THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
TUESDAY, 29 MAY 2018
SUBJECTS: School funding; $17 billion tax cut for banks; Foreign interference laws; Funding for Great Barrier Reef foundation; Barnaby Joyce $150,000 interview.
HON TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Looking at the papers this morning, you see two stories side by side that tell you all you need to know about this Government. First of all, there's a report of course that Mark Scott, the head of the Education Department in New South Wales, responding to the Gonski Report, says "Yes we can do individual learning for every child in Australia but it's going to take more resources". The head of the Education Department in New South Wales is saying that to pursue the ideas in this most recent Gonski Report that focuses on moving every child along in their learning each day, you'd have to have more investment in professional development in teachers, re-writing the curriculum, more formative testing along the way. All of these things cost money and Mark Scott is quite right to point out that there's no real point in the Government coming up with these ideas at the same time as they are cutting $17 billion from our schools.
Just a little bit further along you read about a story today where mortgage brokers seem to have colluded with some of the other financial institutions to make loans available to people who would never be able to afford them. Loans of one million dollars, three million dollars, to people who are on very low incomes and even pensions. The fact that Malcolm Turnbull's biggest priority in this Parliament is to get through his tax cuts for the big end of town including the $17 billion tax cut for banks, tells you all you need to know about the wrong priorities of this Government and how out of touch this Prime Minister is. On the one hand he's cutting $17 billion from our schools, on the other hand the most important thing for him, the top of his list of priorities to get through the Parliament, is a big business tax cut that delivers $17 billion to the banks, meaning higher executive salaries, bonuses for executives, increased dividends for overseas shareholders, and frankly a reward for the bad behaviour that continues to be uncovered in the Royal Commission that Malcolm Turnbull was so opposed to. The only thing that you can conclude by the juxtaposition of these two stories is that Malcolm Turnbull's got his priorities all wrong, because once a banker, always a banker. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: A report out this morning suggests that a top secret Government report has uncovered a decade-long attempt by the Chinese Communist Party to influence, in fact compromise, Australia's major political parties, this is the what's called the ASIO Garnaut Report in some circles. Do you think that this adds more weight to the need for proposed foreign interference laws that are currently being considered?
PLIBERSEK: Certainly we have been very prepared to work with the Government on foreign interference laws and both the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters and the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security have been looking at laws in these areas. Our concern is that the Government has seemingly mishandled some of the drafting of these laws. That criticism isn't just a Labor criticism. It looks like there is widespread criticism about the unworkability of some of the laws we are talking about. What I would say is that Labor has, for years now, said that we would not take foreign donations. We have, in particular, refused donations from two donors that have been pointed to in the past as potentially seeking to influence on behalf of the Chinese Government. We stand by our unilateral commitment to refuse to take donations from donors if we believe there is any question about their motivation.
JOURNALIST: Is there a suggestion that some of the Liberal members on the committee are not being as willing to negotiate or compromise on those foreign interference laws, the ones that are before the intelligence committee?
PLIBERSEK: It seems to me that the committee work is progressing well at the moment but it is a very complex area and what we don't want to do is make it difficult for non-Government organisations, charities, even Members of Parliament to do the work that they're supposed to do in the hope that we will catch the sort-of foreign influence that we were talking about. We need to have laws that are well-targeted and effective.
JOURNALIST: The Greens have called for an inquiry into the awarding of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation without the proper process in the Budget. Is there merit to that inquiry? Is that something that Labor should support?
PLIBERSEK: It's up to the Government to explain why this organisation was selected. What is it about the previous work or the background of the organisation that makes it able to handle such a very large donation.
JOURNALIST: Wouldn't an inquiry allow those questions to be answered?
PLIBERSEK: I haven't seen the Terms of Reference or anything like that so I'm not going to speculate about an inquiry but I do think it is up to the Government to explain: why this organisation? Why such a large amount? Why not the Government's own organisations that are already doing work to protect the Barrier Reef? And also I think it's fair that the Government answers questions about process, how this large - very large - amount was allocated and why?
JOURNALIST: So the Greens don't have Labor's support at this stage for that inquiry?
PLIBERSEK: I haven't seen the Terms of Reference. I'm not going to comment on that but I think the Government certainly has questions to answer.
JOURNALIST: Bob Carr has reportedly in his role with the Chinese think tank funnelled questions to Kimberley Kitching via Kristina Keneally on a range of matters for Senate Estimates, specifically regarding John Garnaut's role in this ASIO China review. Is it appropriate for Mr Carr to be suggesting questions to sitting Labor Senators on these kinds of issues?
PLIBERSEK: I don't know that that's happening. All I've heard is that Kristina has asked some questions that she wrote herself that she stands by, so I can't speculate about anything in the background.
JOURNALIST: After Barnaby Joyce is selling his story to Channel 7 for $150,000, there's been talk within the National Party, maybe for a cash ban, a ban on Ministers being paid cash for comment essentially. What do you think to the merits of that idea?
PLIBERSEK: I go back to the prohibition on people having affairs with their staff. If common sense and common decency don't tell you that these things are the wrong thing to do, I don't think a ban is going to fix the problem. I think people really do need to use their own judgement in these sort of instances. Thanks.