SUBJECTS: Labor’s investment in Vocational Education and Training; Schools funding; US rejoining the TPP; Funding the NDIS; international response to chemical weapons attacks in Syria. 

PETA MURPHY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR DUNKLEY: Welcome everyone here. My name is Peta Murphy, I'm the Labor candidate for Dunkley and it has been my absolute pleasure to have Tanya Plibersek come and visit Chisholm Institute today. This place is very special to our region. The opportunities that it gives to young people cannot be overvalued. It is very special to me, I might say. My husband would not have been able to get his VCE if it wasn't for the old Frankston TAFE which is now the Chisholm Institute. We're also joined by our state colleagues, Paul Edbrooke the member for Frankston and Sonya Kilkenny the state member for Carrum and the investment that the state Labor Government has made into Chisholm Institute redevelopment and the redevelopment of the Frankston Train Station is going to be transformational and it stands in stark contrast to the absolute lack of involvement by the Federal Liberal Government. So it's been my pleasure to be here with Tanya, who's shown her commitment and Labor's commitment to training, to education, and to the Dunkley area. 

TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Peta, and I really want to thank everybody who's joined us here this morning at the Frankston campus of the Chisholm Institute. We've seen the terrific investment that's going on, going into the redevelopment of this campus, the fantastic new building work that's happening here that will provide a great education for thousands more young people and life-long learners right here in the Frankston area. Of course the investment that the state Labor Government is making in the Frankston campus of the Chisholm Institute, as Peta said, stands in very stark contrast to the cuts that we've seen from the Federal Liberal Government when it comes to vocational education and training. We've seen about $2.75 billion cut from vocational education and apprenticeships in Australia. That means about 140,000 fewer apprentices today than when Labor left office. Here in the electorate of Dunkley, that is very stark indeed. About 800 fewer apprentices, about a third of apprenticeships lost. That's a real loss for those young people who won't get an opportunity to pursue a profession that they're interested in and keen on. It's also a real loss to the Australian economy. We've got skills shortages in all sorts of areas - why wouldn't we be investing in our young people and investing in the Australian economy by providing top quality training, vocational training, for our people? Now Labor's policies in contrast see more than $600 million returned to TAFE funding in coming years, plus $100 million TAFE building fund, two-thirds of our extra funding would go to the public provider, TAFE, because we know what an important role TAFE plays. And of course we've also said that one in ten jobs on Australian Government-funded projects should be Australian apprentices, because we want to give people a future in those building trades and in other trades areas. Every time there's an opportunity to invest in education, you see Labor stepping forward to make that investment in our people and in our economy, and every time you see the Liberals retreating. It's not just the massive cuts in vocational education that we've seen from the Federal Government, it's not just the extra investment from the state Labor Government in vocational education - that's very important - but if you turn to schools you see the same story. We've got James Merlino, the Victorian Education Minister, talking about how Labor will increase its investment in Victorian schools. The figure that's in the newspapers today is $10 billion over the coming decade. What a contrast to Malcolm Turnbull, who's cutting $17 billion from our schools in coming years. It's of course a tragedy to see these cuts hitting public schools the hardest. About 86 per cent of the funding that Malcolm Turnbull will cut comes from public schools. And you know,  we had the Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, the Federal Education Minister, talking about, bellyaching about special deals here and special deals there, we find out today that the Federal Liberal Government has a secret deal to provide extra funding to the very schools that they themselves have said are overfunded - private schools. So you've got a state Labor Government investing in schools, you've got a federal Labor Party that is committed to restoring every dollar of the $17 billion that Malcolm Turnbull has cut, and you've got a federal Liberal Government that is making secret deals to provide extra funding to the schools that they themselves have said are already over-funded. What a seat like Dunkley needs is someone strong, like Peta Murphy, to stand up for local investment in our vocational education providers like this Frankston campus of the Chisholm Institute, and stand up for local schools, to make sure that they're not only getting extra funding from the state Labor Government but that a federal Labor Government can keep its commitment to restore every dollar of the funding that's been cut. Any questions? 

JOURNALIST: Donald Trump says that the US might re-join the TPP. Should they be allowed to if it means watering down advantages secured for Australian farmers?

PLIBERSEK: Of course we need to first of all see whether in fact this is a serious proposition. The United States obviously was a party to the original TPP. They decided to withdraw from that. We did have some concerns at the time of the original TPP that the United States was pushing, for example, for particular exemptions for their pharmaceutical industry that would have negatively affected our health budget and our health care here in Australia. So first of all, let's see if this is a realistic proposition, and secondly, let's see the terms that they are asking for.

JOURNALIST: Is it frustrating for trade negotiations to have the US out of the deal, then in again?

PLIBERSEK: I think people will make their own minds up about whether it makes any sense to be in then out then in again. But first of all, let's see if this is a realistic proposition.

JOURNALIST: As former Health Minister, do you agree with your Leader when he says the AMA has become a pawn for the Government when it comes to the Medicare levy?

PLIBERSEK: I understand that the Australian Medical Association are absolutely committed to seeing the NDIS fully rolled out and fully funded. All Australians want to see a proper National Disability Insurance Scheme, but the simple fact is that we've already funded the National Disability Insurance Scheme, including from a previous Medicare levy increase, and on top of that, a whole lot of really difficult decisions we made when we were in government. When I was the Health Minister, I had to means test the rebate on private health insurance as one example of the kind of tough decisions that we made when we were in government. The fact that the Government is now saying that the NDIS is not properly funded and they need to whack a new tax on every working Australian above the tax-free threshold, actually is just a tax grab. This is nothing more than a simple tax grab. So you've got a Government that is prepared to give $65 billion worth of big business tax cuts, most of the benefit flows to overseas shareholders, but they say we can't properly fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme? That's just wrong. That's just absolutely wrong. Let me remind you that this same Government is giving a tax cut to people on more than $180,000 a year. So if you're earning $1 million a year, you're getting a $16,400 a year tax cut, but if you're an ordinary working person and you're earning $60,000, you're going to pay $300 more a year in tax. How is that fair? It's not necessary to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme - it's just a tax grab. The National Disability Insurance Scheme must be paid for under the existing arrangements, and the Government should absolutely stop pretending that they need to put extra taxes on to pay for it.

JOURNALIST: Back on, I guess, Shorten’s comments about the AMA being a pawn for the Government, do you think it's acting as an independent body or is it just advocating on the Government's requests? 

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the Australian Medical Association is saying that they want to see the NDIS properly funded, and they're right to say they want to see the NDIS properly funded. What they're wrong about is suggesting that the Medicare levy has to be increased to do that. 

JOURNALIST: Any comment on this latest spat between Josh Frydenberg and Tony Abbott? 

PLIBERSEK: Honestly, you don't have to be a Liberal Party insider to know that Malcolm Turnbull's being undermined by Tony Abbott but I really question whether this is top of mind for most Australians. Here we are, at a fantastic vocational education provider, talking about jobs, talking about apprenticeships, talking about education policy. I think what most Australians are interested in are their own jobs, their pay, their conditions, their job security, the jobs that their kids are going to be doing, the education they need to get those jobs, a strong economy, a strong health system - that's what most people care about. They don't care about what's going on in the internal politics of the Liberal Party.

JOURNALIST: On Syria, do you support US airstrikes in response to alleged chemical weapons attacks there?

PLIBERSEK: We need to have a very strong international response to the use of chemical weapons anywhere at any time by any country or any organisation. I don't want to start commenting on hypothetical military scenarios but I do want to say in the strongest possible terms - these chemical weapons attacks were wrong, and the international community must show that. What's very disappointing is the response of the Russians in the UN Security Council, running a protection racket for the Assad regime. This has been an ongoing problem in settling the conflict in Syria. It is unacceptable. 

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned US military action might further complicate the conflict or does action need to be taken?

PLIBERSEK: This is the reason that we need to be sensitive and careful about speculating on what the response might be. We do, of course, want to see an end ot the conflict in Syria. That means that we need to have a political solution as well as a military solution. It means that all of the major countries that are waging a proxy conflict in the region need to come to the table, and it certainly means that the Russians can't continue to run the protection racket that they have been for the Assad regime. Thanks everyone.