THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
SUNDAY, 29 MARCH 2015
SUBJECTS: NSW state election; Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank; Joe Hockey’s unfair Budget, Bank Tax.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much for coming out this morning. First of all, of course my congratulations to Mike Baird on securing a second term. But my congratulations also to Luke Foley on a fantastic campaign. We’ve seen almost a 9 per cent swing to Labor across NSW with a gain of between 10 and 14 seats, it’s a terrific achievement after just one term in opposition and it shows what a united and determined opposition can do to hold a government to account.
JOURNALIST: Were you surprised by the swing at all?
PLIBERSEK: No, I think the swing was pretty much in line with what I expected. Of course I hoped to be pleasantly surprised and I was hoping of course for a surprise win in NSW as we had surprise wins in Queensland and to some extent Victoria. But the size of the swing was pretty much in line with what we expected.
JOURNALIST: The big story in this election by the looks of it is the Greens picking up the two seats outside of Sydney, I think you were talking this morning about how it wasn’t actually that high across the state, but it is trouble for you in your seat, isn’t it?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think the interesting thing about the Green vote is that it hasn’t changed overall across the state of NSW, they haven’t really picked up as a percentage of the vote, they haven’t really dropped, they’ve pretty much stayed steady. Of course, it does mean between 2 and 4 seats because those votes are concentrated in the inner city and the north coast. It doesn’t really change anything in my seat, I’ve always treated my seat as a marginal seat, I’ve worked hard to win and keep the trust of the people that I represent and I’ll continue to do that.
JOURNALIST: But do you accept that some of those voting demographics are changing and that there might be, particularly over the next four years, even more movement towards the Greens, particularly in those areas and Grayndler as well?
PLIBERSEK: There’s been a reasonably high Green vote in the inner city for some time now and both Anthony Albanese, the Member for Grayndler, and I have treated our federal seats as though they are marginal seats.
JOURNALIST: Mike Baird and Scott Morrison this morning were saying that the result is a repudiation of the scare campaign run by Labor in NSW and that Bill Shorten and the Federal Opposition should take some lessons from that. What do you make of those comments?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think they’re strange comments given we’ve picked up between 10 and 14 seats and a swing of 9% would’ve seen many governments dislodged so while I congratulate Mike Baird, I wouldn’t say that it’s a great source of comfort for him to have lost between 10 and 14 seats. I’d also say it’s pretty extraordinary that on a NSW polling day, a Prime Minister who’s a native of NSW is interstate and it shows just how unpopular Tony Abbott has been in the NSW election.
JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten was in China, though.
PLIBERSEK: Well, Bill Shorten’s a Victorian, he’s not someone who comes from NSW and Bill Shorten has spent more time in NSW over the last few weeks than you would reasonably expect, he’s been here many, many times. Tony Abbott’s been nowhere to be seen. We saw Tony Abbott choosing to be interstate yesterday when he should’ve been here in NSW campaigning with his best friend Mike Baird. If he thought he was any asset to the NSW campaign he certainly would’ve been here and I noticed Julie Bishop was able to make it to NSW last night but not Tony Abbott.
JOURNALIST: There’s been quite a bit of commentary about how nice both the leaders were in NSW. Mike Baird said so about Luke Foley, Luke Foley said it in return. Any chance we’ll see the same level of niceness in the federal campaign?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think we’re all very nice at the Federal level. I think actually, to be serious about this for a moment, I think people have responded to a campaign that has mostly been a campaign about ideas and not personalities. We have seen some notable exceptions and the disgusting campaign against Cameron Murphy is one example of that. I think by and large, people respond to positive ideas and a focus on issues rather than personalities.
JOURNALIST: There are a couple of key Labor people who didn’t quite make it into the lower house who are seen as the progressive face of the Party, I’m talking Penny Sharpe and Verity Firth here. What do you make of the results for people like that in the Labor Party in NSW? Do we need to do something about that?
PLIBERSEK: I think Penny Sharpe and Verity Firth were two of our very best candidates and probably the most disappointing element of last night’s loss is seeing Penny Sharpe and Verity Firth not in the State Parliament. They would’ve made a great contribution to the people of NSW, they both have, they’ve got a proven track record. And of course now the challenge is, if indeed those two seats are Greens seats, to make sure that all of the promises that were made by those candidates, those Green candidates, they’re held to account to those promises in the same way that Labor is held to account for our promises and Liberals are held to account for their promises and we’ll see in four years time what those people have managed to deliver.
JOURNALIST: Barnaby Joyce was saying this morning that the Labor Party is irrelevant two hours any side of Sydney, what do you make of those comments?
PLIBERSEK: I think if you have a look at the Central Coast seats, the Hunter seats, and indeed right up the coast as far as Port Stephens, Barnaby Joyce obviously wasn’t watching the results last night. We’ve done very well outside of Sydney, we look to have picked up a few seats that were kind of surprising, that Labor wasn’t expected to pick up and I think- I don’t know whether Barnaby Joyce wasn’t watching the results last night, but he seems to have missed one of the key elements of last night.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you, just moving onto a federal issue, the China bank, why should Australia join?
PLIBERSEK: Labor has been saying since September and October last year that the Australian Government should sign up to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Of course we need to make sure that the governance of the bank and the transparency and accountability mechanisms are strong but the Government itself says that there is a shortage of funding for infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region. This is starting at $50 billion moving to $100 billion worth of investment in infrastructure in our region critically needed. It’s also a very important opportunity for Australia and China to continue to strengthen our relationship. It’s a very good relationship built over four decades, but this is an added opportunity for Australia and China to work together for the benefit of our region.
JOURNALIST: How much should Australia invest do you think in this bank?
PLIBERSEK: First things first. We’ve had a government that’s been squabbling and leaking over whether they should join. We’ve had a split in the Cabinet that has meant that for six months there has been no answer and no progress on whether Australia will sign up. We’ve seen first steps of an indication that Australia will sign up released in the middle of the state election campaign. I mean, Parliament’s been sitting for five out of the last seven weeks. It is extraordinary that the Government haven’t chosen that time to talk about investment in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, instead they’ve tried to slip out a press release that they thought no one would notice because they were distracted by the state election. This is a very good opportunity for Australia, Australia should’ve been involved months ago and instead of squabbling and leaking, the Government should answer the basic questions about whether we’ll sign up, when we’ll sign up and how much we’ll contribute.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the caution’s valid though given the concerns about transparency, the US is a bit concerned about who will be in control of the bank? Do you think that the waiting is valid?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it’s important to be confident about the institutional arrangements of the bank, but the best way to do that is through engagement with China. Instead of that, we’ve been holding back, a split in the Cabinet about whether we should sign up at all. And you notice that our most important trading partners and frequent allies have actually joined up, other than the United States, a number of our most important international friends have said that they will join up. I think if Australia’s interested in the institutional arrangements, the best way to ensure that they are strong and transparent is to get involved from the ground level.
JOURNALIST: I just have another couple of questions about taxing. Should there be a cut to income tax, do you think the Government should look at that?
PLIBERSEK: Another interesting thought bubble from Joe Hockey yesterday about a bank tax. This is now the fifth new tax proposal from the Government. Today we’ve heard another story about bracket creep. This is all from a Government that said before the last election there’d be no new taxes. We’re now at the fifth and possibly the sixth suggestion for new taxes or tax increases. It’s up to Joe Hockey, instead of floating thought bubbles, to come out with a credible budget. He still hasn’t landed his budget from last year, he should be about to land his budget for this year and instead we’re hearing these extraordinary kind of thought bubbles from the Government about what might happen, what might not happen thrown out here and there. What this Government needs is a credible plan for the Australia economy, a plan that will see increased jobs, and better standards of living for Australians in the future. Instead they’ve got a messy budget with a Treasurer who obviously doesn’t know what he’s doing.
JOURNALIST: And just quickly on the NSW state election again, quite a few Labor women were elected last night as well, that’s really quite unexpected, it’s a good result, isn’t it?
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, we’ve got some fantastic candidates. There’s new women coming to the Parliament like Jo Haylen, like Trish Doyle, like Julia Finn, it looks like we’ll get Kate Washington up. There’s a terrific new batch of- new candidates coming in, Jihad Dib and other fantastic candidates who’ll make a great contribution to the State Parliament but Luke’s quite right, we’ve got a great new generation of women entering the Parliament too.