TRANSCRIPT - Capital Hill, Thursday 9 October 2014

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Subject/s: Iraq; Budget; Hizb ut-Tahrir; commercial surrogacy.

LYNDAL CURTIS, PRESENTER: I spoke to the Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek a short time ago. Tanya Plibersek, welcome to 'Capital Hill'. Now, Australia has launched its first air strikes against Iraq. They do come at a cost. The Treasurer Joe Hockey said in order to spend what is needed to defend the nation and deliver on Labor's commitment to bipartisan support in relation to the operations in the Middle East, you should pass the remaining Budget measures. Would it be patriotic to do so?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, obviously Labor is very concerned about our Australian Defence Force personnel who are serving overseas at the moment, protecting Iraqi civilians from IS, our thoughts are with their families here in Australia too, who every time they see a family member go off on deployment, of course have natural worries for that family member. I think it's in pretty poor taste, frankly, for Joe Hockey to be making domestic political points out of this. We've sought to be very bipartisan, to take a principled position on our decision-making around responding to the request of the Iraqi Government to help fight off IS. We've responded as part of the international community to that request in a way that has prioritised Australian safety and also our international responsibilities, and really that's where the debate should stay.

CURTIS: It will come at a cost, though, as I mentioned. Do you believe that the Government will need to find savings elsewhere or can the cost, which may be around half a billion dollars a year, be absorbed into what is a very big budget?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it's pretty clear that the Government has lost control of the Budget. Every Australian Government has to make decisions about spending priorities, and I've certainly never heard of a government arguing that we can't afford the defence budget unless we cut Medicare, cut pensions, cut university funding, cut support to young unemployed people. I mean I think it's...

CURTIS: But aren't they the spending priorities the Government has chosen?

PLIBERSEK: Yes, and if they could manage to convince the Australian people and the Parliament that these are good measures for Australia, then they will pass their Budget, but the Australian people have reacted very negatively to Joe Hockey's first budget, and the Australian Parliament, the representatives of the Australian people are responding to that negative reaction.

CURTIS: If I could move on, the Prime Minister has again had some strong things to say about the Islamic political group, Hizb ut-Tahrir. There are suggestions, though, from some experts that if you crack down on groups like those, perhaps deem them to be terrorist groups, you force them underground where they're harder to keep tabs on. Do you think that a stronger line against Hizb ut-Tahrir needs to be taken, or are there risks in that?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it's very important to take the advice of our security and intelligence agencies about the best way to handle individual groups. We've got very experienced security and intelligence personnel who can give us that advice. It's important that the members of Parliament, Ministers, the Government and Opposition, test that advice, ask questions and challenge the advice of the authorities to make sure that we are getting the full picture, but when our security and intelligence agencies advise a particular approach with a particular group, I think it's important to listen.

CURTIS: And one final question: the 2012 surrogacy case involving an Australian couple leaving one of their twins behind in India, is that something you have any knowledge of, or should the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop be able to look back at the files on that case?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I don't have any details other than what I've read in the paper, but of course any situation that doesn't prioritise the best needs of a tiny new baby is something of concern to the Australian community and I think it shows that Nicola Roxon was quite right when she was Attorney-General in commissioning a report on the disparate approach of different states to this issue of commercial surrogacy overseas, different State regimes operating, and I think that the next step - unfortunately the Government sat on that report for about 8 months – but the next logical step that people including judges have been calling for is a more thorough investigation of Australian state-based laws around commercial surrogacy arrangements and their intersection with immigration law. It is a pretty patchy, pretty murky area, and as with anything that involves young children, babies, we need to ensure that the best interests of the child are at the centre of our decision-making and our legal structures.

CURTIS: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you.



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