TRANSCRIPT: Doorstop Interview, Tuesday 2 June 2015







SUBJECTS: Joan Kirner; Marriage equality; South China Sea; Iraq

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Yesterday we heard the sad news that Joan Kirner had passed away after a long and difficult illness. Joan is someone that is held in great affection and esteem in the Labor Party. She’s been a soldier for the Labor Party for many years. Before entering Parliament, she was a teacher. She went on to become Education Minister and of course the Premier of Victoria through some very difficult times. Like many Labor MPs, when she left Parliament, Joan didn’t leave politics. She established with many other women an organisation called Emily’s List which has made a huge difference to the number of women in Parliament and also I’d have to say I don’t know whether we’d have two state Labor governments that have 50/50 representation of women on their front bench if it wasn’t for the efforts of Joan Kirner. Joan, as well as establishing Emily’s List-  lived its motto every day. Joan’s motto, Emily’s List’s motto was ‘when women support women, women win’. And she was always so quick with a phone call or an SMS when she saw you on TV or heard of an initiative that we were doing, she was always so quick to ring and offer a word of support and encouragement. That was true for me personally, but I know that I’m one of many, many, many women who Joan mentored and supported and showed friendship to throughout her life. She’ll be deeply missed by her Labor family and of course even more deeply missed by her own family and friends. It’s a very sad day for us to have lost Joan Kirner.

Just on another matter, the Liberal Party this morning will be meeting to discuss its legislative agenda over coming weeks and months and I’m very hopeful that they will discuss marriage equality. I was delighted to hear Sarah Henderson on the radio this morning saying that she had listened to her community and was a supporter of marriage equality and is keen to show that support in our Parliament. I know that she is one of many Liberal and National MPs who are supporters of marriage equality who would be very pleased to debate this in the Federal Parliament and indeed vote in favour of marriage equality. There is now a bill before the Parliament and it’s important that that bill is discussed by the Liberals and Nationals. We’ve already said that if there are Liberal and National MPs who want to be involved in cosponsoring that bill, we’d be delighted for bipartisanship. I wrote to Liberal and National MPs fourteen months ago asking for someone to cosponsor such a bill in the Parliament and Bill has said that he is delighted to work with Warren Entsch or any of the other Liberal and National MPs who want to come forward because this is a change whose time has come.  But it can only go through our Parliament when all parties have the opportunity of voting for marriage equality. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: There are reports this morning [inaudible] disputed islands over the South China Sea, is that something that Labor’s [inaudible]?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we have sought briefings from the Government about the escalation of tensions in the South China Sea. Of course, we take no position on the territorial disputes in question, but we do say that it is important to have freedom of navigation and freedom of flight through an area that is an extremely busy trading route, an area that Australian vessels have been traveling through for many years. We urge the parties of course to use international laws and norms to settle any disagreements about sovereignty and of course, it is important that this area remains open to trading. The very best thing for our region is if all the countries in the region- is continue to grow economically, to trade freely and to live in peace and harmony.

JOURNALIST: You stopped short yesterday of backing Kevin Andrews’ call for China to halt reclamation activities on some of those [inaudible]. Do you stand by that or do you think it’s a good idea [inaudible]?

PLIBERSEK: I think it’s important to say that we don’t have a position on any territorial disputes but that we are all interested, Australia has a very strong interest, in seeing peace in our region because the most important thing that we should be focusing on, Australia and countries in our region, is economic development that will raise millions of people out of poverty.

JOURNALIST: So do you think China should halt land reclamation?

PLIBERSEK: Well, as I say, we don’t have a position on any of the territorial disputes but it is plainly making some of China’s neighbours anxious, and I think it’s a matter for China and those neighbours to settle peacefully using international laws and norms.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of the latest Newspoll showing Tony Abbott ahead of Bill Shorten for the first time [inaudible]?

PLIBERSEK: Well, like I say, we don’t listen to polls day to day- I’ve got no particular view on it. We’ll go out and keep holding the Government to account. We’ve now got a budget that brings over all of the unfair measures from last year’s budget and adds to that higher debt, higher deficit, higher taxes, higher unemployment and a smashes of business confidence.

JOURNALIST: In the last couple of weeks [inaudible] Iraqi forces aren’t equipped to fight ISIS. We saw the Vice Chief of the Defence Force yesterday saying [inaudible] he says that essentially that’s not correct, not backing [inaudible]. What’s your understanding of whether Iraqi people should [inaudible]?

PLIBERSEK: Unfortunately, I’m using the same sources of information as you are. We asked for a briefing on Iraq, it was scheduled for about 2 weeks ago, we asked for it several weeks earlier than that. It was cancelled at very short notice. We’ve asked for it to be rescheduled and it hasn’t yet been rescheduled. So, I’m relying on the same information you are. There are obviously competing views about that issue and about the theatre of war in Iraq at the moment.