TRANSCRIPT: DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, SYDNEY, SATURDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2018

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

THE HON WAYNE SWAN MP
MEMBER FOR LILLEY

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
SYDNEY
SATURDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2018

SUBJECTS:  Labor International Conference on Global Inequality; Barnaby Joyce; speculation on replacement Nationals Leader; Prime Minister in Washington; Liberals' tax cuts for big business.

WAYNE SWAN MP: It’s great to be here with Neera Tanden, the CEO of the Centre for American Progress this morning, and Tanya Plibersek, our Deputy Leader. We've got a conference here today, a conference about how Labor Parties across the globe, and kindred parties across the globe, deal with the pressing and urgent problem of growing inequality. The rampant concentration of wealth and income at the top around the world is hollowing out middle classes, creating vast armies of working poor, and what the Labor Party has been doing in Government is putting forward a very vibrant alternative and we're here today discussing that with our membership and from parties around the world. It's appropriate we do that this morning particularly when Malcolm Turnbull is in Washington, going all the way with Donald Trump on tax cuts for the rich and tax cuts for the very large corporates because around the world that is what's produced the rampant inequality which is now threatening growth and threatening democracy itself. So I'm really looking forward to our deliberations today with people from around the western world, not just from the US but from Britain, from Europe, and many other countries. So with those few words I'd like to throw to Neera Tanden to say a couple of words before we talk to Tanya.

NEERA TANDEN: Thank you. It's a great honour for me to be here and discussing with so many important leaders from around the globe but also critical leaders here in Australia the pressing issues of how to grow the middle class and how to ensure people who are struggling can get into the middle class. I'm really honoured to be here at this particular moment because we have just experienced the largest redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the top 1% under the Donald Trump tax cut. It's shocking to me that any leader would want to replicate a plan that we know will largely raise taxes on many people who are struggling but raise tax  on the middle class and most fundamentally creates deficit after deficit after deficit. That is a plan that is deeply unpopular in the United States and I am shocked that it’s one that anyone would want to replicate in any other country. So today we're going to talk about ideas in the United States and elsewhere about how to grow the economy and ensure that we reduce rampant inequality. That starts from having tax policy that  benefits the middle class not the top 1% and not just corporations, but the people who work for them. Thank you.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Thanks so much Wayne and thank you Neera for those words too.  While Labor is here at a conference about tackling inequality and growing inclusive prosperity - you see what Bill and I have been doing this week - Bill's been in Queensland talking about good secure well-paid jobs for Queenslanders, I've been in Tasmania talking about the Tasmanian health system and I made an announcement about the largest, most important review of post-secondary schooling in Australia's history, looking at TAFE and universities and making sure that they're fit for purpose for the 21st century.

Well what have the Liberals and Nationals been doing? They've continued the saga that began last year, Liberal versus Liberal, National versus National, Liberal versus National, and it's concluded this week with Barnaby Joyce doing what everybody knew he should have done two weeks ago, actually standing down. We've got a Deputy Prime Minister that has tried to tough it out. He's clearly broken the Prime Ministerial Code of Conduct on several occasions, and because of this secret agreement between the Liberal and National Parties, the Prime Minister has refused to act to remove Barnaby Joyce. It shows how gutless our Prime Minister is, but it also shows how this secret agreement between the Liberals and the Nationals is actually more important, more powerful, than the Prime Ministerial Code of Conduct. Australians are just sick of the soap opera. What they want is a Government that is focused on jobs - on job creation, making sure that those jobs have decent pay and secure conditions, making sure our school system, TAFE and university are fit for the 21st century, that our health system looks after all Australians properly.

That's why it's so great to be at this conference today. We'll be discussing the best and most practical ways of achieving inclusive prosperity, with our sister parties around the world, because our focus as a party is always the best interests, the day to day lives of ordinary Australians, not what's in it for us, not a competition for who's going to be top dog in the National Party - a competition incidentally that I notice is a competition amongst a bunch of people nobody's ever heard of for the second most powerful job in the country. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: With Barnaby Joyce on the backbench now, will it be business as usual for the Government?

PLIBERSEK: Well was it business as usual last year? I mean, we had a year last year where we had infighting, we had Tony Abbott's guerrilla campaign to unseat Malcolm Turnbull, we had Malcolm Turnbull capitulating to the hard right of the Liberal Party again and again because he is too gutless to to stand up to them. We had infighting amongst the Nationals. We had infighting amongst the Liberals when Senate spots became available because of the citizenship saga, that again the Prime Minister is too weak to put a stop to, remembering that Labor suggested, in fact moved a motion to refer all MPs about whom there are questions to the High Court. All of this saga last year. If you call that business as usual for Government then yeah, we're probably going to see more business as usual. If business as usual is actually focusing on the best interests of the people who rely on us every day for a strong economy and a fair society then no, I don't think we're going to see too much of that.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of Michael McCormack as a replacement for Barnaby as Nationals leader?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I actually get on very well with most of the Nationals and the ones that have put their hands up for the leadership, but isn't it an extraordinary thing that there's now this contest amongst the Nationals -frankly most Australians have never heard of most of these people and between them, in this little group, they're determining who's going to be the Deputy Prime Minister, based on a secret agreement that Australians apparently have no right to see. I think that's extraordinary.

JOURNALIST: Are there any other National MPs you'd like to see replace Barnaby in the short term?

PLIBERSEK: Well Darren Chester had my vote but it seems like he's not in the running at the moment.

JOURNALIST: What do you hope Mr Turnbull can achieve in Washington?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's absolutely critical that the relationship between Australia and the United States remains a strong one. We have a long history of working together for peace and prosperity, so it is a critical relationship for us. What I hope doesn't happen is that the Prime Minister takes a leaf out of President Trump's playbook and introduces unfair tax cuts that massively benefit very big businesses and the highest income earners, at the expense of ordinary working people. Sadly, I think we're already on this path in Australia. We've got $65 billion worth of big business tax cuts, we've got $19 billion of tax cuts to people who are earning more than $180,000 a year, over the same period as we're increasing taxes on low and middle income earners by $44 billion. So we're already seeing this redistribution happening in Australia, redistribution in the wrong direction from low and middle income earners to high income earners and big business.

JOURNALIST: Just on that note, how similar or different are the politics from Mr Turnbull and President Trump in terms of taxation?

PLIBERSEK: Oh look I think the same principle applies. We've got two guys who are trying to convince their citizens, their populations, that if we give enough big business tax cuts that will somehow trickle down to low and middle income earners.

SWAN: They're both riding the same horse.

PLIBERSEK: Jump in.

SWAN: Well Mr Trump and Mr Turnbull are both riding the same horse, I mean you're going- Mr Turnbull is going all the way with Mr Trump on a massive tax cut for large corporates which will massively disadvantage working Australians, and in Australia, while the Nationals are fighting over the leadership, the key thing about the National Party is they're still supporting the Liberal Party's tax cuts to the big end of town which is going to rip the services out of regional communities right across the country. So same horse, different jockey here, when it comes to the National Party.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks.

ENDS