TRANSCRIPT: ABC Newsradio, Monday 2 November 2015





SUBJECTS: GST, voting age, Hizb ut-Tahrir, climate change and the Pacific

MARIUS BENSON, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, you are speaking from Port Moresby, can I begin though before going to Pacific issues with some domestic issues; the goods and services tax is much debated at the moment, is Labor ready for a campaign on it and has Labor got an unambiguous position on the GST being extended?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well we do have an unambiguous position. We say that of course we should raise extra revenue by properly taxing multinational companies and by being slightly less generous with superannuation tax concessions to very high income earners. Going to measures like the GST, of course, mean that every Australian will be paying more tax; indeed families will be paying thousands of dollars a year more tax.

BENSON: So no debate – Labor is against it?

PLIBERSEK: Well we’ve been very clear over the years that we think that raising the GST is a very unequitable way of raising extra tax revenue. It means that every Australian is paying more tax and we’ve made a number of suggestions to the Government about how we can raise additional revenue by actually making multinational companies pay the tax that they’re supposed to be paying and by just trimming the very generous tax concessions for people who’ve already got millions of dollars in their superannuation accounts.

BENSON: So they’re the issues you’re prepared to address, but when the Government says everything is on the table, Labor has got the GST definitely off the table – the position is not going to be changed by this new round of the debate on that issue?

PLIBERSEK: Well, the problem with the GST is that is always means that even the poorest people see their tax burden increase. And in this case we’re talking about thousands of dollars of extra tax for the average family in a year.

BENSON: Can I ask you about a couple of other issues that are around – Bill Shorten wants to have 16 year olds given the vote. What’s your view on that?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s a very important debate to have nationally, whether 16 or 17 year olds should be encouraged to vote. I know there’s a lot of 16 and 17 year olds out there who follow politics very closely; they feel passionately about the future of their country. Many of them are already paying taxes. When you’re 17 you can sign up to the military, you can be driving already, I mean there are a great number of 16 and 17 year olds who are very responsible, very engaged and very interested in talking about whether they should have a say.

BENSON: So you’re in favour of lowering the voting age, then?

PLIBERSEK: Oh, I’m certainly in favour of having a national debate about it.

BENSON: Can I ask you about the other issue around at the moment – another issue around at the moment, which is a gathering of Muslim Australians organised by the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir yesterday, there were positions put that Muslim Australians are facing forced assimilation, and specifically, that Muslim children should not be required to sing the national anthem. What’s your view?

PLIBERSEK: Oh I think those sorts of statements give all Muslims a bad name. I think that they are completely counterproductive. I think the sort of people who get up on a stage and say things like that are truly numbskulls. I’m not sure what it is that it is possible to object to in the Australian anthem – is it the “girt by sea” part they don’t like? Is it “our beauty rich and rare”? Is it the “boundless plains to share” in the second verse? I mean, truly, I think this type of public meeting yesterday – just extraordinary to have people get up on stage and make those sorts of comments.

BENSON: And can I move onto the topic which is central to your Pacific tour, which is climate change. Malcolm Turnbull says he’s not changing the direct action policy that he inherited from Tony Abbott, that the proposed cuts of 26 to 28 percent put us in the middle of the global pack on climate change and it’s an honourable position to take to Paris, your view?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think those targets put us at the back of the pack. I mean, Tony Abbott tried to say those targets made us the equivalent of the United States except the United States was meeting those targets five years earlier than us. Look we’re in the Pacific specifically because Pacific nations are already facing climate change, the results of climate change. They’re already seeing their shorelines washed away, they’re seeing the extreme weather events, there are predictions that there will be more extreme weather events – greater frequency, greater intensity. They’re seeing decline in crops, they’re seeing declining supplies of fresh water, they’re seeing fresh water polluted by salt water. For these Pacific Island nations, climate change is not a distant fear for them – it’s not something they fear will happen in the future, it’s happening to them now. And PNG is facing an extremely bad drought that is not just obviously affecting food supplies and the agricultural industries, but in fact seeing mines close down because the rivers that are used to transport the products of the mine aren’t flowing anymore. So we’re seeing huge economic impacts as well as the physical, environmental impacts of climate change already in the Pacific.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek thanks very much for joining NewsRadio from Port Moresby this morning.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks Marius.