TRANSCRIPT: ABC Newsradio, Friday 1 July




SUBJECTS: The election; Medicare: Labor's positive plans for Australia; division and disunity in the Liberal Party; Victoria volunteer firefighters dispute.

MARIUS BENSON, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.


BENSON: I’m well. Now you started this campaign 55 short days ago as underdog and you’re finishing it as underdog. Is that a fair summary?

PLIBERSEK: We’re finishing it neck and neck actually, Marius, and we’re very proud of the campaign we’ve run. We’ve put out a very detailed program; we’ve got well over 100 positive policies out there. We’ve talked to the Australian people about how we’d pay for those positive policies and we’ve made sure that people understand that if they want good Medicare, if they want Gonski school funding for their kids’ schools, if they want a strong TAFE and university system and if they want decent jobs then they have to vote Labor. We know that one in ten people, or we believe one in ten people, are making their minds up as they walk into the polling booths and that means this last day of campaigning is a very important one for us.

BENSON: In fact, one in eight according to one of the polls this morning. When you say you’re proud of the campaign it sounds a little like you’ve got the runners up trophy in your arms and you’re looking at it admiringly.

PLIBERSEK: I don’t feel that way at all. It is literally neck and neck and today will be a decisive day, tomorrow will be a decisive day, Marius, and we’re just making sure that people know that on Saturday they can have Medicare or they can have Malcolm Turnbull, but they can’t have both.

BENSON: You say it’s neck and neck and it is, but it has been for 55 days. These long days of campaigning seem to have had zero impact on the polling numbers.

PLIBERSEK: It’s been very close all the way along and I think that’s a real achievement as well. Three years ago if you’d said that Labor would be in prospect after just one term in opposition, people would have laughed at you. And when there was a change in leadership for the Liberal Party a lot of people wrote us off, but we have come back strongly every time because the message that we’ve got is really resonating with the people. We’ve got a proposal that we invest in infrastructure that creates jobs and increases productivity, like the NBN, roads, rail, ports. Malcolm Turnbull’s only idea to create jobs is a $50 billion tax giveaway to big business in the hope that it will trickle down to ordinary workers.

BENSON: Malcolm Turnbull made the point that if you had been up against a Tony Abbott-led government you would have romped home. Do you think that’s true?

PLIBERSEK: I think that’s very telling – Mr Turnbull pre-positioning himself to do very badly in this poll and sending a message to his troops that it could have been worse. And it is phenomenal really, and I think that’s the real tale of this election from the Liberals’ perspective. They said they wanted a ‘DD’ and it ended up being a division and disunity election. They’ve had fights against superannuation – is it retrospective is it not. They’ve had fights against the backpacker tax – the Nationals against Liberals. The old climate change sceptics that are trying to throw their weight around. The people who have stopped Malcolm Turnbull doing what he says in his heart is the right thing to do which is have a free vote in the Parliament on marriage equality and there’s been so much division and disunity in the Liberal Party it is just extraordinary. And what happens after is anyone’s guess.

BENSON: You must be looking with some regret, in fact I think Bill Shorten’s said it openly, that in Victoria the volunteer firefighter’s dispute has done you no good. Do you think that could be the difference between, in determining the result tomorrow?

PLIBERSEK: Obviously, it hasn’t been a good thing to have this state government dispute happening at the same time as the federal election but we’ll deal with what we have to around the country. I think most people can tell the difference between a state and a federal issue. And they also feel that Malcolm Turnbull is pretty cynical and opportunistic here. He’s had the opportunity of voting in the past in the Federal Parliament to support volunteers and he hasn’t done it. It’s a bit ‘five minutes to midnight’ for him to be seeing the light on protecting volunteers.

BENSON: Bob Hawke was speaking in Sydney last night at, I think it was some sort of corporate gathering, and he’s been reported as saying that Labor’s run a good campaign but it’s likely Malcolm Turnbull will be returned. Is that a fairly realistic assessment from Bob Hawke?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think he was pointing to the bookies’ odds, and I’m not surprised that Bob knows the bookies’ odds well. But it’s 50/50, Marius, and people are still making up their minds and so we need to be out there strongly campaigning today and tomorrow and reminding people that it was Labor that built Medicare, the Liberals privatised it once and now they’re killing it with the death of a 1000 cuts. We’re the ones who want to protect penalty rates and make sure Australians have good quality jobs and that includes apprentices as well. We’re the ones that are saying we don’t want $100,000 degrees.

BENSON: Can I ask you this – do you agree that at 50/50 you’ll lose because Kim Beazley proved you can actually be 51/49, Labor, and still lose. At 50/50 you lose.

PLIBERSEK: No I don’t agree with that either it just depends where the votes fall – which seats they fall in. So we’re making sure that we go out there and fight for every last vote in every last seat.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: It’s a great pleasure to talk to you Marius, thank you.