TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview, Townsville, Tuesday 20 January 2015

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SUBJECT/S: Campbell Newman's asset sell-off; Campbell Newman's and Tony Abbott's cuts; Tony Abbott in hiding; Abbott Government chaos and in-fighting; Manus Island; Tony Abbott's $100,000 university degrees


CORALEE O’ROURKE, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR MUNDINGBURRA: Today, look, I’m very excited to have Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition federally, spending time with the candidates of Townsville. All three of us, we’re actually covering a cross-section of industries, be it from early years education and care, health, teaching and we’re actually hearing that there is a lot of - we’re speaking with a lot of people that are very concerned about those particular areas.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Thank you, it’s great pleasure for me to be here today with Scott Stewart, Aaron Harper and Coralee O’Rourke, our three candidates for the Townsville area. We have just come from the port obviously, where we were having a look at a terrific hospital ship that’s been developed by Youth with a Mission, a great organisation that has a very strong presence locally and that ship’s going to make its first journey to PNG in a few months’ time and it is great to see that the second ship that they’ve bought and the plans they have for fitting that out as a hospital ship.

But one of the reasons that we wanted to come to Townsville was because Campbell Newman has a privatisation agenda that includes selling the assets of ports like this, long term leasing them, an asset of course that belongs to the people of Townsville and the people of Queensland and using that money to bankroll short term promises to get himself re-elected. He is proposing to sell the assets that belong to all Queenslanders to buy himself the next election. We have come here from the port but of course the port is not the only asset in Townsville that risks privatisation; Ergon energy of course if that is privatised, you see the risk of 900 jobs.

Townsville of course is a community that cannot afford to lose 900 jobs. It has already got higher than state average unemployment; 8.7 percent adult unemployment, 15.9 percent youth unemployment, both above the state average and those privatisations risk further job losses. Those job losses in those privatised industries have flow on effects. We know that if you haven’t got a job yourself, you cannot afford to stop for a cup of coffee on the way to work, you can’t afford to get your hair cut as often as you’d like and so the whole of the Townsville economy will of course be affected by those privatisations.

And this is just part of Campbell Newman’s negative agenda for Queensland. People have sent a very strong message that they do not want privatisation here in Townsville but Campbell Newman is not listening. He is not listening on the issue of privatisation, just as he never listened on the health cuts, just as he never listened on education policies. Townsville Hospital was one of the first places to suffer those massive job losses in the health sector, with over 200 jobs lost in nursing and allied health services almost immediately after Campbell Newman came into power and Queenslanders do not forget. They won't put up with thousands of job losses, cuts to their local health services, cuts to teacher numbers, threats to public education and then find five minutes before midnight when Campbell Newman calls a snap election that all this [inaudible].

JOURNALIST: It is obviously a state issue, why are federal shadow ministers continuing to come to Queensland and talk about these issues, I mean, can’t the Queensland Labor representatives fight the battle themselves?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the real question is where is Tony Abbott and why is he in hiding? You know, Tony Abbott could not wait to get here to support Campbell Newman last time around, he basically moved into Campbell's back bedroom for the course of the last Queensland election and now Tony Abbott is nowhere to be seen. The reason Tony Abbott’s nowhere to be seen is because he is box office poison. The cuts that Campbell Newman has made in health, in education, in transport, in infrastructure, they are made doubly worse because the Federal Government has also been cutting. The Federal Government has cut $10 billion from health services here in Queensland and $6 billion from Queensland schools. You know Campbell Newman on his own, Tony Abbott on his own, bad enough, but the two of them together are a disaster. It is like having the flu and coming down with a particularly nasty bout of food poisoning to have Campbell Newman here in Queensland and Tony Abbott in Canberra.

Of course Labor Federal members are here to support their Labor state colleagues because it is all about the quality of life for Queenslanders. We know that Queenslanders don’t care whether it's a state government, a federal government, or a local council delivering a service they just want good schools for their kids, a decent hospital when they need it, they need decent public transport systems, they need good post-secondary education for their kids so that they can take up the job opportunities of the future and we are committed to working in a united way with our state candidates. And I’ve got to say, Coralee mentioned this before, how lucky are we here in Townsville to have three Labor candidates that represent such diverse backgrounds. We’ve got Coralee who has worked in early childhood education, we’ve got high schools, we’ve got the health sector with Aaron’s work as a paramedic. I mean, we’ve got candidates that have been motivated to stand for the Labor Party because they have seen the effects of these budget cuts firsthand.

JOURNALIST: That still does not explain why federal shadow ministers are continuing to come to Queensland. Are they unable to fight the battle for themselves?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely not, we have got fine candidates on the ground and I’m standing with three of them now. What I say to you is Tony Abbott could not wait to get here at the time of the last election. He spent every day with Campbell Newman, you know putting out press releases in support of him, doing social media with him, right here on the ground. That was the last election. What has changed? Why is Tony Abbott in hiding now? We know he is in hiding because people do not support his attacks on Medicare, his $900 million cut to Queensland universities, his $10 billion cut to hospitals here, his $6 billion cut to education, to school education. They do not support the fact that Campbell Newman has been silent as Tony Abbott has sucked resources out of this state, cancelled projects, infrastructure projects, and sent that money down south. The real question is not ‘why am I here to stand with these terrific candidates?’, the real question is ‘why isn’t Tony Abbott backing up for a second campaign with Campbell Newman?’ and the answer is because they are both poison.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that we will see any additional colleagues from the LNP up here in Townsville before next, Saturday week?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I am very surprised that you don’t even see Queensland LNP members, Federal members campaigning with state candidates very often and that is because the agenda that Tony Abbot is running in Canberra, it has been rejected comprehensively by Queenslanders. They do not want cuts to health and education, they do not want the cuts to infrastructure funding, they don’t want [inaudible]. Tony Abbott and Campbell Newman both came to government promising reduce unemployment and to reduce government debt, both of them have failed in those missions. Of course federal coalition members are not campaigning up here, they’ve got nothing to be proud of.

JOURNALIST: Labor has its own plans to use profits from assets to fund their promises, is there a risk that for example the profits from the Townsville port could be spent in the southeast of the state.

PLIBERSEK: Well, what we have said is it makes absolutely no sense to sell assets that are bringing in money for taxpayers - instead use that money that is coming in to pay down debt but also to invest in the services and the infrastructure that Queenslanders need.

JOURNALIST: Isn’t much of the money already been used though, I mean can you really double-dip?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s important to say how you would use that money. And what we know from Campbell Newman is that you get a one-off sugar hit as those assets are sold and then nothing forever after that.

JOURNALIST: I’ve got a question for my colleagues down in Canberra. It seems there’s someone leaking internal government information about tensions between the Treasurer and the Prime Minister, do you think the Prime Minister should be worried about his job?

PLIBERSEK: Well the leaks that you have seen in the last couple of days come from the Expenditure Review Committee of the Cabinet, that’s a very small group of people and the fact that it has been reported that both the previous Health Minister Peter Dutton and the Treasurer Joe Hockey were opposed to the measure that the Prime Minister was supposedly pushing to make it more expensive for ordinary Australians to visit their doctor - it shows that either Peter Dutton or Joe Hockey placed the story. I think the Prime Minister should be very worried about that kind of arse-covering exercise by his colleagues.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]… would Labor close down Manus Island if it was re-elected?

PLIBERSEK: Well what you absolutely need to see is a government that takes charge of what is happening on Manus Island now and tells the people of Australia exactly what is going on. We saw a very half-hearted press conference today from the Prime Minister and the new Immigration Minister. It left more questions unanswered than were actually answered. This is a very large [inaudible]… taxpayers of Australia. Taxpayers deserve to know that the centre is being run properly and that the people that are housed there are safe.

JOURNALIST: What would Labor do to fix that?

PLIBERSEK: Well for a start, you need a minister who is honest with the people of Australia about what is going on there, actually does not indulge in this culture of secrecy. And we need to work with international organisations to describe to the people who are on Manus Island what comes next for them.

JOURNALIST: And to higher education reforms, [inaudible]… policy passed through, would Labour look at some concessions perhaps to strike up a deal?

PLIBERSEK: Well, this is a bit rich really, what the Government is saying is that you have got a generation of students being held to ransom if Labor does not do something then this generation of students will suffer. What we have seen is a cut of about 20 percent of the average investment of Commonwealth Government into university courses, you have got university students who are facing $100,000, $200,000 university degrees. It’s actually up to the Government to come up with a solution that shows that we value higher education. We know that Australia will never compete internationally unless we continue to invest in our young people and in our future. We have seen Australian universities produce some magnificent graduates, do wonderful research, and this argument that cutting billions of dollars is somehow going to improve our university system is a complete furphy.


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