TRANSCRIPT: ABC RADIO, Tasmania, Monday. 9 May



MONDAY, 9 MAY 2016

SUBJECTS: Labor candidate Ross Hart; New UTAS campuses; Tamar River; Liberals' unfair cuts to health and education; Liberals' unfair tax cuts.

PENNY TERRY, ABC RADIO NORTHERN TASMANIA: You'll be seeing a lot of election material over the next eight weeks, on the websites and in the brochures of your local candidates. They'll be telling you about the issues and the projects that are important to them. But how many of those projects and how many of their passions can you actually expect them to get money for. I spoke with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek, about this while she was visiting Tasmania today.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, I never need an excuse to come to Tassie, I actually really love it here and we like to have our family holidays here, but that's not the reason that we're starting the campaign here. I think Tasmanians know that there was nothing in the Budget for them last week and I'm down here today to say that we think a Labor Government would be better for Tasmanians. If you look at last week's Budget - we're in the seat of Bass today - 82% of people in Bass don't get a tax cut because they don't earn over that magic $80,000 a year figure. We know that in Tasmania only 1% of Tasmanians actually earn more than $180,000 a year, so those people who are lucky enough to get a double tax break in this Budget and they are not living in Tassie either. And Tasmanians still cop all of the same cuts that were there even from the 2014 Budget. So if your, say a working mum ear ning $65,000 a year with 2 kids in high school, you'll actually be $4,700 a year worse off under this Budget. So starting out the campaign, I suppose we are saying to Tasmanians, there is very clearly a choice between a Labor Party that puts people first and a Liberal Government that has got the same old cuts and tax benefits that go to the top end of town and big business.

TERRY: I'm sure with the very sophisticated, modern campaign party machines these days you could look at any budget, go to any state and give out similar figures. Why have you come to Tasmania on the first day of the campaign if you're not going to make any announcements?

PLIBERSEK: I'm in Tasmania because Tasmania is very important for Labor. We've got a set of policies that we think will really benefit Tasmanians. We've made policy announcements here in the past. You would know of course, we've already made an announcement about a contribution to 2 new campuses for University of Tasmania that, of course, benefit Launceston and Bernie. In every area, we are committed to increasing school funding. We've said we'll fully fund the Gonski needs-based funding system. I'm a former Health Minister, so I'm pretty disgusted at the billion dollars that's been taken out of Tasmanian hospitals. We'll do better on funding public hospitals, making sure that bulk billing stays high and keeping pathology and diagnostic imaging affordable for families. There are a lot of policies that we've already announced that make a big difference for Tasmanians - in fact we've got about&n bsp;100 policy announcements already out there.

TERRY: If we have a look at some of those local things, specifically in Bass. I've got the brochure here from your local candidate, Ross Hart, and he says in his brochure that he supports a stand-alone ten bed facility for palliative care beds in the north. Will the Labor Party commit to fund this?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we're at the beginning of an eight-week campaign and Ross has been fantastically successful already in getting Labor to announce the Launceston and Bernie campuses for UTAS. I'm sure he'll be working hard on all the things he supports. He's a fantastic active local candidate and the contrast, of course, is with Mr Nikolic who hasn't prevented the massive cuts - $147 million cut from schools in his electorate and $365 million cut from hospitals in his electorate. In contrast, Ross Hart's already had one win and I'm sure he'll have more.

TERRY: But with regards to this ten bed facility, you can't yet commit to that funding?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we are at the beginning of an eight-week campaign and you'll see a lot of announcements from Labor, even more than the 100 positive policies we've already announced.

TERRY: Let’s look at another one he talks about in his brochure which is about the Tamar River. He says that the Tamar River needs a first world solution and that he will campaign to deliver a cleaner Tamar. What money will the Labor party commit to the health of the Tamar River?

PLIBERSEK: I've got to give you the same answer. I know this is a big priority for Ross because he's spoken to me about the sewage and other problems in the Tamar and I've heard that over many years myself. I believe the project as it's proposed now is a very substantial one. We're looking at how we could do that over time. Ross has been lobbying every single Labor MP who sets foot in Launceston about this project. What I can say is he has already won $150 million for the new university campus, I'm sure he'll be just as active on this issue.

TERRY: I guess though for the voters that are listening today and there are 3 marginal electorates that are listening today, if they read these things in these brochures, but we don't know yet whether there will be Labor money going towards this, what's the point of the brochures?

PLIBERSEK: Well, you know a couple of things: you know that we've already made an announcement about university campuses, you also know that even on the policies that were announced in the Budget, you've got a Liberal Government that is cutting funding for your schools. Not might cut finding in the future, is cutting funding for schools. You have a Liberal Government that is cutting funding for hospitals. You know that we have done better on health here. You've got a Federal Government that is cutting the kids' dental program - 250,000 kids in Tasmania are eligible for $1,000 worth of dental care from their family dentist. That will go in two months’ time if Malcolm Turnbull is elected Prime Minister. That program goes.

TERRY: Yet, we still need to vote for our local candidates and the things that they say they are passionate about. I can go onto the other electorates as well - on their websites, in their brochures - of the Labor Federal Party has not yet committed to. So ahead of this election, how are we meant to know where the money will go?

PLIBERSEK: Ahead of this election you know that Andrew Nikolic has stood by while a $147 million is cut from schools in his electorate and $365 million is cut from hospitals in his electorate. And if you have a look in Braddon - $139 million cut from schools and $147 million cut from hospitals. I mean, these are enormous numbers and they are hurting patients and hurting students already. You know you've got a Liberal Government that's cut 1,400 apprentices from Tasmania. You've got a Liberal Government that wants $100,000 university degrees for Tasmanian kids.

TERRY: If I could just interrupt, that doesn't tell us what the Labor local candidates are going to be able to bring back home to their electorates here in Tasmania.

PLIBERSEK: Over the next eight weeks we'll be making many local announcements. And we've already made a very important one about the University of Tasmania and campuses.

TERRY: You've mentioned a couple times an eight-week campaign trail and we've been hearing about that a lot today and over the weekend. This maybe anecdotal, but people keep telling me that they aren't the least bit interested in this election that's coming up. We've got eight weeks to go, how much responsibility do sitting politicians need to take for this, what seems like, a disengagement with politics in Australia?

PLIBERSEK: We know that in a normal election campaign a heap of people make up their minds as they are walking into the polling booth and I think, certainly with a longer campaign like this, there will be a lot of people who are tuning out and saying I'm not going to think about it until the last week of the campaign. But I guess all I can say as a sitting Member of Parliament is, I think it is really important for democracy that people do take an interest. We are so lucky in this country that we are able to vote and if you don't like the way a government is doing its job, or the way your local member is doing a job, you can get rid of them. In fact, you can stand for parliament yourself. We've seen some very interesting results with independents getting up in the last lot of Senate elections including Jacqui Lambie who is obviously from Tasmania - north Tasmania as well. It is important that if you care about health, education, jobs , economic investment, you think about who can deliver that best for your community.

TERRY: Tanya Plibersek, thanks very much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: It's a pleasure.