THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
WEDNESDAY, 1 MARCH 2016
SUBJECTS: Liberals out-of-touch; Liberals’ chaos, division, and incompetence; foreign policy; Liberals’ Budget cuts.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: This is a Government absolutely hopelessly divided today, and unable to govern. We've got a Government that is really not focussed on the big issues. At the moment we've got an economy that's growing very slowly - last year we lost 56,000 jobs. We've got historic levels of underemployment. We've got historically low wages growth. And what's the Government focussed on at the moment? They're focused on whether the rainbow flag was flying at the Department of Finance, and making it easier to insult people on the basis of their race. It is an extraordinary time to have a Government that is so unable to focus on the issues that are affecting Australian families: cut wages, family benefits cut, clean energy supplement cut, all of the supports that families need, gone, at the same time as this Government wants to give a $50 billion big business tax cut. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: We're recalling all our ambassadors to Australia for consultations on the foreign policy white paper which we haven't had since 2003. Just interested in how you think the world has changed and what you think Australia's role should be?
PLIBERSEK: I'm not sure where this story started that we haven't had a foreign policy white paper since 2003. Some of you might recall that we actually had the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, which was a whole of government approach to making the most of the fact that we are located in the fasted growing region on earth. This Government came in and junked the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper - something that was just an extraordinary act of vandalism. They've replaced it with nothing. There's been no policy development in those intervening three years. So I will certainly not accept a proposition from the Government that there hasn't been a white paper since 2003. There was one and they had an electronic book burning ceremony where they junked it even from the Department of Foreign Affairs' website. This is too little too late and it shows how adrift this Government is that it's not until now that this Government is starting to do what Labor did when we were last in office.
JOURNALIST: Any comments on what you think the future direction of Australia's foreign policy should be?
PLIBERSEK: Well you don't need a quick comment, you need to go back to the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper. We are uniquely placed. We are a multicultural country in a region that is the fastest growing region on earth. Most of the hundreds of millions of people that will join the middle class in the next few years are right on our doorstep - in Indonesia, in Malaysia, in China, and we need to make the most of those economic opportunities presented to Australia. That means, of course, making sure that we are Asia-literate in Australia: making sure that our kids are learning Asian languages and we understand Asian cultures and that our businesses understand how to do business in Asia.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the so-called 'zombie' measures will be scrapped in the next Budget and replaced with new cuts?
PLIBERSEK: Well if the zombie measures aren't replaced in the next Budget, I think the ratings agencies will have to have a very close look at what the Australian economy is running on. Propping up the Budget are measures that this Government knows will never get through the Senate because we have made clear - the Labor Party has made clear - and those on the crossbenches have made clear that they will never support these cuts. I think it's extraordinary that they've survived for as long as they have in the Government's Budget bottom line. And don't forget this is the Government that talked big on debt and deficit and, in fact, they've tripled the deficit and they've added $100 billion to net debt. It is a performance that the Treasurer should be ashamed of. Thanks everyone.