THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
FRIDAY, 23 JANUARY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Campbell Newman's plan to privatise bus and train services; WorkChoices; Tony Abbott in hiding; Bali Nine; David Hicks.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: I’m joined by my federal colleague of course Terri Butler, who’s also the Chair of our Cost of Living committee and she’ll make a brief statement later about the cost of living indications of both the bus privatisation that we’re talking about today, the transport privatisation, but also if you want to ask her any questions about the reanimation of WorkChoices I’m sure she’s happy to say a few words about that. We’ve also got Labor’s candidate for Chatsworth, Paul Keene, our candidate for Bulimba, Di Farmer, and Councillor Steve Griffiths. Steve has responsibility for public transport on behalf of the Labor opposition up here and I’m sure he’s happy to answer any questions as well.
We know what happens when state governments privatise public transport. We only have to look at the example of Victoria, what happened under Jeff Kennett when he privatised public transport in Victoria. What we saw were fewer services, more chaotic services and substantial price increases. Fewer buses and fewer routes, and higher costs. If you look at the privatisation experience in Victoria you see that public transport costs rose very substantially for commuters including a 20 percent increase over one, two-year period. But it is not just the increased costs that worry commuters, it’s the reduced services. And in Victoria, in particular, we also saw questions about on-time running, about the reliability of braking systems for example, and other issues about the quality of the service. Now Jeff Kennett said at the time that if they privatised public transport in Victoria instead of being a liability it would become an asset, and in fact Jeff Kennett predicted by around about this time the Victorian public transport system would be returning about 20 million dollars a year to Victorian state coffers. Well the exact opposite is true. The last figures I saw, the Victorian public transport system was costing the Victorian government about $2.6 billion a year. It is a pretty substantial difference, $20 million profit compared to the $2.6 billion loss. So the history of privatisation of public transport systems is not a good one, it is not a good one for commuters and of course it is not a good one for the staff of those services. We have got right across the road here a bus depot that employs a large number of people, those people living in, spending in the local community and of course contribute to the economic health of this local community and when you start to see the sackings, you also see the loss of confidence and the loss of income for the whole community. The effects of that are very- they’re not just an effect on the individuals who lose their jobs, it’s an effect on whole community and you can see that with the tens of thousands of public servants that have already lost their jobs in Queensland. Instead of Queensland being an economic powerhouse, as Campbell Newman claimed, in fact you see higher unemployment and higher debt today than when they took office. Any questions about this or any other federal issues and then I’ll hand over to Terri to say a few words.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Federal issue of the Productivity Commission's report, do you believe that this is a sign that the Coalition intends to bring back WorkChoices?
PLIBERSEK: Well it is clearly a sign that this is a softening up exercise for a return to WorkChoices. The Coalition has said that WorkChoices is dead and buried, it looks like it was just sleeping. What you see is the zombie policy of the Coalition, the policy that just won’t die. They’ve said it is dead and buried. It’s back to haunt us.
JOURNALIST: What should the Government do in regards to the two Aussies officially in line for the firing squad in Indonesia?
PLIBERSEK: I have just come from a briefing with the Prime Minister's Office on the fate of the two Australians who are on death row in Indonesia. Of course both the Government and the Opposition are united in pleading clemency from the Indonesian Government. Of course these two young men have done the wrong thing and of course they should be punished but Labor always believes that the death penalty is wrong. The death penalty is wrong for anyone in any circumstance and we will always advocate for Australians who are facing the death penalty. Beyond that I would say that it is not just Australians, we believe that the death penalty is wrong in any case, in any country, at any time.
JOURNALIST: What is your reaction to [inaudible] David Hick’s case?
PLIBERSEK: Well I have seen reports from Mr Hicks’ lawyers that it may be that his conviction will be overturned. Of course David Hicks faced an American judicial system and was convicted under their laws. So we’ll watch with interest any further statement from the Government of the United States. If it is the case the conviction is overturned, and that it was based on wrong facts then of course there are questions for the Australian Government of the day in what they accepted as fair treatment of David Hicks and proper gathering of information at the time of his trial.
PLIBERSEK: Look I am not going to speculate any further on this because the reports are only initial reports and I’d like to see more information. As a general statement I would say that I think you need to be very cautious when you talk about paying people for their stories when you have been through the legal process.
JOURNALIST: Do you think he should have compensation if he is completely clear?
PLIBERSEK: Look I am sorry, the facts are very- there are just not enough facts out there for me to make more specific comments about what should happen. These are only initial reports. It appears that they have come from Mr Hicks’ legal team rather than from the Government of the United States so we really do need to know more before making further comment.
JOURNALIST: You and Bill Shorten have been spending a lot of time up here during this campaign. Can we read anything into that about what you think about Ms Palaszczuk’s leadership?
PLIBERSEK: You can read into that that we are proud of our Queensland colleagues and the fantastic line-up of candidates that the Labor Party is offering in the upcoming State election. I think it is highly ironic that Tony Abbott is pretending that the reason he is not here is because Campbell Newman is somehow doing a great job. Tony Abbott, you couldn’t get him out of Queensland at the time of the last State election, he was camped out in Campbell Newman’s back bedroom. The fact that he is not here now is for electoral reasons. The policies that Tony Abbott has introduced have damaged Queenslanders. He has taken $6 billion out of the education system, more than $10 billion from the hospital system. And when Tony Abbott’s here, he reminds voters of everything they do not like about the Liberal party in Canberra and everything they do not like about the LNP here in Queensland. The LNP here in Queensland simply have not stood up against these cuts made by the Federal Government and Tony Abbott is a constant reminder of that. Terri, do you want to say a few words about the cost of living?
TERRI BUTLER, MEMBER FOR GRIFFITH: Thanks. Obviously cost of living is a great concern to everyone here in Queensland and particularly to those people from the bus depot who are staring down the privatisation because we know of course that privatisation generally leads to attacks on their wages and conditions. There is an unfortunate trend in Australia at the moment, attacks on wages and conditions. We saw the release from the Productivity Commission issues paper under the Productivity Commission Inquiry that Joe Hockey snuck out the Friday before Christmas. We saw that released a day early yesterday and the issues paper has been out today. And what is really clear from that issues paper is that penalty rates are squarely in the sights of the Abbott Government, the wages and conditions are squarely in the sight of the Abbott Government.
We talk about return of Work Choices and whether Work Choices was really dead, buried and cremated but as Tanya said WorkChoices was just sleeping. We know that under WorkChoices one of the key components was individual agreements, and under those individual agreements, 63 percent of them abolished penalty rates. We have had backbenchers like Dan Tehan coming out and doing some running for the Government saying that penalty rates need to be looked at. Penalty rates are under attack from this Government, there should be no doubt about that. And every working person whose wages rely on penalty rates as part of their ordinary earnings every week should be concerned about the revival of WorkChoices.