TRANSCRIPT - ABC Radio National Breakfast, Tuesday 24 February 2015

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SUBJECTs: National Security, Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran, Newspoll, Leaked Liberal Emails.


FRAN KELLY, PRESENTER: Tanya Plibersek, welcome to Breakfast.


KELLY: I’m well, thank you. Tanya Plibersek, the Government’s looking at changes as we heard yesterday, that could render some Australian citizens stateless. Is Labor satisfied such a radical move is necessary?

PLIBERSEK: Well unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of detail in the speech yesterday. We’ll very carefully consider anything that the Government puts to us but it’s not really clear at the moment what exactly the proposal is. I think, Fran, you would’ve seen the confusion from the Immigration Minister last night, Peter Dutton, on the 7.30 Report - wasn’t actually able to answer these questions about how any of these measures would take effect and what would happen if you had a dual national whose Australian citizenship was revoked and then the country of their original citizenship wouldn’t take them back. Peter Dutton wasn’t able to answer so obviously we don’t know the details, the details haven’t been described yet by the Government.

KELLY: In theory though, how does Labor feel about the notion of winding back rights like this, Bill Shorten said yesterday there should always be a strong presumption in favour of the liberty of individual citizens. But obviously, in certain times, difficult decisions need to be made, but in theory, what’s your view of either stripping someone of their Australian citizenship or for just a sole Australian citizen, winding back or curtailing the privileges so significantly?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t think we should speculate about measures that haven’t been described yet, but let me talk about the principles that have been applied in the past-

KELLY: Well they have been described in those terms.

PLIBERSEK: Well let me talk about the principles that we would apply as we have in the past. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Security and Intelligence has legislation presented to it, it goes through it in a great deal of detail, it’s got another tranche of legislation before it at the moment with data retention and the principles that we apply are that we want to give our security and intelligence agencies the powers they need to keep Australians safe, but we don’t want to give away the rights and liberties of Australians, the rights and liberties that make us the great country that we are. So it’s a balancing act there. If there is a necessity-

KELLY: Is the tipping point needing to be changed though, as the Prime Minister said on Sunday?

PLIBERSEK: I think- just let me finish on this. If there is a necessity for greater powers, they have to come with greater transparency and greater accountability and there are opportunities to increase the accountability and transparency when you’re talking about issues like data retention and like the measures that the Prime Minister was describing yesterday. We’re not going to give away people’s individual rights and privacies without expecting something in return which is the transparency and accountability that goes with any additional measures.

KELLY: Labor’s response yesterday was that it’s willing to consider all measures the Government puts up. Will you consider, have you got any inclination to agree with the Prime Minister’s assessment that more Muslim leaders should follow the leader, Western leaders, and speak out more loudly against extremism or at least describe Islam as a religion of peace and mean it?


KELLY: What did you think of that comment?

PLIBERSEK: I think it was the weakest part of the speech yesterday. I think Australian Muslim leaders have been unequivocal in their condemnation of Daesh, or ISIS or ISIL or whatever you want to call it - they’ve been unequivocal in their condemnation and it gets pretty annoying to be a strong voice for peace consistently, all the time, and have it unacknowledged in the way the Prime Minister did yesterday. And I should say also-

KELLY: Is it annoying- go on.

PLIBERSEK: I think David Irvine has said, and many other law enforcement people have told us that their greatest source of information, the most important source of information for them has been people in the Arabic speaking community who overhear something, who are worried about people that they know being radicalised. They are- the Arabic speaking and Muslim communities in Australia have been on the front line of defending Australia against these potential threats and I think that it’s important to acknowledge that and it’s important to say we are in partnership here.

KELLY: Given that, was it wise for the Prime Minister to so publicly accuse some Muslim preachers of not doing enough to preach Islam as a religion of peace or counterproductive?

PLIBERSEK: I think it certainly risked being counterproductive but I’m certainly very happy to say, and the Labor Party has said, Bill Shorten said yesterday, that we know that the partnership that we’ve had with the Muslim communities in Australia has been critical to the disruption of potential terrorist threats up till now.

KELLY: You’re listening to RN Breakfast, it’s nineteen minutes to eight. Our guest is Deputy Labor Leader and Shadow Foreign Minister, Tanya Plibersek. Can I move on to the issue of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the two Australians on death row in Bali. Their lawyers are back in court today hoping to force President Widowdo to consider their cases for clemency, but the Indonesian authorities say it’s likely the pair will be sent this week to the prison island getting ready for their execution. What’s the latest you know about hope for these two? Or is hope running out now?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t think you can say hope is running out. I think it’s very important that this legal challenge be allowed to run its course and certainly we’ll be communicating with the Indonesian Government to ensure and to urge that this latest legal challenge be allowed to run its course. I have been in contact with the families of the young men and with their legal team and I’ll remain in contact with them. I think while there’s life there’s hope. I think it’s important that the Australian Government is consistent in its communications with the Indonesian Government saying that we would expect that this legal challenge be allowed to run its course.

KELLY: In terms of that, the Prime Minister’s comments last week reminding Indonesia of the $1 billion of tsunami aid a decade ago has unleashed, as we saw over the weekend, a protest campaign in Indonesia #CoinsForAustralia. Given that reaction was that the wrong call by the Prime Minister? Are you worried it’s harmed the chances of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s very important Fran now that we watch every word we say because these two young men are facing a very serious penalty and I wouldn’t want to worsen it by any loose language myself. I think what the Prime Minister intended to say is that Australia and Indonesia have a long and strong relationship and that we hope Indonesia would, as we do, remember and value, the length, and strength of that friendship.

KELLY: Tanya Plibersek if I could move to domestic politics, some sobering news for Labor in today’s Newspoll. Your primary support has fallen three points, your two party-preferred lead has narrowed to six points. Bill Shorten has lost ground as preferred Prime Minister but still in the lead. All this following a spill motion against Tony Abbott and division in the Liberal Party. What is wrong with Labor that the voters seem to be losing interest in you too? It does suggest you’re not giving them what they want.

PLIBERSEK: I’m not sure you can say what’s wrong with Labor when we’re still in the lead.

KELLY: Yeah but you’ve lost ground when the Liberal Party has been at its most divided it’s been in eighteen months, or years.

PLIBERSEK: I think we’ve said all along that the polling, of course it’s of interest to people, but it’s background noise in the work that we do down here in Parliament and in our electorates.  So polls go up and down what matters is what people do on election day.

KELLY: Do you also take notice of the fact that in this Newspoll voters seem to put Tony Abbott way ahead of Bill Shorten on the questions of who’s better to handle the economy and who’s best to handle national security. Two key measures for the electorate. Is it time Labor did something about that and maybe got some policy out in front of the voters.

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the greatest irony of course is that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey should be thought to manage the economy well. In this Budget last May –

KELLY: That’s the point isn’t it, given the unpopularity of this Budget, Labor is still marked down for its handling of the economy in comparison.

PLIBERSEK: And so far they’ve doubled the deficit, made debt unlimited, they continue to break promises like no new taxes, no cuts to pensions, no cuts to health and education. We’ll continue to campaign on those issues and of course as time goes by as the election comes closer we’ll give more detail about our policies.

KELLY: And just finally leaked emails from the Liberal Party, so not really your business in a sense, the Federal Treasurer Phil Higgins and demanding something be done about the conflict of interest he says is there with Peta Credlin and Brian Loughnane. Peta Credlin, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, she’s not an elected member of Parliament she’s got quite a lot of heat and attention, do you have some sympathy for her in that position?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t think that the fact that she’s married to the Federal Director is anything for us to be commenting on or to have a view on. I think people are perfectly able to be professional at work and carry out roles that might be complementary or in conflict. I think what the leaked emails show is that Tony Abbott has a real problem with his party. His backbench are revolting, his frontbench are now revolting. You hear stories about ministers who’ve said they would have changed their view if they’d had the opportunity to vote a different way now in a spill motion. There’s seven of them who say that they’d vote a different way on a spill motion. These emails, the substance of them isn’t important, the fact that they’re being leaked is what’s important.

KELLY: Tanya Plibersek thank you very much for joining us.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Fran.


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