TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Brisbane, Saturday 23 August 2014

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SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget of broken promises; Bill Shorten’s statement; Clive Palmer

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It is a great pleasure to be here today at the Labor Party conference in Brisbane. The Queensland Labor Party has been doing a terrific job in their struggle to keep Campbell Newman honest. To keep the LNP Government to account and they’ve been working very hard with their Federal colleagues to keep Tony Abbott on the straight and narrow. I spoke about this in my speech today, I said each one of them, Campbell Newman on his own & Tony Abbott on his own are toxic but together they are devastating for Queenslanders. When you think about the health system, the cuts Campbell Newman made, we said they were a curtain raiser to Tony Abbott’s cuts. But what Tony Abbott has done is so much worse than what any of us ever imagined. It is like being sick with the flu and then getting a dose of food poisoning on top of it. Campbell Newman’s cuts followed up by Tony Abbott’s cuts mean an American style, two-tiered health system for Queenslanders and when it comes to education, the same thing is true there. Campbell Newman rejected $4 billion of new funding for Queensland schools when he rejected the Gonski school education funding reforms. You bring that in on top of what Tony Abbott is now doing. From pre-school through schooling, new fees for TAFE, higher fees for TAFE and higher fees for university as well as cutting programs like Youth Connections – to help young people get a job. You see how Campbell Newman’s cuts with Tony Abbott’s cuts make life so much harder for Queenslanders when it comes to education. It’s like having the worst teacher in the school and getting sat next to the school bully. Now we’ve heard from Tony Abbott in the last few days and sometimes, Mathias Cormann as well, about their Budget. The problem of course isn’t the Budget sales job, the problem is the Budget. On the one hand, we’ve got Tony Abbott saying ‘nothing to see here, no problem here. We’re happy with the number of savings we’ve got through’ and on the other hand, we’ve got Mathias Cormann saying that there is a Budget emergency still. The problem is not the sales job. The problem is the Budget itself. But what an appalling sales job. You’ve got the Prime Minister, and Joe Hockey in hiding, now Mathis Cormann has been drafted to sell this dud Budget and Mathias Cormann and the Prime Minister can’t even get their story straight. Tony Abbott apparently said he is ‘proud of keeping his promises’. Well I remember some of the promises he made. He promised ‘no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions and no new taxes’ and he has broken every single one of those promises since coming to office.

JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, in your speech, you said ‘Opposition is the worst place to be. It is difficult to move on from the past.’ With three books now looking at the Rudd-Gillard years and the Paul Kelly book today saying today that ‘Rudd wasn’t in the right space.’ How difficult is it to move on from the past?

PLIBERSEK: I think you’ve asserted that I said it is difficult to move on from the past. I said that it is important that we know our history because we have a lot to be proud of. Federally, we are the party; we are the government that helped Australia survive the Global Financial Crisis better than any other advanced economy in the world. We are the government that introduced the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Gonski school education funding reforms. We are proud of our history. But we also know that looking back is not enough. We have to have a clear vision that is articulated for Australians. We have to talk to them about the sort of Australia that we want. An Australia that is productive, an Australia that is prosperous and an Australia that makes sure that that prosperity spreads to every Australian.

JOURNALIST: But do you agree that Kevin Rudd was mentally unfit to lead at that time?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I didn’t speak about our leadership issues at the time; I’m certainly not going to start now.

JOURNALIST: Has Labor been negotiating with Ricky Muir about the Budget at all?

PLIBERSEK: I personally haven’t spoken to Mr Muir, but I am sure he is in contact with Labor people. I can’t answer that question. It would be very natural if he was.

JOURNALIST: In September 2012, you were one of the people who said ‘Tony Abbott had questions to answer about Barbara Ranjam.’ Now in light of Bill Shorten’s unfound allegations resurfacing this week, is it time to lay off Tony Abbott’s past with women?

PLIBERSEK:  Well, I don’t think I’ve spoken about Tony Abbott’s personal life for some time now.

JOURNALIST: Is the Government giving us mixed messages or is there a Budget crisis or not?

PLIBERSEK: It’s just crazy. You’ve got the Prime Minister out there saying ‘No emergency, nothing to see here’. Six months ago he was saying there was a fire and they needed to bring in the fire engines. Now they are saying ‘There is no emergency, there is nothing to see here’. But then at the same time, they’ve got Mathias Cormann, the substitute Joe Hockey, out there saying there is a Budget emergency. They can’t even keep their story straight for a day.

JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, what concerns did you have about Kevin Rudd in 2010, if any?

PLIBERSEK: Well I just said I didn’t speak about it at the time and I won’t talk about it now.

JOURNALIST: Who would you like to see take on Campbell Newman in the seat of Ashgrove?

PLIBERSEK: That is a matter for Queensland Labor.

JOURNALIST: How has this been the worst week of Bill Shorten’s time as Opposition Leader?

PLIBERSEK: Well I didn’t say that.

JOURNALIST: Well you did say that at the beginning of your speech.

PLIBERSEK: No, I said it has been a tough week and indeed, anyone who has had such serious allegations made about them would feel the pressure of that. These were very serious allegations; the police have had many months to investigate them, as is absolutely proper. We want to make sure that Australians who make serious allegations have them treated with the upmost seriousness by police. That they are thoroughly investigated by police. That has happened now, Bill has spoken about it now, he didn’t need to, he wasn’t named in the media. He went out in the media and put his hand up and said ‘I want to put on the record that I was the person investigated’. He has done that now and he is entitled to draw a line under it.

JOURNALIST: Was it the worst week for the Opposition leader?

PLIBERSEK: I think it has been a successful first year for Labor. No one would have imagined that in less than one year since Tony Abbott was elected, that he would be so spectacularly unpopular. The reason he is so unpopular, having such a hard time, is because he has exposed his vision for Australia. What is it? It is an Australia that has an American style health care system, an American style education system and American style workplaces. It is not the Australia that people value. It’s not an Australia of prosperity that is shared so that all Australians have the opportunity that they deserve.

JOURNALIST: What is your view on the Clive Palmer party?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is marvellous that we live in a democracy and what the people decide is what the people decide. We need to work with the results of democratic elections. Labor has often had, when we are in government, we haven’t had the majority in the Senate. We’ve had to work with crossbench Senators. In the last Parliament, we had to get 5 independents every time we had to pass a piece of Legislation and we got about 600 pieces of legislation through that minority House of Representatives Government, so that is democracy for you.

JOURNALIST: Even with the leader [Palmer United Party] expressing racist views on China? That’s democracy for you?

PLIBERSEK: Of course, nobody would support Clive Palmer’s comments on China and I see Clive Palmer has backed down from those comments quite rightly, pretty quickly. But I also have a fair idea that the Chinese Government understands that Clive Palmer is one voice and not a representative voice when it comes to his comments on China.

Thanks everyone.


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