SUBJECTS: NAIDOC Week; G20 Conference; North Korea; Dr Gillespie High Court Challenge.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you very much for coming out this morning to the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence. It's a real pleasure to be here as the staff and volunteers prepare for the launch of their NAIDOC week celebrations. It's been fantastic to celebrate NAIDOC week this week and to see right across the country the celebrations that've happened in local communities, all of them supporting the theme 'Our Languages Matter'. And it's true that Indigenous languages matter. Australia is so lucky to have tens of thousands of years of Indigenous culture and heritage to draw on, and language is such an important part of that. We have to do whatever we can as an Australian community to protect and preserve the Indigenous languages that are still spoken today and to do what we can too to find the traces of the Indigenous languages that've been lost because of settlement and to restore those. I've always said that it would be terrific for all Australian children if we learnt more Indigenous languages in our schools. Great, of course, for Indigenous kids, but also so good for other Australian children to be able to take part, to be able to explore the richness of Indigenous cultures. Terrific. Any questions?


JOURNALIST: Just a question on the G20. How concerned are you by Trump's statement that he is considering very severe things in response to North Korea?


PLIBERSEK: Well all of us are gravely concerned about the actions of the North Korean regime in continuing to test missiles, particularly missiles that have a longer reach. It is absolutely critical that the global community work together to say unequivocally to the North Korean regime that their actions are completely unacceptable. We've seen some diplomatic and economic measures from China already, and of course, Australian Labor welcomes those initial diplomatic and economic measures against the North Korean regime. But anything more that the Chinese Government can do to bring the North Korean regime into line would also be welcomed. We know that it is China that is most likely to have an effect in bringing the North Korean regime into line and the global community is looking to China for continued leadership in bringing the North Korean regime to respect international prohibitions on the missile testing that is taking place.


JOURNALIST:  Do you think that there's any more that Australia should be doing given that we're in a tough situation, both from a trade perspective and a relationship perspective? But by the same token, the threat from North Korea?

PLIBERSEK: I think that Australia is in a unique position to work with our largest trading partner, China, to continue to urge China to do whatever more it can do, to bring the North Korean regime into line. We know that China has already taken diplomatic and economic measures to try and bring the North Koreans into line, but whatever more they can do, they should do. Australia has an excellent relationship with China and we should use that relationship to urge them to take further measures as appropriate.

JOURNALIST: Do you think there is a real prospect for conflict in the region?

PLIBERSEK: Sorry, Caroline I couldn't quite hear that because of the plane. Could you say that again?

JOURNALIST: Do you think that there is a prospect for real conflict in the region with North Korea?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think that it is worrying to have such an unpredictable regime that has intercontinental ballistic missile capability and is obviously interested in developing its nuclear arsenal. So I think it’s important that the global community take seriously any threat from the North Korean regime and that the global community work together to reduce the threat and to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula.

JOURNALIST: Just with regards to the seat of Lyne, can you just explain what the ALP has either decided or is deciding to do today?

PLIBERSEK: Yes. Well this morning, the Australian Labor Party has supported the lodging of a petition in the High Court of Australia. Peter Alley, who was the Labor candidate in the seat of Lyne at the last election, is testing the constitutional validity of Dr Gillespie's election. We are not sure whether Dr Gillespie is actually constitutionally able to sit in the House of Representatives - whether he was properly elected, because of his conflict of interest.

Now Dr Gillespie has a conflict of interest. That's a matter of public record. He, in February this year, it was disclosed that a shopping centre that is part owned by Dr Gillespie, has in it an Australia Post office - this has been a matter on the public record since February. Our Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has twice written to the Government, twice written to the Attorney-General asking him to investigate whether there is a conflict of interest because of this Australia Post tenancy. 

We noticed that the Government was very quick to act when there were two crossbench Senators that had allegations against them. The Government was very quick to take cases to court in relation to those two crossbench Senators. Yet, when it is one of their own in the House of Representatives, when they are relying on this one vote, they are refusing to examine any potential conflict of interest and they are refusing even to respond to Labor's correspondence about whether there is a conflict of interest. So we think that the electors of Lyne, more than 100,000 people, who voted in the last election, deserve to know whether the man they elected is actually able to sit in the House of Representatives.

JOURNALIST: Before you say that the Liberals haven't responded to your correspondence, is it really that direct? It seems to be a Post Office that is leased by a business that's then part of this wider shopping centre.

PLIBERSEK: Look I'm not going to get into the legal arguments. I think that that is properly a matter for the High Court and the High Court will determine it in its proper way. I think– we've received legal advice that there is a potential conflict of interest and we're going to test that legal advice. It's for the court to make the determination.

JOURNALIST: If there has been a question hanging over him for so long, why has it taken this long for Labor to take legal action?

PLIBERSEK: Well the matter first became public in February and we wrote immediately to the Attorney-General. He has refused to answer that correspondence. After the case of former Senator Bob Day, we wrote again to the Government, because of course the legal groundwork changed at that time. We wrote again to the Government and again have not received a response. We've asked for legal advice. That legal advice has come in and after that legal advice has come in, the candidate for the seat of Lyne, that was unsuccessful, Peter Alley, has decided to take this to the next step.

JOURNALIST: How certain are you that this is winnable?

PLIBERSEK: I'm sorry?

JOURNALSIT: How certain are you that the legal action is winnable?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I'm not a lawyer. This is for the High Court to determine. We've got a very strong legal team and they'll make their arguments and the High Court will determine the issue in the proper way. But we all know that section 44 of the constitution is there to prevent conflicts of interest, to prevent the potential for corruption. So we think that it is very important that the electors of Lyne get the opportunity to see whether the man that has been elected to represent them is constitutionally able to do so. 

JOURNALIST: In the case of Day it was actually an electoral office basically owned by him, is this just muddying the waters a little bit? Is this a concrete case?

PLIBERSEK: Well that’ll be for the legal team to make the case in the High Court and it’ll be for the High Court to determine in the normal way. I'm not going to offer legal opinions.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask a local question? Just with regards to the New South Wales Government has appointed a committee to look at options for the cruise boat industry and Garden Island is on that list, and in fact, is at the top of the list – possibly sharing it with the Navy. As a local member, what are your thoughts about this?

PLIBERSEK: Well obviously this has been a proposal that's been around for many years now and I think that the local residents would be pretty unhappy about the volume of traffic you'd be expecting if Garden Island were used in this way. But the barrier in the past has always been that it's a naval facility and our defence facilities are actually on high alert and have been for some time. So, I'm not sure why this time this issue has been raised would be any different to the other times that this proposition has been raised and rejected.

JOURNALIST: So would you reject the notion of possibly sharing it [inaudible].

PLIBERSEK: Well I think that the Australian Navy would reject that proposition. Thanks everyone.