TRANSCRIPT: ABC Far North Radio, Monday 6 June




SUBJECTS: NSW storms, Leichardt's Labor candidate, Sharryn Howes, Hann Highway, Labor's positive plans for Childcare, Labor's positive plans for Leichardt

ADAM STEPHEN, PRESENTER: ...In Leichhardt 5 candidates are going for office. Labor's Sharryn Howes has a tough job to unseat the incumbent coalition MP Warren Entsch who holds the seat by a margin of nearly 6%. In town tonight to help Ms Howes is the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, Tanya Plibersek and she's with us now on ABC Far North to talk all things election. Hello Tanya Plibersek, welcome to the tropics.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE FEDERAL LABOR PARTY: Great to be here. I was listening to you talking of those low temperatures of 14 degrees and 17 degrees... Oh how lovely. I've been around the country quite a bit obviously over the last few weeks and I've been to quite a few places where that would make a very nice high.

STEPHEN: No doubt. Hey, you're from Sydney, how is your family and friends holding up [inaudible]?

PLIBERSEK: Extremely good, very good. Our house is built on a sand dune so it's very hard to grow a garden but at times like this we're very lucky the water has been draining away. We've seen some really shocking storm damage across Sydney - my mum's got no power; my brother's got no power. You people in Queensland know how hard it is when you get extreme weather events. You have had much worse weather than we're experiencing at the moment. But it is quite a shock for people - a lot of roofs have come off.

STEPHEN: We are used to extreme weather up here but it's still been quite shocking to see what's been happening in Sydney. How are you holding up? [inaudible] the back end of what’s been a marathon already.

PLIBERSEK: Good - I actually like campaigning, I really enjoy it. I miss the family a little bit obviously because I'm on the road a lot, but aside from that it's really a lot of fun. It's good because you spend your whole time during the course of the parliament working up the policy ideas, getting them costed, building up the offering you take to the election and I think there is a very clear choice at this election for people between a Labor Party that wants to invest in jobs, in health, in education; and Liberals who want to give business tax cuts and high income tax cuts and being able to go around the country and talk about that choice for people is good fun.

STEPHEN: How important do you think this seat is - that you are currently in, the seat of Leichhardt. It's held by a margin of 6% - while Warren Entsch has been in the seat for the better part of twenty years. A tough ask for the Labor candidate Sharryn Howes -how much of a chance do you think she's got?

PLIBERSEK: I think she got a very good chance. I think a lot of people think of Warren as someone who's pretty good at talking big but hasn't really delivered specifically for the seat and Sharryn's someone who's very committed to local community and been here a long time - worked obviously in Cairns but also in other communities across the electorate. She's just a very decent, committed, hard working person - I think people are responding very well to her and I'm looking forward to launching her campaign tonight.

STEPHEN: You're in town for that - no doubt she's very appreciative of that. There has been a feeling among some in the Labor party in the far North that perhaps there hasn't been the same kind of commitment from the Labor Party for Sharryn Howes' campaign as there has been for others in the past? What do you say to that?

PLIBERSEK: I wouldn't say that at all. This is my second visit to Sharryn and I know Bill Shorten has been up here as well and a number of our shadow ministers have been up here. Not just to support Sharryn obviously, but to talk to people from the seat of Leichhardt about how we would be different - how we would be better - how we would protect the reef and the jobs that go with it. How we would invest in schools and hospitals locally. When I was the Health Minister I used to spend a lot of time in Cairns with the health services - the huge needs that there are in an area that is spread out over so many communities as well so obviously the city of Cairns but also the very, very many communities that rely on for example remote health services, the flying doctor and so on. So I think we've always taken this seat very seriously and Sharryn's got a very good chance of taking it away from Warren.

STEPHEN: You're hearing from Tanya Plibersek on ABC Far North. We'll just ask about one thing that's been making news up here locally today, Tanya Plibersek, the Coalition was in town to pledge $42 million to help seal a pretty important road - the inland Hann Highway.  It's a road that could cut travel time down between Cairns and Melbourne by nineteen hours - this is for the transport trucks that take food and vegetable produce from this part of the world down south. Effectively flood proofing the route down south for the farmers. Would the Labor Party match that $42 million do you reckon?

PLIBERSEK: Isn't it a shame that the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund has been around for well over a year now and it's three and half weeks out from Election Day and it’s now they've started making promises about this very important road. We are of course very aware of the unsealed sections and the importance of doing some work on the road and we'll have more to say on that later in the campaign but it's really a little bit rich for the coalition to be now five minutes to midnight when they've been in government for two and a half years - almost three years - to start talking now about what they're going to do for roads in the area.

STEPHEN: Childcare is obviously one of the big ones for the Labor party today and we heard about the big announcement - the $3 billion that Labor will be putting in for relief for parents earning less than $150,000 - they get a 15 per cent increase in their childcare payment. The one question some have been asking today though is - won't childcare centres simply put up their fees and capitalise on it?

PLIBERSEK: Yes it is very important - there are two things we need to do. The first is to give parents some relief from fees and you've got it right – 15 per cent better on the childcare benefit and also we're also increasing the cap for childcare rebates so at the moment a lot of parents hit that $7,500 cap for each child and after that they are not getting any of the rebate - they're paying the full rate on the remainder of the fees. They end up essentially paying double the bill that they had. So we are lifting that threshold to $10,000 so parents will benefit in two ways but it's not just about the subsidies that parents get.  It's about the availability of childcare. One of the reasons a lot of places are able to put their fees up is because there is a real shortage of childcare in some places. So we've also set money aside for areas where th ere are shortages and to support the building and expansion of more childcare centres so that we deal with that issue of availability. We've also said we'll do that with before and after school care as well because we know there are a lot of schools and school communities that would love to have before and after school care and haven't been able to fund the set-up of that out of school hours care service. So we've got the rebates, the building more childcare centres and the out of school hours care expansion - all part of the package.

STEPHEN: Bill Shorten got himself into trouble today when talking about this package - his comments about childcare and working mothers - the coalition accused Mr Shorten of being sexist and out of touch saying Australian men rely on women to organise childcare. What's your feelings about this?

PLIBERSEK: Wow, I bet there's a whole lot of Australian women out there really surprised to find out the coalition doesn't think that they’re doing the majority of the unpaid caring work in our community - I mean it's not ideal and I feel very lucky that my husband and I share things pretty equally but we know statistically that women are likely to do twice as many hours every day of caring for children as men. Women do an average I think of eight hours, men do an average of four hours a day. That’s no surprise to women that they're more likely to be doing more unpaid caring. We also know that there is a big gender pay gap in this country and one of the reasons is that women are more likely to have broken working patterns because they are more likely to be the primary carers of children, they are more likely to have that time out of the work force and when they're contemplating going back they're more likely to be working part time or on what's called the 'mummy track' - they end up taking jobs with less responsibility than they're up for because there is an assumption from the employer because they've got those caring responsibilities they won’t be up for it. I'd also say it's a little bit rich to be lectured by a government that's going to take paid parental leave away from 80,000 new mums every year - they're going to reduce their payments by up to $11,800 so it's terrific they're talking about childcare but I think they should think a little bit about the fact that in an ideal world men and women would share those caring responsibilities equally but it's not happening in every family across Australia quite yet.

STEPHEN: You are hearing from the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party Tanya Plibersek on ABC Far North. Time is really going to get the better of us Tanya Plibersek but you do have time for one last response. What is it you're hoping to, what's the message you're hoping to get across to Far North Queensland during this second visit to the electorate?

PLIBERSEK: I think the most important message is there's a clear choice between a Labor Party that supports jobs, education and health, a Liberal Party that's going to give $50 billion worth of tax cuts to big business - most of which will flow to overseas shareholders - and $16 billion worth of tax cuts to people on $180,000 a year. Malcolm Turnbull is happy to spend taxpayer’s money, he's just not happy to spend it on ordinary taxpayers. We in contrast want to invest more than $250 million extra in schools in the electorate of Leichhardt alone over ten years. We want to make sure there's a decent vocational education system here - a good TAFE and apprenticeships and we want kids who want to go to uni to be able to afford to go to uni. We want to make sure that Medicare survives the round of cuts that the Liberals have inflicted on it. Tha t's the choice.

STEPHEN: Tanya Plibersek, enjoy the warmer climate in Far North Queensland. Best of luck with the campaign launch for Sharryn Howes tonight and it would be nice walking conditions I'd imagine in Cairns - much nicer that what you've experiencing further south.

PLIBERSEK: Well my morning walks have seen my fingers turning blue some days in Canberra.

STEPHENS: You won't have that problem here; you might in fact sweat a little bit tomorrow morning. Tanya Plibersek thank you so much.