SUBJECTS: Labor to uncap university places; Liberals’ cuts to education; Chaos and dysfunction in the Morrison Liberal Government; United Labor team; Peter Dutton’s Ministerial intervention issues; Tony Abbott’s new role in the Morrison Government; Resignation of Julia Banks; Bullying and intimidation in the Liberal Party. 

PROFESSOR MARGARET GARDNER AO, VICE-CHANCELLOR MONASH UNIVERSITY: I'm very pleased to welcome the Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition and the Minister for Education and Training, Tanya Plibersek and also the candidate for Melbourne Ports which is now Macnamara, Josh Burns to campus here at Monash and I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to introduce them to a series of students who are part of our equity program mentoring students and themselves being mentored into university. So helping students who need access to university and need support to get that, this program provides that support and was indeed just awarded the national award by the Australian Financial Review last night for the most successful equity and access program in Australia. So those students are an important part of making sure that education is open and available to all students irrespective of background on the basis of their aspiration and talent. 

JOSH BURNS, LABOR'S CANDIDATE FOR MACNAMARA: As the Labor candidate for Macnamara it is really exciting for me to be here at Monash University, my former stomping ground where I spent many hours here, to welcome Tanya Plibersek here today to talk about how Labor is going to uncap university places, which as local candidate it means more than 1,200 people in Macnamara are going to have a chance to go to university and it's a really exciting policy and one I'm really proud of. So it gives me great pleasure to welcome Tanya Plibersek. 

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you Josh and it's terrific to meet with you here today and to be welcomed by Margaret. Margaret is a very distinguished educator and what she's done here at Monash is something really to be proud of and congratulations Margaret on those awards that Monash won last night. 
Today Josh and I are here meeting the students, some of whom are the first in their family to go to university. They're also mentors to other students, high school students, who will likely be the first in their family to go to university. One of the great projects of Labor has been to make sure that every Australian, if they're prepared to work hard and study hard, can get a great education at a world class university like Monash. When we were in government last we uncapped the number of students who could go to university, so if you qualified academically, if you were prepared to do the study and you got a place in university there would be funding for you to complete your university education. Sadly, just before Christmas the Liberal Government put an unfair, artificial cap back onto university places. That means that over the next decade more than 200,000 students that would otherwise get a university education will miss out if this unfair cap stays in place. Well Labor has announced that we would uncap places again so that any Australian who's prepared to work hard, study hard and put in the time and take on the student debt will get a great education. Sadly, with Scott Morrison as Treasurer and now Scott Morrison as Prime Minister, all we've seen in higher education is cuts - $2.2 billion in cuts just before Christmas that go along with cuts to pre-schools, a disaster in early childhood education and care where one in four families will be worse off, $17 billion cut from our schools and over $3 billion cut from TAFE, training and apprenticeships. If Scott Morrison is serious about economic growth in Australia, he should invest in one of the most critical drivers of economic growth and that is a first-class education for every Australian.  

Any questions?  

JOURNALIST: Yes, just for that uncapping of those 200,000 odd places, where does that funding come from?  

PLIBERSEK: Well, we can afford to invest in health and education because we're not giving tax cuts to the top end of town. Now nobody believes Scott Morrison when he says he's not going to proceed with big business tax cuts and even Mathias Cormann has already said that the Parliament will have to go back to big business tax cuts. I mean Scott Morrison is the guy who was the Treasurer saying that it was more important to give a $17 billion tax cut to the big banks than to properly fund our schools. He cut $17 billion from schools and offered a $17 billion tax cut to the big banks. We won't proceed with the big business tax cuts. We also say that people at the upper income end don't need the generosity in the tax system that Scott Morrison is offering them. Scott Morrison's idea of fairness is if you're on a million bucks a year, you get a $28,000 a year tax cut and if you're on $80,000 or $90,000, you get thirteen bucks a week. We say we don't need to give those tax cuts at the top end - we can afford to invest in health and education. We've made tough decisions around negative gearing, around capital gains tax concessions, around superannuation concessions at the high end, around family trusts, around tax deductibility for tax accountant services. We've made a whole lot of tough decisions. The reason we've made those tough decisions is so we can invest in what matters in ordinary Australians' lives: a great education for themselves and their kids; a health system they can rely on; early childhood education and care; aged care; decent infrastructure. These are the things that a make a difference in peoples' lives.  

JOURNALIST: Okay, just moving on to the current au pair story involving the Home Affairs Minister. How many visa cases have Labor MPs made representations on to the Department of Home Affairs?  

PLIBERSEK: Oh look, I couldn't possibly answer that question. Labor MPs, in the course of their work, make reasonable representations. Any Member of Parliament does if they see that the Department has made an unfair decision, they would make a representation, that is completely normal. What's not normal is for a Minister to be intervening on the basis of a phone call within a few hours. There are questions, of course, about whether there are connections here with a donor to the Liberal Party. We don't know the answers to these questions and that's why it's critical that the Minister and senior Departmental officials appear before the Parliamentary Inquiry into these au pair visa issues. It is not unusual for people to make representations to the Minister, it may be very unusual for the Minister to respond in the way he has. He should answer those questions. I think it's instructive too, that this same Minister still has very serious questions to answer about his eligibility to be in Parliament at all. He's obviously got some very serious business interests in child care centres in Queensland. I think it's important that the Minister answer the questions about his eligibility to be in Parliament, it looks like he's got a good business in child care and he seems to have a sideline in au pairs, as well.  

JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott has accepted his new role as Special Envoy to Indigenous Affairs, what do you make of that appointment by Prime Minister Scott Morrison?  

PLIBERSEK: Well, Tony Abbott's the guy who cut $500 million from programs to close the gap in health and education and indigenous disadvantage. So I'm not really sure he's is the best person to be advocating on behalf of Aboriginal Australians. They have got some pretty strong advocates themselves that might, if they had the ear of the Prime Minister, might be able to give him some decent advice about how to genuinely reduce the gap when it comes to health and education, employment and so on. Having cut $500 million from Indigenous programs is one thing, the other thing I think it's worth being aware of is that now Tony Abbott's talking about making sure that Aboriginal kids are getting a great education. Well I would be the first to say that is absolutely critical. That every child, in every school, in every community gets a great education. This Liberal Government has cut tens of millions of dollars from the Northern Territory school system, on its own. They have cut billions of dollars across Australia from the very schools that would be giving a decent education to the children that he professes to be worried about.  

JOURNALIST: Liberal MP Julia Banks has just announced she is quitting Parliament because of bulling and intimidation. With the Wentworth, the former Prime Minister's seat of Wentworth, now coming up to a by-election, and now the seat of Chisholm, Ms Bank's seat, should the Government just call an election? 

PLIBERSEK: Of course they should. The Government should just let the Australian people decide. The Government people should let the Australian people decide whether they want a Government that is just chaos, dysfunction and cuts or whether they want a Shorten Labor Government that would deliver good quality jobs, with decent pay and conditions, reinvest in our health and education systems, make sure we have world class infrastructure that drives productivity and growth in our economy. Let the people decide.

I mean it is extraordinary that even Scott Morrison's own colleagues don't have faith in him to remain as Prime Minister. You know, two days ago Scott Morrison was trying to say that the divisions are over, nothing to see here, everything's healed, and we have got Julia Banks resigning from Parliament because she is talking about the chaos inside the Liberal party. Yesterday, we had Julie Bishop refusing to rule out a tilt at the leadership. I mean nobody believes that this divided, dysfunctional Government is focused on anything other than itself.  

JOURNALIST: Just further on that seat of Wentworth there, how confident are you in that seat off the back of new polling showing that the two party preferred split is 50/50? 

PLIBERSEK: Oh look, I'm afraid I wish I could believe that poll, but I'm afraid I don't because Wentworth, I think it was a 20 percent margin for the Liberals at the last election. It is a very safe, blue ribbon Liberal seat. Now we have had fantastic candidates in the past, we have got a fantastic candidate right now. He will very strongly make the case for Labor.  But in a blue ribbon seat like this, we wouldn't have any expectation of winning. You look at a seat like New England. We were very happy to take the fight up to the Coalition Government in the seat of New-England. We don't do it because we expect a twenty point turn around in the voting. We do it because we want to make the case across our community for better jobs with decent pay and conditions, more investment in health and education, a fairer society, a stronger economy. We want to put that case, but in tiger territory like this it’s always an uphill battle.  

JOURNALIST: Chisholm's not tiger territory though is it? It was a long standing Labor seat from before Ms Banks has held it. What are your thoughts about that, Labor's chances?  

PLIBERSEK: Well Anna Burke won Chisholm when it was a very marginal seat indeed and she built up her margin through her extraordinary work ethic and her, I mean, she was just a brilliant Parliamentarian and she was a sad loss to Labor when she left, when she retired. We've had good Labor candidates since but a new candidate coming into a new seat like this is always very difficult. Certainly Julia Banks retiring, I hope, gives us a better chance. The real question of course is why is she going? What does this say about the Government? And what it says about the Government is it's time for an election. You cannot have people saying that the Government, saying that they're being bullied inside a dysfunctional organisation and say it's OK if that bullying, that dysfunction, is governing our country. It is extraordinary that we have a group of people leading the nation that are more focused on fighting themselves than they are on the jobs of Australian workers, on the flatlining wages that we are experiencing, on the spikes in energy prices, the increase in pollution because we've got no energy or pollution reduction policies, on health and education, all the things that matter in people's lives don't rate a mention with the modern day Liberal Party. It's all about themselves. 

JOURNALIST: Julia Banks says she's leaving because of bullying and intimidation and that the chaos of last week was the last straw, but it's clearly been an ongoing issue for her. Are you aware of bullying and intimidation particularly for women in Parliament? Is that an issue that needs attention? 

PLIBERSEK: Look I certainly can't answer for the details of the internals of what's going on in the Liberal Party, but you can see the outcomes of it. You've had two years at least of chaos and dysfunction with Liberals in the media, day after day, bagging each other, talking about each other, fighting over the top job, fighting over who's going to be in Cabinet or the outer Ministry. It has been all about their jobs. It hasn't been about the Australian people. You don't need to be an insider in the back rooms of the Liberal Party to work that out. The results are on display - we've got flatlining wages, we've got chaos in things like the implementation of NAPLAN online, we've got cuts through childcare, schools, TAFE and universities, we've got a health system with growing hospital waiting lists, we've got continuing uncertainty when it comes to energy and environment policy, which means an investment strike in the construction of extra energy into our network. And the results are there for anyone to see and the results are terrible for the Australian public. Now is the time for the Prime Minister, the new Prime Minister, to admit that it's chaos and that the Australian people should be deciding the leadership of their country, not 80 people in a Liberal Party back room meeting. 

Thanks everyone.