SUBJECTS: Cyclone Debbie; Government’s $50 billion big business tax giveaway; China extradition treaty.


TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well good morning. I wanted to start with a few words about Cyclone Debbie in Queensland. Of course, right around Australia people are worried about the people of Queensland who are facing this great challenge and our thoughts are with them. Of course I join with the Premier of Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk in urging people to follow the advice of emergency service workers and stay safe.

I also today wanted to say a few words about legislation that passed through the House of Representatives last night, the big business tax cut. And this is another example, another proof, that this Government is completely out of touch with the needs of ordinary working families in Australia. This Government has prioritised a big business tax cut that will, for example, deliver $7.6 billion dollars to the four big banks over the decade, over actually helping ordinary Australians make ends meet. Last year we saw company profits surge by 26 per cent, and the Government's response to that is to give a big business tax cut to help those companies even more. At the same time, in the last quarter of last year, we saw wages go backwards. We've seen about up to 700 000 people now facing losing up to $77 a week because of penalty rate cuts. And we heard last week that other awards now face similar types of cuts. Hair and beauty award, clubs and restaurants, they're also now facing cuts to penalty rates which bring another about 300 000 people into this group of people who face losing extra money for working anti-social hours on Sundays and public holidays. On top of that, this Government's cutting Family Tax Benefit for about a million and a half families and going back to a whole lot of the horror 2014 Budget cuts that will make it harder for families to make ends meet. Now, you don't have to see a starker contrast than this obsession with big business tax cuts, versus actually cutting the take-home pay and other income that these families rely on. I think the Government needs to remember that yes businesses need a good business climate to work in, but they also need customers. And when you're cutting pay, and when you're cutting income support for families, you make it very difficult for people to go out and confidently spend in the economy. So it's bad for the individuals who are losing income, but it's also bad for demand in the economy.

On top of that, of course, we've got the crazy obsession with side issues like getting rid of section 18C in the Race Discrimination Act as a further proof that this Government just doesn't get it when it comes to ordinary people and the challenges they face in their everyday lives. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: We're reading this morning that Labor will back the disallowance motion against the China extradition treaty, what position have you landed on with the treaty and what are your specific concerns?

PLIBERSEK: Well I won't pre-empt the decision of the Labor caucus today, we make these decisions in our caucus room every Tuesday morning. But of course I will make the general comment that our allies, such as the UK, Europe, the US, New Zealand, none of these countries have signed this type of extradition treaty with China so we are very closely looking at the issue, as we should be looking at all of our extradition treaties. It is important to make sure that we get legal rights and responsibilities correct in this area. But I won't pre-empt the decision of the caucus room today.

JOURNALIST: Understanding that then, what position will you personally be taking? What will you be advocating when you front the caucus room this morning?

PLIBERSEK: Well I'll be doing what I always do, which is representing the decision of the Shadow Cabinet last night, but I'm not going to go into that because that is a decision of the Shadow Cabinet that will be discussed at the caucus meeting today.

JOURNALIST: And are you worried that Labor's position, if it is adopted, could damage relations with China?

PLIBERSEK: No. We have a very strong and close relationship with China. It's a very important trading partner and Labor has always, for many decades now, had a close and good relationship with China.

JOURNALIST: Understanding that there have been State moves afoot on the Queensland sugar dispute, will Federal Labor support Federal Government intervention in the dispute in terms of a mandatory code of conduct for the industry?

PLIBERSEK: Well it is a very important issue, we know that there are a lot of livelihoods tied up with this, but I'll let my colleague Joel Fitzgibbon answer questions on Labor's behalf on this issue. Thanks everyone.