TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Berkeley Vale, NSW Central Coast, Monday 2 February 2015

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SUBJECT/S: Liberal cuts and broken promises; Peter Greste’s release; Queensland election; Central Coast environmental issues

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: It is a great pleasure to be here on the coast with David Mehan, David Harris and my friend Deb O'Neil talking about both state and federal issues. We have been talking about cost of living issues particularly for seniors today and what we have heard loud and clear is that seniors are really suffering. They are suffering from the $23 billion in pension cuts that Tony Abbott’s made, from the cuts to superannuation, from the plan to increase the pension retirement age. But they are also concerned about a whole range of cost of living issues that don’t just affect them but affect their kids and grandkids. The fact that a family on $60,000 a year is $6500 worse off because of Tony Abbott's budget cuts, the $50 billion cut to hospitals, the $30 billion cut from our schools. But there’s also the effect of Mike Baird's cost of living increases. The increasing cost of electricity, gas, water and of course council rates as well. Did you want to ask...?

JOURNALIST: Yeah, specifically if I could ask you just about your reaction to Peter Greste’s release overnight?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course every Australian is delighted to hear that Peter Greste has been released. I know that his family have been so incredibly supportive and such great advocates for Peter and for the men that he was arrested with. I know that his family will be so relieved to have him back. No journalist should be gaoled for simply doing their job and as pleased as we are to have Peter back I think it is very important that Australia continues to be part of international efforts to see the release of the two colleagues that he was arrested with.

JOURNALIST: Mrs Bishop has already spoken to him, do you intend to get in contact with him?

PLIBERSEK: Well of course I have left a message with his parents this morning, I know that they will be beside themselves with excitement that Peter is returning and I’ll look forward to speaking with him when he has had a chance to have a bit of a rest.

JOURNALIST: It has been a long time but now on his release, were you happy with the way the Government handled it, would you have handled it any differently?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think it’s very important to say that our diplomats were working around the clock to secure Peter Greste’s release. They were doing the best possible job they could, both supporting Peter day to day while he was in gaol, but also working with the Egyptian authorities to secure his release. I certainly hope that our diplomats will continue to advocate for nationals of other countries that are facing the same gaol time that Peter was facing simply for doing his job as a journalist. I think it’s of course been frustrating for all of Peter’s family, friends and supporters that it’s taken so long to secure his release. He was an innocent, he was innocent all along, he was a journalist simply doing his job.

JOURNALIST: Just another question if we get back to local issues but you were part of a government that cut down its leader, what advice have you got for the Coalition now?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think Tony Abbott is obviously facing real problems but the problem is not Tony Abbott, the man, the problem is the Liberal Party, the policy. We saw at the time of the last Budget in May, a range of spectacularly bad decisions about cuts to all of the services that Australian families rely on. Cuts to health, cuts to education, $100,000 university degrees, $23 billion cut to pensions that means aged pensioners will be up to $80 a week worse off. These policies should be junked, they can junk the leader but if they don’t junk the policies they’ll still be in deep trouble

JOURNALIST: We have news coming out today that he’s actually junked his Paid Parental Leave Scheme, is that good news?

PLIBERSEK: Well this was always a dog of a scheme. We’ve been saying for years that this is a dog of a scheme. What kind of government designs a scheme that gives the biggest benefit to the families that already have the most money? It was a flawed scheme from the very beginning. But what we need to see- the thing that is really putting pressure on Australian families are cuts to family tax benefit, and massive cuts to childcare, more than $1 billion cut out of childcare. So Tony Abbott can junk the Paid Parental Leave Scheme but if he doesn’t do something to give families some relief from the cuts that were made in the last Budget, to family tax benefit for example, and the massive cuts, billions of dollars of cuts in childcare, then we’ll be no better off.

JOURNALIST: I guess the March election is certainly drawing closer, does Queensland’s result over the weekend bring a boost to the party?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the result in Queensland over the weekend is spectacular and Annastacia Palaszczuk should be very proud of the campaign that she ran. She has achieved what many people thought was unachievable. It’s a terrific result and the very, very strong message here is that voters will not accept being lied to. Campbell Newman came in and made a whole lot of promises, he said public servants didn’t need to worry, there wouldn’t be public service job cuts, there wouldn’t be cuts to health or education. Many of the same things Tony Abbott said, no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no cuts to the ABC and SBS, no change to pensions and no new taxes. Tony Abbott’s broken all those promises just as Campbell Newman broke his promises to the voters of Queensland. Campbell Newman’s paid the price, I think Tony Abbott’s paying the price. It’s a very strong message to governments of all persuasions that you can’t promise one thing before election, get elected and do the exact opposite. There are a number of promises made up here on the Central Coast before the last state election and I’ll let David and David speak to those promises and the way that the Baird Government has broken those commitments to the voters of the Central Coast. You can’t do that, Australians won’t accept it.

JOURNALIST:  You were here this morning, what sort of feedback on this issue were you getting today?

PLIBERSEK: Well we had a lot of people obviously talking about their concerns about cuts to pensions, cuts to Medicare, their kids and grandkids facing cuts to family tax benefit and unaffordable university education, TAFE closures. But we also had a very strong message about local people disappointed in the dishonest and deceptive representation that they’ve had from Liberals here on the Central Coast and those people who have been caught up in the ICAC controversies up here, and a very strong message about environmental promises that were made about mining and other environmental issues on the Central Coast. Very clear commitments made before the election, broken moments after the state election. And I think, well I might give the state candidates an opportunity to talk a little about those. Which David wants to go first?

DAVID MEHAN, STATE LABOR CANDIDATE FOR THE ENTRANCE: I think the issue for the Central Coast in the lead up to March 28 is ‘Who is going to stand up to Tony Abbott and the cuts Canberra have imposed on the Central Coast and on NSW?’ The local Liberals haven’t, certainly Mike Baird won’t. Only a vote for Labor will ensure that someone is arguing against Tony Abbott in NSW. Certainly in my electorate of the Entrance, the Pacific Highway at Ourimbah was announced as a new initiative of the Baird Government last week, we’ll need to go back in time and remember that Labor had already programed to have that work completed over the last four years and we were going to do it within the budget. Now Baird has come down the coast and said you will only have the Pacific Highway if you privatise electricity. That’s not good enough. We concluded stages one and two of Ourimbah within the budget while maintaining a AAA credit rating in NSW. Now Baird, Tony Abbott’s mate in NSW, has come to the coast and said you’ll only get stage three if you privatise electricity. It’s not good enough and we need better on the Central Coast.

JOURNALIST: So is that not true? It’s a lie?

MEHAN: That’s not true, it’s a lie. Duncan Gay has made a quip that people on the Central Coast hadn’t seen tractors and bulldozers in Ourimbah. Stage one and two were complete under the former Labor Government. The Advocate put a photo montage which was just a false representation of road works happening at Ourimbah. These were road works that happened under Labor. These guys can’t be trusted. The promises they’ve made in the lead up to the 2011 election haven’t been lived up to. The only people who are going to stand up to Tony Abbott and make sure the Central Coast gets what it deserves are the Labor candidates who have been arguing the case for many years.

DAVID HARRIS, STATE LABOR CANDIDATE FOR WYONG: I concur with my colleagues of course. This morning I’ve been up at Wadalba, fighting another environmental issue. It’s an issue that’s very dear to my heart. Last week we were able to save a local park that the Liberals on council had tried to develop. Today we’re up there fighting for an endangered sea eagle’s nest. People might say that’s not very important but when you’re building suburbs which are wall to wall houses you need to keep the environment that people move to this area for and what we’re seeing is that under the Liberals with their tree-felling policies etc, that they’re not worried about people’s lifestyles, they’re not worried about our local environment, they’re just worried about developer dollars and that’s not surprising when you find out that it was the developers that made donations to them before the last election even though it wasn’t the right thing to do and ICAC is certainly dealing with that. But the one thing that people on the Central Coast, and Wyong in particular, are very upset about is and they talk to me about it everyday is the broken promise on Wallarah Two coal mine. It was written in blood, no ifs, no buts, we will not let this mine go ahead. They’ve broken that promise. They’re putting pressure on the Darkinjung Aboriginal people to reconsider their opposition to letting the mine come on to their land. People need to remember that. You can’t stand up before an election and say hand on heart that you’ll do one thing and as soon as the election is over go back to them and say ‘oh no things have changed’. People vote for you because of what you say. The Liberals have proven through their actions that they can’t be trusted.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the fight for the eagle’s nest up their today, what’s actually happening? I know the community environment network was going to put in a complaint to the Department of Environment about this. Where is it at today?

HARRIS: Look when I was the local member I worked with the council at the time and residents to make sure that there were defined green corridors in that area because of the size of the developments that were going to take place. What we find with the sea eagle’s nest is that an amendment was put in saying that they had surveyed the area wrongly and they wanted to tack on some extra land. Now the current council with their development policy who have abolished their environment group within the council, there is no environment group within the council, there is no environment director anymore which is symptomatic of what Liberals are doing across the state, has put this nest at danger. Now there are only 800 nesting pairs in the whole of the east coast from Toowoomba coming all the way down into NSW. We need to protect these things they’re important to the community. I was out doorknocking in the area yesterday and people said to me they moved to the area for the lifestyle and the environment. Well guess what if you keep voting the Liberals in you won’t have the lifestyle and you won’t have the environment and you may as well be living in a suburb in Sydney and that's not what people want.

JOURNALIST: Do you know how it can be stopped though?

HARRIS: Well we’ve managed to have it fenced off through our Labor councillors at the moment.

JOURNALIST: When did that happen?

HARRIS: That happened in the last few days. We’ve been told, we understand that, they’re only prepared to keep the tree safe until the chicks leave the nest and then after that the tree would be removed. What we’re saying is it was a part of the original plan. They shouldn’t have put an amendment in, it should have gone out to public consultation in a proper way, not over Christmas when everyone is on holidays and the local newspaper isn’t being published and they need to protect it. What we are talking about is 600 - 800 new houses and we can’t protect 10 metres of bushland along the fringe. People just see this as unreasonable. We’re not against development, development will happen but we must protect our green areas.

JOURNALIST: Just one final question. I guess in the last week, or the last two weeks, we’ve seen a lot of visits from both sides of politics to the Central Coast. Do you think that reflects that the Central Coast is shaping up as a key battle ground for the March 28 election?

PLIBERSEK: Well the Central Coast has always been important to Labor. We know that we have a lot of communities up here that value the lifestyle and the environment of living on the Central Coast. But we know the coast has also had its challenges. It’s had challenges with the local TAFEs, with public transport, pockets of poverty living up here as well. And so we’ve been very active over many years including Deb’s great work as a local federal Labor Member and Senator to make sure the people of the Central Coast have a strong voice. Now this isn’t my first visit here. I’ve been here many times to talk with local residents about many different issues over the years. I’m thrilled to be back here again not just because there is the state election in a few weeks time but because this is a growing area that deserves strong representation and what they’ve been given by the NSW Liberals are a bunch of dodgy people who’ve been prepared to make promises before the election and break them five minutes after.



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