TRANSCRIPT: 612 ABC, Brisbane, Monday, 16 May



MONDAY, 16 MAY 2016

SUBJECTS: Penalty rates; Liberals' unfair Budget; Youth unemployment; Turnbull's failed NBN rollout; Refugee policy; Liberals division.

EMMA GRIFFITHS, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, penalty rates have been an issue discussed today. Why is working Saturday different to working on a Sunday?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I think most fair-minded Australians would say that working when you're away from your family - during the week your kids are at school, they're in childcare - if you're missing out on family time, if you're missing out on time with friends, you're missing out on opportunities to play weekend sport. All of these anti-social hours do really have an impact on people's lives and they deserve to be compensated for that. And don't forget when we're talking penalty rates we're also talking about people who are working Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, New Year's Day. It is fair enough to expect that if you’re working those sorts of anti-social hours, that you'll be compensated for doing that.

GRIFFITHS: But why is Sunday special? Is that a hangover from, do I say hangover, it's a religious meaning there for Sundays?

PLIBERSEK: Look, certainly once upon a time it was. But I think even people who don't have religious beliefs now, see Sunday as a day to be spent with friends and family relaxing. If you're not spending it with friends and family relaxing, then you deserve to be compensated for that. I also think about a lot of the people who work penalty rate shifts who are working in nursing, ambulance officers, paramedics - these people are sometimes working very long shifts through the night and we really rely on them to be prepared to do that. I think it's part of showing that we respect that work and value it, that we should also pay the penalty rates.

GRIFFITHS: Would you like to be able to legislate penalty rates as the Greens have called for today?

PLIBERSEK: I think we've got a very good independent umpire. In the first instance, the independent umpire should be allowed to make a decision. The danger with what the Greens have proposed is that if you can legislate to increase penalty rates, you can legislate to decrease them. And what Malcolm Turnbull and 50 of his parliamentarians have said so far is that they want to interfere and reduce penalty rates. I think that the first steps should be to see what the independent umpire says. Labor has made a submission to the independent umpire very strongly arguing that penalty rates should be protected, that people should be properly compensated for working weekends and working anti-social hours.

GRIFFITHS: Tanya Plibersek, we heard on this show last week through some listeners that the working poor have been forgotten in this election campaign. Here is Paul from Seven Hills.

CALLER (PAUL): I work for $20 an hour and have been for the last five years or so and I don't see myself ever owning a house to be brutally honest. It's not like I spend extravagantly but I don't think it is a reasonable thing to even be dreaming of at my age. I'm 27 and I just don't think it's a possible thing. In thirty years, if I stay on the same wage and I save, only, even half my wage every year - which I doubt I'd do but if I was doing that and being a real scrounger - I don't, what's that $600,000. That's just paying off a house in thirty years and that's a pretty bad house.

GRIFFITHS: So that was one of our callers last week, Paul from Seven Hills there. It was around the issue of income tax cuts. The Budget's announced tax cuts for those on $80,000 and above. Will Labor commit to income tax cuts for people on lower wages?

PLIBERSEK: People will absolutely be better off if Labor is elected, those people on lower wages. We will support the tax cut for people on, that group between, $80,000 and $87,000 a year. It's not much of a tax cut, it's about $6 a week for most of those people. The people who really benefit from the last Budget are people above $80,000 and particularly people above $180,000 a year - they get a double tax cut. So if you're earning a million dollars a year, you get a $17,000 tax cut from this recent Budget -

GRIFFITHS: What would Labor do for people like Paul? 

PLIBERSEK: Just let me take you to how people are affected at the lower income end by this Budget and then I'll talk about Labor. If you're a working mum on $65,000 a year with two kids, you'd get about $4,700 less from this Budget because of cuts to Schoolkids bonus, in cuts to Family Tax Benefit. There are 330,000 pensioners that'll be worse off because of the change to assets testing. We say that people at the lower income end of the scale deserve much better support and much better services. You can see when we were in government we introduced, for example, the lower income superannuation contribution. We got rid of tax entirely for people on the lowest incomes so they didn’t even have to put in - a million extra people - didn't even have to put in a tax return at all. And, of course, it's about the services that we provide as well. School education is a huge issue in this election and vocational education, univ ersity education as well. We will absolutely do better on education and healthcare. Paul is also facing a future where he won't be able to go to a doctor who bulk bills. So we improved the situation of people on lower incomes when we were in government, both through reducing the tax they paid, protecting them from paying extra tax in their superannuation, by improving services. A lot of the work that we've been doing on protecting blue collar jobs in Australia really impact on people like Paul too. Bill Shorten made an announcement today of $59 million extra for the car industry which is obviously transitioning in Australia, making sure that we do have blue collar jobs and manufacturing jobs in Australia that are decently paid with decent conditions.

GRIFFITHS: On the jobs issue, the unions have been very critical of the new internship program for young disadvantaged people that the Government also announced in the Budget. Are the unions wrong to criticise that?

PLIBERSEK: I think they're right to be quite sceptical. We had 10 different employment programs that have been cut by this government including highly successful programs like youth connections, including programs like group training. Queensland's got 24,000 fewer apprentices since this government came to power because they've been cutting support for apprenticeship programs like group training. And then at five minutes to midnight, when the pressing problem of youth unemployment is finally unavoidable for them, they introduce a program which instead of being a 4-year apprenticeship is a 4-month internship. I think helping long-term unemployed people back into the workforce with intensive supports is a good idea. I think churning people through jobs where they don't pick up skills would be a bad idea. We don't have a lot of detail from the Employment Minister about which of those alternatives this program will be.

GRIFFITHS: Tanya Plibersek, we've got a caller in Lara from Mount Crosby. Lara what's your question for Labor's Deputy Leader?

CALLER (LARA): Hi Tanya, it's Lara here. Problem we've all got in a suburb of Brisbane, we can't even get reliable broadband, let alone fast broadband. I hear friends talk about Netflix - I wouldn't know what that is, can't use it. But on a more important note, I've a very progressive employer who encourages us to work from home where possible. That's impossible for me because I can't use the internet reliably.

PLIBERSEK: I think you are making a great point Lara. It’s incredible how many people have raised this with me as I've been travelling around the country during this campaign. Malcolm Turnbull, of course, when he was Communications Minister promised that the whole of Australia would be linked up to high speed broadband - his NBN, by the end of 2016 - and we've got whole huge parts of Australia that aren’t anywhere near being hooked up even to the second rate NBN that he's now landed on. You're really right to point out the productivity benefits of having a good NBN, because it's not just working from home, of course. If you've got your own business you can be trading all over Australia and you can be trading around the world. I've got in my electorate, a little part of my electorate is Lord Howe Island Lara and of course that relies almost entirely on tourism for their economy. Now when their broadband goe s out people can't book a room in a hotel. They can't book their travel. So really you can see in instances like that how it affects the economy of a place when the broadband cuts out or when it's inadequate. People give up and go elsewhere and take their business.

GRIFFITHS: What would be better? What would Labor do to improve the situation?

PLIBERSEK: More fibre would be better. I mean Malcolm Turnbull promised that his NBN would be cheaper, delivered sooner and faster speeds. In fact, we've found out that it's more expensive, it's a slower connection and it's going to be much longer to be delivered than he promised. He said it would be right across Australia by the end of 2016 and we're nowhere near that. We believe that the NBN should have more fibre, the technology of the 21st century and less copper - the technology of the 19th century.

GRIFFITHS: Thanks very much for your question Lara. Tanya Plibersek, Peter Dutton has been out in his electorate today where you have also been campaigning with the Labor candidate, Linda Lavarch and asylum seekers has come up as another issue. Pondering on that issue, would Labor allow refugees to resettle in New Zealand?

PLIBERSEK: We've said that we're open minded about that. The New Zealand Government made that offer some time ago. We believe that there should be a regional resettlement process and people who've been waiting on Manus Island and Nauru for years actually need to be resettled in countries where they can live permanently.

GRIFFITHS: So, open minded sounds like yes?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we're open minded about it. Bill Shorten’s already said that. We think that there should be a proper regional arrangement. There are some countries in our region who don't take many or any refugees and we also say that Australia should take more refugees but they should come here safely. We don't want to restart the boats so we need to make sure that we continue to send a strong signal to people smugglers that they cannot exploit people and trade in the misery in the way that they've been doing. But we think that Australia, as a generous nation, has always benefited from migration and from refugees and we can bring people here safely. I think it's interesting that Peter Dutton has been talking about this today because, of course, his line is that there's some how some division in the Labor Party. The disagreements that people have been talking about are disagreements with his Government's p olicy including the fact that some people have been on Manus Island for years at a time.

GRIFFITHS: [inaudible] been photographed with posters saying let them stay which would suggest that they're arguing against offshore detention and offshore resettlement.

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think people are very worried about the times that it's taken to resettle people. But let's have a look, if you're going to talk about division, at what’s been happening in the Liberal Party, not for the last few days but for two and half years. You've got Malcolm Turnbull replacing Tony Abbott and then Tony Abbott haunting him on the campaign trail.

GRIFFITHS: But today he was out saying that anyone speaking out and suggesting that Tony Abbott should come back was not doing him any favours?

PLIBERSEK: No, he's hoping to be seen as a team player so that if Malcolm Turnbull stumbles at this election, the way back to the leadership is a smooth one for Tony Abbott. But we've also seen, of course, a candidate in Fremantle today is out there talking about getting rid of protections in the Racial Discrimination Act and a whole range of other things that aren't according to their party policy. We've got dozens of climate change deniers in the Liberal Party and National Party. I don't know if their views agree or accord with Malcolm Turnbull's views. We've got divisions on marriage equality, should there be a plebiscite, should there be a conscience vote, should there be no vote at all?

GRIFFITHS: But I think it comes down to that issue for voters, though, are politicians saying what they actually believe? Do you believe Labor's policy of offshore detention and offshore resettlement is the right policy?

PLIBERSEK: I believe that we have to ensure that the boats don't start again because it is dangerous and people lose their lives. However, we can be more generous and we shouldn’t have people in indefinite detention. The other fight within the Liberal Party at the moment is about their retrospective superannuation changes, where they've just got people with steam coming out of their ears including Peta Credlin writing her column on the weekend about how impossible it is to say that any measure that starts in 2007 is not retrospective. It's the first time Peta Credlin said anything I agree with.

GRIFFITHS: Actually, I wanted to just end. We heard from Michaelia Cash today that she had a karaoke machine at home. I don't know, I'm not surprised by that Tanya Plibersek. But she revealed that her karaoke song was 'I Will Survive', Gloria Gaynor. What's yours?

PLIBERSEK: Look, there is actually a Geneva Convention against me singing in public. There has been international action to stop that happening. 

GRIFFITHS: We're not signatories to that at 612 ABC Brisbane. We want to know what's your song?

PLIBERSEK: Given that I'm in Brisbane and given that I'm a fan of the Go-Betweens, how about Spring Rain?

GRIFFITHS: Okay, well, gee - music credibility there Tanya Plibersek. Thank you so much for your time today.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Emma.