THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
MONDAY, 1 SEPTEMBER 2015
SUBJECTS: TONY ABBOTT’S CUTS TO HEALTH; CANNING BY-ELECTION; DYSON HEYDON; PETER DUTTON’S INCOMPETENCE; CHINA FTA; NAURU INQUIRY.
MATT KEOGH, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CANNING: So we’re here today at the Armadale Kelmscott Memorial Hospital which is part of the Armadale health service. I was born in the hospital that used to be here, and it’s in the area of Kelmscott obviously in Canning. We’re here because we want to highlight one of the key issues for the people of Canning, which has been that the Abbott Government’s cut over $2 billion from the health services that cover this area. That’s cuts to this hospital, Armadale Kelmscott, it’s cuts to the Peel Health Campus and the Murray District Hospital in Pinjarra. This really highlights the wrong priorities of the Abbott Government which are of great concern. And of course it compounds the problem of the GP tax, which is going to further reduce the levels of bulk billing which are already low throughout Canning, which then force more people into our hospital system putting more pressure on these hospitals. This is combined with this hospital; the Barnett Government seems to have failed by cutting back their budget for the planned redevelopment of this hospital. We’ve got a huge growing area in Armadale and Kelmscott, and also through Byford into Serpentine and Jarrahdale, which this hospital needs to support. And instead of investing the funds that are required to redevelop this hospital, we’re just seeing cuts from the both the Abbott and Barnett Liberal governments, which really highlights the problem of the areas of Armadale and Kelmscott and through Mandurah, and all through the seat of Canning being abandoned by Mr Abbott and his Liberal Government. And people need to remember that a vote for Mr Abbott’s candidate in this election is a vote for Mr Abbott’s wrong priorities and broken promises. Any questions on any of that or I can hand over to Tanya.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much for coming out this morning. It’s wonderful to be here with Matt Keogh and with Senator Sue Lines, but also to be here with a number of staff from this hospital. It’s a terrific facility and of course, as Matt said, he was born here and he’s seen a lot of changes at this hospital over the years including work that was done under the previous Labor government. But as Matt has quite rightly pointed out, there’s real concern in this area about the more than $2.8 billion of health cuts that this region will see over coming years if Tony Abbott has his way. It’s just on two years, two years to the day in fact, that Tony Abbott said that a Coalition government would be a government of no surprises and no excuses. And sadly, all we’ve seen from Canberra are nasty surprises and pathetic excuses, including in this most important area of healthcare. The Liberal candidate for this area, Andrew Hastie, is trying to make out that he’s running to be the President of the Republic of Canning; that he’s going to have nothing to do with Tony Abbott and his team in Canberra. But we all know that Andrew Hastie will have to defend all of the same Captain’s Picks as the rest of Tony Abbott’s team are having to defend. That means cuts to health, cuts to education, increased unemployment, increased taxes, a doubling of the deficit, all of the wrong calls that Tony Abbott’s making in Canberra will be defended by Andrew Hastie here in Canning. I’m delighted to be here with Matt today. He’s a local candidate, he’s a boy who was born in the hospital right behind us, and he’s committed to this local community. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: There’s been a second controversy involving Andrew Hastie. This one, the latest one, being troops under his command, US troops accidentally killed two Afghan boys from a helicopter. What are your thoughts on that? Should he come forward and be clear about his operations in Afghanistan or should the ADF release that report which cleared his troops?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I’m not going to make any comment about that. I’ve only seen the same information that you have and it’s not proper for me to comment without much more information than that.
JOURNALIST: Why do you say that he’s trying to run as the President of Canning? What’s he actually done to make you think that?
PLIBERSEK: Well, you’ve got in Andrew Hastie a candidate saying what’s happening in Canberra doesn’t matter to the people of Canning. But of course the decisions that are made in Canberra matter to the people of Canning. When Mr Abbott decides to cut the health budget across the nation, the people of Canning suffer. When Mr Abbott decides to cut the education budget across the nation, the kids of Canning suffer. When Mr Abbott makes a decision about $100,000 university degrees or cuts to the pension, cuts to the part pension, it’s the people of Canning who suffer. If Mr Hastie wants to be on Mr Abbott’s team, he’s going to have to take responsibility for those captain’s calls.
JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, does Labor think that it can actually win this seat or is its aim just a substantial swing?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we’ve got a brilliant candidate here, of course. But even with a brilliant candidate, a local boy, it still is very difficult to expect a swing of around 12 per cent. What I can say is we’ll give it a red hot go.
JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts around Dyson Heydon’s decision not to stand down from the Royal Commission?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it shows that Mr Abbott should have acted in the first instance and asked Dyson Heydon to stand aside. It has become untenable for the Royal Commissioner to be sitting in judgment on himself in this way and we’ve always said that this is a politically motivated $80 million inquiry. I think this is final confirmation of that in the last few days.
JOURNALIST: A Senate committee has recommended the removal of asylum seeker children and their families from Nauru given that the conditions are not adequate. What are your thoughts on that?
PLIBERSEK: I think it’s the case that most Australians would say that we should get asylum seeker children out of detention as quickly as possible. It was our intention when we were in government to have an arrangement with Malaysia that would’ve seen asylum seekers able to go to Malaysia, able to go to work, live in the community, their children able to go to school, healthcare provided. Sadly, the Liberals, then in opposition, refused to support that. They came up with their own arrangement with Cambodia that’s fallen apart in recent times. It’s very difficult to see where Peter Dutton goes next.
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton today said that Fairfax papers are leading a jihad, as he termed it, against the Government. What do you think about that?
PLIBERSEK: I think Mr Abbott said in 2013 “if you want better coverage, be a better government”. What’s Peter Dutton done in the last week? He’s presided over a border farce - absolutely appalling run of events in Melbourne. He hid under the doona all weekend and now he’s come out to blame the media for getting bad coverage. Peter Dutton should do his job better if he wants better coverage.
JOURNALIST: Would a Labor government change the arrangements for the Border Force, would it scale it back in its functions and powers?
PLIBERSEK: Well, certainly we wouldn’t be encouraging any Australian law enforcement agency to be stopping people randomly as was suggested last weekend in Melbourne. Our personnel, our security personnel, the people who work for Border Force do a wonderful job. This is not about the work that is done by this agency. It’s about a Minister’s inability to manage his own responsibilities. He’s now said that the press release, that was controversial, did actually go to his office twice and no action was taken. This is not about the personnel of the agency or the fine work they’re doing, it’s about an incompetent minister who pays no attention to the detail of his portfolio.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] from the Australian Chamber of Commerce says that there’s a long cold winter ahead if the China free trade agreement collapses. What are your thoughts on that?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it’s important to say Labor is supportive of a free trade agreement between Australia and China. But it has to be a good quality agreement. We have some concerns about the provisions around employment in the agreement. The enabling legislation is yet to be tabled in the Parliament. We are keen to work with the Government on that enabling legislation to make sure that Australian jobs are protected. Think about Western Australia. In Western Australia alone, since Tony Abbott came to government, unemployment is up 1.8 per cent. We’ve got close to 100,000 people unemployed, looking for work. Of course, we want to ensure that an Australia-China free trade agreement brings the benefits of jobs to WA and of course to the rest of the nation too.
JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull yesterday told residents here at a morning tea on that issue that Labor was running a scare campaign regarding Chinese workers and was guilty of shocking misinformation here in Canning. How do you respond to that?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I would expect Malcolm Turnbull to say that. But it is clear that in this free trade agreement that runs to thousands and thousands of pages, there is some uncertainty about the provisions around importing whole workforces for large projects. If the Government is interested in working with Labor to make sure that the enabling legislation puts beyond doubt any of the areas where we have concerns, we would welcome that. Instead what they’ve chosen to do is spend millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on a politically motivated advertising campaign that, wow, coincidentally happens to be running when there’s a by-election on. Let’s actually get to the meat of the issue. Let’s work together to ensure that this agreement actually brings jobs with it, actually increases employment in Australia.
JOURNALIST: Labor says it’s working to try and protect those jobs, but are you concerned that if this agreement is blocked that tens of thousands of jobs could be lost?
PLIBERSEK: We want to see a free trade agreement. We negotiated for many years on this agreement with China. We would be delighted to see a good quality agreement introduced. But it has to be an agreement that expands job opportunities for Australians, not loses them.
JOURNALIST: If it comes in but in a form that’s not satisfactory to you, and you win the election, would you then seek to insert protections, make changes, event go back and renegotiate some things?
PLIBERSEK: Let’s just see- the first step is seeing details of the enabling legislation and of course we would like to see this agreement now, of the quality that we could support, that would actually support employment outcomes here in WA and across the nation.
JOURNALIST: Do you think China would be willing to renegotiate the agreement?
PLIBERSEK: I think all of these things are hypothetical, speculative. You’re talking about uncertain events in the future. I don’t think that there’s -
JOURNALIST: But you are saying changes should be made now. So it’s not that hypothetical.
PLIBERSEK: We’re saying that we would like to see a good quality agreement between Australia and China. We would like to see enabling legislation that puts beyond doubt any of the concerns that people have about very large projects, in particular being able to import entire workforces and doubts of course also around the qualifications that some trades will need when being brought to Australia. Let’s see if the Government can reassure Australians and West Australians about those weaknesses by introducing enabling legislation that clarifies the situation.
JOURNALIST: Matt Keogh, do you agree that Andrew Hastie’s conducting himself like royalty as he gets around the electorate?
KEOGH: To be honest, I haven’t really been following what Andrew’s been doing around the electorate. What I’ve been doing is going out and talking to people in the electorate about the issues that are concerns to them, so things like, you know, GP tax, cuts to education, cuts to hospitals, like this one, that’s what I’ve been out doing in the electorate, I’m not following what he’s doing.