further investigated and that's not enough. I will on Tuesday get down there and sit down with these people and have a yarn to them. I can completely understand the grief that they're going through and I want to make sure that we do whatever's in my power. In fact, I was talking to some of my political people, well not people from my political side, but had a long conversation with other people from the other side of t he political fence on the weekend because this is something that is vitally important and we've got to make sure we do something about it.

KNIGHT: Is that enough Tanya?

PLIBERSEK: Well Deb, I think it's extraordinary that Barnaby is very happy to take credit when beef prices go up but when milk prices go down he's missing in action. Now I know that there are investigations under way on this issue at the moment but at the very least, farmers - thousands of them - very badly affected by this should be getting support of their government for financial counselling services, mental health support services if they need it -

JOYCE: Well Tanya that's what we're doing -

KNIGHT: Do you cop criticism for not doing enough Barnaby?

PLIBERSEK: Well why is he not there this week?

JOYCE: First thing I'd say to Tanya is we actually are making sure that there's the capacity for people to get access to money through Farmhouse Allowance. We're doing that Tanya. Concessional loans, we're doing that. Rural financial counsellors Tanya, we're doing that. I haven't quite heard what the Labor Party policy is on anything to do with agriculture, it's just like it's invisible to you, agriculture doesn’t exist -

PLIBERSEK: Our Shadow Minister and our candidate were there this week.

JOYCE: Except for your policy to bring in new federal tree clearing police which is going to absolutely excite people all across our nation, the thought that we'll have federal tree police all over our places to go with the state ones. That's a great policy Tanya. And just going back to your position on the boats Tanya, come on, fair dinkum, we know that the position that Bill Shorten's annunciating is not your position Tanya. And it better not be your position if you're going to stand in a seat against the Greens. You know that, everybody knows that. You're playing a game of cards with both spades and hearts as trumps and it just doesn't wash, Tanya.

KNIGHT: Alright. Barnaby you were called a 'can do’ guy by the dairy farmers who were on the show yesterday. Will you be a can do guy on this other controversial issue in the bush, the idea of a backpacker tax. Will you kill this tax off altogether or will we just see it being delayed until after the election?

JOYCE: We want to make sure that we fix the issue. I think everybody knows that both myself, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have been in close negotiations about this. We will come to a resolution -

KNIGHT: Is it gone?

JOYCE: We will allow us the time to make sure that we'll have to get the legislation ultimately. We have to do delay then have to get the legislation ultimately to get a fairer fit. I don't quite know what Tanya's position is on this - you might like to ask her after I've finished so, if she wants to suggest what her government -

KNIGHT: Well, we'll put it to her now?

PLIBERSEK: Well Deb - you know what? It can't be gone as far as Barnaby's concerned when there's hundreds of millions of dollars booked as savings in the Federal budget for this backpacker tax. Once again, Barnaby Joyce's has been missing in action. There are bush communities suffering here, Joel Fitzgibbon, who's our.... well Joel Fitzgibbon who is our Shadow Minister has said that we will deal with this in government. We know that the backpackers have already stopped coming, they're going to Canada and New Zealand instead. There are communities that rely on these agricultural seasonal workers. We need to do a much better job in making sure that those farmers and agricultural communities get the support they need.

JOYCE: What are you going to do Tanya? I was kind of asking your position. What is your position? Tanya, what is your position? Tanya, what's your position? They always say you should ask them three times, what is your position?

KNIGHT: You're doing my job for me Barnaby, come on. Well what is Labor's stance though? Will you be supporting a backpacker tax or not?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we've said that, Joel Fitzgibbon, our shadow minister has said that he'll work with the affected communities to make sure that they have the labour they need -

KNIGHT: I don't think [inaudible] from either of you. It is a big issue for residences in the bush. We'll find out [inaudible].

PLIBERSEK: It's a bit rich from Barnaby. He's actually a part of a Government that has introduced a new tax that has got hundreds of millions of dollars of savings from this tax in the Federal budget. It was only released a week ago, if he was going to change it, he could have changed it a week ago but he hasn't.

JOYCE: What on earth does that mean Tanya? It sounds like your position on boat people. Thank you for clearly announcing your position Tanya. Whatever it was.

KNIGHT:  You haven't made it clear whether you'll kill it off either Barnaby, to be fair.

PLIBERSEK: He could have fixed it a week ago. The Federal budget was one week ago if he was serious about it.

JOYCE: It looks like your position on the boat people is the same as the position on the backpacker tax, you haven't got a clue.

DEB: There's been speculation too, Tanya, in the papers this morning - a very flattering photo, or not perhaps, of Albo, Anthony Albanese with a Kill Bill, Uma Thurman, out of that film, saying that he'll potentially kill off Bill Shorten for the top job if Shorten loses the election, if there is a spill announced. What's your position? Will you announce? Will you run? Throw your hat in the ring?

PLIBERSEK: I'm planning on taking Barnaby's job. I'm planning on being the Deputy Prime Minister in a Shorten Labor Government.

JOYCE: Tanya this is another time we just need to know your position, your position Tanya. Not mine, I'm not going to take your position, you are -

KNIGHT: Would you throw your hat in the ring though for the leadership?

PLIBERSEK: No. I'm planning, as I say on being the Deputy Prime Minister in a Shorten Labor Government.

KNIGHT: And if that scenario doesn't play out - will you put your hat in the ring?

PLIBERSEK: We're not contemplating any scenarios beyond the next election.

JOYCE: That's three strikes - boat people, backpackers tax and your position on Bill - three strikes and you’re out Tanya.

KNIGHT: Alright, Barnaby you've been very busy on the campaign trail. We know it's the 'wombat trail' from the Nationals which is always a bit of a different route that you follow. But you've been having a bit of fun while you've been out there as well. We saw this picture of you on the Twitter feed standing on the bar. Where were you when this picture was taken? 

JOYCE: Well, Walcha was kept out of the council amalgamation - it's great. I'm from…I played rugby for Walcha, Deb, and so it's my community and to go up there and celebrate with the people from Walcha and making sure that keep Walcha as its own identity. Armidale is a great city but it's not Armidale, Tamworth is a great city but it's not Tamworth. We fought, we won and we celebrated that night and it was great to be with all my mates and all the other guys I used to play football with and the people I grew up with. There's only a few times you get to dance on a bar in a pub but that was one of them.

KNIGHT: I reckon you've danced on a bar of a pub many a time over the years Barnaby, don't underplay this -

PLIBERSEK: The only surprise in that is he was standing still and not dancing or singing. The only surprise in that photo I reckon -

JOYCE: Tanya you can join me, you can join me. We can dance on the bar together.

PLIBERSEK: But I'd like to say to Barnaby - one of the announcements we made this week was the $1.8 billion extra for schools funding for regional and rural schools and if he's doing this tour of country areas, he should explain to people why he doesn't want extra money to go into their schools including in his own electorate of New England, $28 million extra over the next two years. Why doesn't he think schools deserve that?

JOYCE: Tanya's trying to pivot off the boat - for all you people in TV land there, what Tanya's doing now is she's pivoting off the boat people which she has no answer for, pivoting off the backpackers which she has no answer for and pivoting on the fact that she's going to take Bill Shorten's job, which she does have an answer for but she doesn't want to tell you.

KNIGHT: Well you've put the challenge out to her though in terms of her dancing on the bar. What are we expecting to see from you Tanya? Any city bars we might see you on?

PLIBERSEK: There'll be no dancing on bars I can tell you. There'll be a lot of celebrating on election night if we get there but it will involve no dancing on bars.

JOYCE: And now she's complaining about my dancing skills, it's terrible, terrible.  

KNIGHT: Alright, we will keep in touch with both of you during the course of this campaign. We'll see how you go with the Victorian dairy farmers this week Barnaby, whether you are that 'can do’ guy?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah. About time he shows up.

JOYCE: I'm looking forward to getting down there. That’s serious. That's serious. I'm looking forward to getting down there, it's very important. And I'll be down there on Tuesday. We'll be on the phone tomorrow for them and I'll try my very best to do whatever I can to help them.

KNIGHT: Alright, Tanya Plibersek, Barnaby Joyce, thanks so much for joining us this morning.