TRANSCRIPT - ABC News Breakfast, Tuesday, 10 February 2015

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SUBJECT/S:  Liberal leadership chaos; Liberal’s unfair budget; NSW Election; Broken Promise on Submarines; Bali 9 Death Sentences 


MICHAEL ROWLAND, PRESENTER: I am joined by the Deputy Labor Leader Plibersek. Good morning to you, thanks for your time.


ROWLAND: How do you see it ending for the Liberal Party?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's only a matter of time. The reason is – I've been out talking to ordinary Australians in Queensland and Victoria and NSW in particular in recent months, nobody says to me that after 17 months of an Abbott Government they feel better off.  And the problem of course is not the leader.  It doesn't matter whether it's Malcolm Turnbull, whether it's Julie Bishop, Scott Morrison, any of the alternatives. The problem is the policies. We've got Tony Abbott of course hanging on yesterday. I think the numbers show that probably two-thirds of his backbench voted against him, that is not a good sign for any leader. But I still say the problem is not Tony Abbott the person, the problem is $100,000 university degrees, the broken promise on Gonski school education funding, cuts to hospital funding, the GP Tax. All of these things are seen as deeply unfair by ordinary Australians and that's why they're rejecting the agenda of this Liberal Government.

ROWLAND: Lots of happy faces among Labor MPs in Question Time yesterday. Isn't it the case that you escaped your worst nightmare yesterday, a Malcolm Turnbull prime ministership?

PLIBERSEK: Our worst nightmare is the fact that country is not being governed properly at the moment. Seventeen months of a Liberal Government, the deficit has doubled, debt is unlimited, unemployment is some of the highest we have seen in 12 years, our worst nightmare is a country that is not being stewarded properly, an agenda signed up to by all of the potential leadership aspirants that is all about unfairness.

ROWLAND: Voters could say the same thing during the circus of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd leadership as well - the country not being governed.

PLIBERSEK: And we have learned our lessons from that. We are a united, focused team and it would be good to have a united focused Government.

ROWLAND: Isn’t it the case though and Newspoll confirmed yesterday that a lot of Labor voters really like Malcolm Turnbull. He is the last person the Opposition wants to see as its opponent.

PLIBERSEK: I think when Malcolm Turnbull says like he did to 2GB's Ray Hadley that he supports every single measure in the current Budget, it will be interesting to see how long they like him for. Malcolm Turnbull has done a good job of trying to distance himself from the unfair decisions made by Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and all of the Cabinet at Budget time. He hasn't been campaigning out there enthusiastically for the Government agenda. Unless Malcolm Turnbull is prepared to say what he repudiates in the Budget in May and actually makes some serious changes, then he will go the same way. It's the policies that people are rejecting.

ROWLAND: Bill Shorten says this will be the year of policy advancement and announcement by the Labor Party. When will we see some real policies from the Opposition?

PLIBERSEK: We have already made a number of very important policy announcements, like Labor continues to be committed to real action on climate change. We have said that we will cooperate with the Government on areas where we agree with them. We have supported $20 billion worth of measures in the last Budget that provide savings and revenue over time. So the idea we are not being positive and cooperative is absolutely not right. What we won't cooperate with is the negative attacks on Medicare, on GP services, against the livelihoods of GPs, the broken promises on the Gonski school education funding reform, $100,000 degrees and so on.

ROWLAND: But there is more to come, policies on job creation, sustaining economic growth. When can we see those?

PLIBERSEK: Of course you will see them. We have at least all of this year, we hope, before a Federal election. And Labor will be making policy announcements all through the course of the year.

ROWLAND: Now, the next big contest is the NSW election. Still a lot of concern within Liberal ranks about Tony Abbott being a drag on the Liberal Party vote there. Isn't it the case Tanya Plibersek that it's a long, long time before NSW voters will be prepared to forgive NSW Labor?

PLIBERSEK: I think that is a bit rich. The Liberal Party have got close to a dozen people that have been named in ICAC and they've got people sitting on the crossbench now have that have had to resign from the Liberal Party because of matters that they were involved in, particularly on the Central Coast. I think it's important to acknowledge that we absolutely have had some very bad apples in the Labor Party and they have been cut down from the Labor Party. They have been - they have had their membership removed and that is quite right. In fact I think if people do the wrong thing, they are robbing the taxpayers of NSW but they're also betraying their comrades in the Labor Party too because we have got branch members out there working hard to deliver great services to the people of NSW - they shouldn't be let down by people in elected positions. But it certainly applies to the Liberal Party as well. I will tell you one thing, Mike Baird is not Campbell Newman. He doesn’t have the same aggressive style. What is missing from Mike Baird is the ability to stand up to Tony Abbott. When Tony Abbott cuts $10 billion from hospital funding over NSW, over the coming years, shouldn't Mike Baird say something about that? Shouldn't he stand up and say ‘Tony Abbott you need to pay the last two years of the Gonski school education funding to our schools’? We have heard nothing from Mike Baird in defence of the people of NSW when his good mate, Tony Abbott, goes after the services that they need.

ROWLAND: A couple of other issues this morning - what do you make of that promise made by the Prime Minister to South Australian Liberal MPs about that submarine project going forward?

PLIBERSEK: This whole process has been absolutely wrong headed. The way you make a major multibillion-dollar defence purchase is you work out what we need. What is it?  What kind of equipment do we need based on the threats to Australia in the future, potential threats to Australia in the future? So you decide what you need and then you go to an open tender process to see who can provide that equipment at the best possible price. Making an announcement about buying submarines from any one company or any one country without having gone through that process, particularly when there is a defence white paper being written was muddle headed and worse from the very beginning. Of course South Australians should be allowed to tender for this. It’s extraordinary that it's taken so long to come to this position.

ROWLAND: And in your capacity as foreign affairs spokeswoman, the families of the Bali Nine ring leaders are in Indonesia making a personal plea to the President there to have those death sentences commuted. Do you fear that all hope is now lost?

PLIBERSEK: I don't fear that all hope is lost. I still hope that the Indonesian Government will give these young men a stay of execution. There is a lot of diplomatic effort going on behind the scenes and I don't want to speak too publicly about that because it can compromise our diplomatic efforts. But all Australians I believe would hope that the these execution will not proceed. Labor has always been firmly opposed to the death penalty, wherever it happens, to whomever it happens.

ROWLAND: Tanya Plibersek, thank you for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.


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