TRANSCRIPT: Doorstop, Castlemaine, Thursday, 28 April





SUBJECTS: The Liberals' cuts to health and education; Malcolm Turnbull's failure to rollout the NBN in Bendigo; cost of living in Bendigo and central Victoria; asylum seekers.

LISA CHESTERS, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR BENDIGO:  I’m really proud today to have the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek, here today in Castlemaine. Tanya has kindly come to be the second speaker in our Community Lecture Series to speak about the importance of foreign aid but also to Labor’s commitment to East Timor and what’s going on. They are our closest neighbour, they are one of our newest neighbours, and we need a government that’s going to show leadership in this space. Tanya will also be taking questions from the crowd, and as you can see it’s a full house today here in Castlemaine. What I know about Bendigo and Central Victoria is that it’s a progressive community, it’s an inclusive community, and they really like to get out and be engaged on tough policy issues, like [inaudible] foreign affairs.

JOURNALIST: Tell us about the purpose of the forum today.

CHESTERS: The purpose of the forum is really an open dialogue. It’s a – Labor’s made some great commitments in this space, which I’ll let Tanya talk about – but this is a chance for people on the ground to learn firsthand what Labor's commitments are and also to share their own views. We’re in a part of the world that only yesterday was named one of the most generous, topping the list for donations per population, per income, so it’s a community with a lot of heart and it’s a community with a lot of hope and at the moment they’re hearts are being broken by Malcolm Turnbull. They had high hopes of the Prime Minister that he would do more in this space.

JOURNALIST: Tanya thanks for your time. Can you tell us about some of the commitments that Labor has [inaudible]?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION:  Well first of all I’d like to say it’s fantastic to be here with Lisa Chesters today. She is a marvellous representative of the people of Bendigo. She’s been so active in Federal Parliament; she’s really made her mark since being elected in 2013. And one of the things that Lisa has been campaigning so hard on is the $200 million that will be cut from classrooms across her electorate over the next 10 years if the Government’s plans for education cuts go ahead. And the $500 million that will be cut from hospitals and the local health service if the Government’s planned health cuts go ahead. Labor in contrast says that we value health and education. You can tell a lot about a government by the priorities it sets through its budget. Next week we’ll see a budget from the Federal Government that will continue these shocking health and education cuts. We’ve seen already from this Government a doubling of the deficit, debt has blown out, taxes have increased, and yet the services that Australians rely on, like health and education, have been cut. We say to the people of Bendigo and surrounding areas: put your faith in Labor because we’ll restore school funding – that's more than $30 billion extra school funding over the next 10 years with the Gonski school education funding fully funded, we’ll invest in Medicare as we have always done. The other thing I think is very important to say to the people of Bendigo is that Malcolm Turnbull promised them an NBN would be fully rolled out by the end of 2016. He’s broken that promise. He cancelled the NBN rollout in Bendigo itself in 2013 – not a single home or business has been connected, new home or business, has been connected to the NBN in the Federal Electorate of Bendigo. That is just not good enough for our regional communities.

JOURNALIST: So what’s Labor’s policy on getting the NBN connected in Bendigo?

PLIBERSEK: Well you know our policy; our policy is more fibre, faster. Malcolm Turnbull’s policy is the old copper wire network - that Telstra was happy to flog off [inaudible] - a slower, more expensive internet.

JOURNALIST: And when would you like to see Bendigo connected to the NBN, do you have any opinion?

PLIBERSEK: Well as soon as possible. I mean we have to return to government to be able to properly analyse what [inaudible]. We were prepared to connect Bendigo in 2013 – Labor’s schedule had Bendigo NBN roll out in 2013 and we know that was a commitment that Malcolm Turnbull walked away from.

JOURNALIST: Tanya, you’ve come to Bendigo at an interesting time when central Victoria really, I think, is struggling under the cost of living increases which they’re experiencing on a day-to-day basis. What will a Labor Government do to reduce the actual burden on household incomes?

PLIBERSEK: Well the first and most important thing is decent quality jobs, and you know that Labor stands for good quality jobs – including penalty rates for people who work on weekends and antisocial hours. This Government has goaded industries like the car industry to leave Australia. We believe that Australia should be a country that has a manufacturing industry and we’ve been calling for years to ensure that investments like the 12 submarines are built in Australia and that we see the benefits of those industries for Australia. But it’s not just decent pay and conditions - of course they make a difference – this Government is proposing to cut $5000 from families that rely on family tax benefit and the schoolkids bonus. They’re going after 330,000 pensioners who will lose pensions or have reduced pensions because of the change to the assets test. So, we can do much better both in job creation and maintenance, but also making sure that people who need a helping hand in our community get it.

JOURNALIST: And the women who are outside from the grandmother’s movement, I guess the closure of Manus Island, or I guess the demand for it from the Papua New Guinean system throws a cat amongst the pigeons when it comes to offshore detention. What’s your response to that?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think it’s always wonderful to see local community members turning up to events like this and I welcome their presence. We know that a lot of Australians have been concerned about the way that Manus Island and Nauru have been run. There’s been a great deal of secrecy and a Government that is determined to keep operations in these centres secret and to punish people who speak out about any concerns. Labor, in contrast, says that we would like more refugees to come to Australia but we want them to come here safely. We would double the humanitarian intake but we don’t want people to come after they’ve paid people smugglers – we want them to come through a proper regional processing arrangement.

JOURNALIST: Just back to the tax, so look would Labor propose a fairer tax system for people in Bendigo who might need it?

PLIBERSEK: Well absolutely. We believe 100% that the Government’s proposal in the budget next week for tax cuts – double tax cuts – for people who are on more than $180,000 a year and big business, at the expense of the health and education services that ordinary Australians rely on shows exactly what kind of government they are: they are all about the big end of town. The only tax cuts they’re talking about are tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and big multinational companies. And at the same time, they’re proposing to do things like cut the kid’s dental scheme, which is helping close to 30,000 kids in this electorate have access to proper dental care through Medicare. Instead of putting millions of extra kids on public dental waiting lists, this government should keep the program that exists at the moment and pay for it by not giving the highest income earners and the biggest companies a free ride on the tax system.