TRANSCRIPT: DOORSTOP - PERTH - WEDNESDAY, 27 FEBRUARY 2019

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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
 
MELITA MARKEY
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR STIRLING
 
 
 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
PERTH
WEDNESDAY, 27 FEBRUARY 2019
 
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for public schools in Stirling; Government’s plans to spend more taxpayers money on political advertising; George Pell; Royal Commission into the Abuse, Neglect and Discrimination Against People with a Disability; Labor’s chances in WA; Scott Morrison’s announcement on renewable energy; Women and the Liberal Party.

JANINE FREEMAN, STATE MEMBER FOR MIRRABOOKA: Good morning and also acknowledging the traditional owners is a great thing to do in Balga which is a Noongar word and you have the great pleasure of coming to Balga Senior High School. It is such a pleasure to have Melita Markey, the candidate for Stirling, and Tanya Plibersek, the Deputy Leader of the Federal Labor Party and the Shadow Spokesperson for Education in our country to come here and talk about the funding that will be given to all schools throughout Australia but particularly the funding that will come to Balga Senior High School, which is absolutely needed and is greatly appreciated if the Labor Party is successful in the next election. So thank you all for coming to Balga, this is a great part of the world, come more often, lots is always happening here and I'll pass it over to Melita.
 
MELITA MARKEY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR STIRLING: Hello everybody and welcome to Tanya and thank you Janine. Janine is our local member and does a tremendous amount of work in this area for the people of Balga and I'm very excited to announce with the Fair Go Schools funding that Stirling will be receiving over $19 million over the next three years if we are successful in winning government and this school in particular, $1.339 million, which will be spent on teaching resources, helping students learn, literacy programs, maths programs. In a school with over 60 nationalities, it's needed, it's wanted and we can't wait for it to be here in Stirling so thank you Tanya.
 
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you very much Janine and thank you Melita. It's been such a pleasure to visit Balga Senior High. We've met with some students who are so dedicated to their learning and we've met with the principal and the teaching staff who are doing such a wonderful job here. But it's plain what this school could do with - more resources - and that's why it's so distressing that the Federal government continues to insist on $14 billion of school cuts to public schools across Australia. We've joined with the Federal government to say that we would restore the money that they cut from Catholic and independent schools, that's not in question. The big question remaining is when Scott Morrison will admit that he has cut $14 billion from our public schools and restore that money too. Public schools teach two thirds of Australian children. They teach the children with the greatest need and it's disappointing that we've got a government that continues to insist on wrong priorities. They can't find the money to properly fund this school and others like it right across Australia but they can find $600,000 a day for government advertising. Now if you stopped the average parent in the street of Balga and said "Would you rather have your kid's school properly funded or do you want to see more government advertising on TV?" I'm pretty sure you know what the answer would be. So this is a government that prioritises using tax payer funds to spruik what a terrific job it says it's doing, to tax payers who are sick to the back teeth of the money being spent on advertising, the special deals for mates, the cronies getting access to high paid jobs. They're sick of this government acting only for itself, not acting for the people of Australia.
 
Today we've also found out that this government wants to spend even more tax payer's funds on political advertising. It wants to give Members of Parliament the ability to spend taxpayer dollars running political ads in their electorates. This is just outrage piled on top of outrage. They won't properly fund our public schools, they're going slow on the disability Royal Commission, they're saying they need the states and territories to fund it even though the states and territories haven't funded the Banking Royal Commission or the Child Abuse Royal Commission and now on top of the $600,000 of taxpayer's money they're wasting every day on advertising, they want to do even more political advertising using taxpayer funds. They've got their priorities wrong, we believe in properly investing in our schools.
 
JOURNALIST: So this change of regulations to allow them to spend the communications budget. Is this something that you would change in government and make them reimburse?
 
PLIBERSEK: Well, first of all the change in regulations that would allow taxpayer's fund to be spent on political advertising is something we will do our absolute level best to stop - using the Parliament. We will seek to disallow the regulations, we'll try and stop it through the Parliament but if we can't stop it through the Parliament we'll make people pay back the money. People should, Members of Parliament should not be using tax payer funds to run political ads. Full stop. We'll stop it, if we can't stop it we'll make them repay what they've spent.
 
JOURNALIST: On George Pell, there are people who don't seem to accept the guilty verdict, people writing in columns. Do you think that they should accept the verdict?
 
PLIBERSEK: I think our Australian legal system is a very robust one. He has been convicted of some very serious crimes. He has a right to appeal but at this stage he has been convicted of some very serious crimes. I don't want to comment too much about the individual case, but I do want to make a very important general point. We can't disregard our legal system when it throws up results that we find shocking or distressing, and secondly, one of the reasons that child sexual abuse has been so widespread and so pervasive, so hard to prosecute and so hard to stop, is we believe the powerful adult not the vulnerable child. We need a system in Australia that believes the vulnerable child not the powerful adult. I'm very proud of the fact that our court system has shown that no one in Australia is above the law. Everyone's entitled to fair process under the law but no one is above the law.
 
JOURNALIST: Specifically, Andrew Bolt's said that Pell was a scapegoat for the Catholic Church, what do you make of his comments?
 
PLIBERSEK: Well I certainly think it's important to say that the Catholic Church is not the only institution that has dealt badly with child sexual abuse. What the Royal Commission told us is that many, many institutions, over decades, allowed abuse to happen, sometimes in ignorance, sometimes there were deliberate cover-ups involved. We cannot let that happen again. And one of the most important ways that we can prevent this happening again it to listen to the children when they tell us that they have been abused. Sometimes, with the Royal Commission, people have told their story for the very first time decades after the abuse has occurred. We cannot discount that. We have to acknowledge the bravery of the witnesses that have come forward through this process and we need to permanently change the way we deal with child abuse so that we don't believe powerful adults over vulnerable children. 
 
JOURNALIST: Do you think that those, do you think that children involved with the Catholic Church now, I mean - are they safe? 
 
PLIBERSEK: I think our whole society has changed really profoundly so that we are very much more aware of keeping children safe from predators. I see that, I see that in every institution I deal with. In fact, I was going to go on one of my daughter's school camps and I had to get a Working With Children check to do it. I think we have changed our society quite profoundly and that's a good thing. It doesn't mean that we can just relax now. We need to continue to be vigilant and we need to continue to prioritise the safety and welfare of children in every decision we make. 
 
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Catholic Church, and in terms of their education - the Christian Brothers - over here, are doing enough to try and to reach out to former students and encourage and support and help potential victims?
 
PLIBERSEK: Look, I'm not going to talk about individual institutions because the Catholic Church is not the only institution where abuse happened. There were many, many organisations including, not just historically - the fifties or sixties, but most recently, just years ago, where children were being abused and it wasn't found out or it was covered up in some circumstances. So let's not focus on one institution, let's focus on a system that protects all children. I do see a much greater effort in most institutions, in many institutions to keep children safe and I think we have a broader responsibility not just within those institutions but as a community, as parents of our own children but as a society to look after the kids that we come into contact with. When children say that they feel uncomfortable or something bad has happened to them, we need to listen to that, we need to report it. 
 
JOURNALIST: Do you think he should lose his Order of Australia?

PLIBERSEK: I think it's very difficult for someone who's been convicted of the crimes that Mr Pell has been convicted of, for him to retain an Order of Australia but that really is a matter for the Prime Minister. 
 
JOURNALIST: And do you think that John Howard should have given him a character reference?
 
PLIBERSEK: Well it's up to Mr Howard to explain why he thinks that's appropriate. Again, I want to be very careful about talking about individual cases, but powerful adults have got away with this behaviour because people have believed powerful adults, not vulnerable children. We have to be very careful as a society not to perpetuate that, not to allow that to continue. 
 
JOURNALIST: How quickly should the Royal Commission into Disability Services be held?
 
PLIBERSEK: Straight away. What are we waiting for? I mean Labor has supported the Royal Commission into the Abuse, Neglect and Discrimination Against People with a Disability for two years. This has come out of a Senate report that was even earlier than that. We've dragged the Government kicking and screaming to agreeing to a Royal Commission. Now Scott Morrison is adding delay and uncertainty because he's saying the states should pay for it. Well the states didn't pay for the Banking Royal Commission, the states didn't pay for the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Why is this Royal Commission different? I mean, ideally, the states would cooperate because we're not just looking at disability services, we're looking at settings like schools and other facilities that are run by state governments, so of course they should cooperate. But to say that we can't move ahead until we've got the agreement of all the states or funding from all the states - that's just not fair to the people who have campaigned so long and so hard to have this Royal Commission. 
 
JOURNALIST: So just to be clear, under a federal Labor government, the states wouldn't pay for this Royal Commission?
 
PLIBERSEK: We've already set money aside for a Royal Commission. We budgeted for that two years ago. 
 
JOURNALIST: Why is Labor offering up such a little amount?
 
PLIBERSEK: We've said that that's the funding we anticipate for the first year - it's $26 million for the first year and once we've got an idea of how extensive this Royal Commission will have to be, we can have a better idea of what it will cost in subsequent years.
 
JOURNALIST: Which seats do you think Labor will pick up here in the west at the election? 
 
PLIBERSEK: I've got my eye on five but I might just keep them to myself for the moment. You can probably judge by the seats I've been visiting over the last few days. We have got fantastic candidates like Melita, that I am so proud to campaign with here in Stirling. I mean did notice Scott Morrison was hoping that a woman would run in Stirling, well we have got one  and people can vote for Melita if they want to support a female candidate. We have got a Prime Minister who is absolutely impotent when it comes to seeing more female candidates in his own party. Well we are managing pretty well on that front.
 
JOURNALIST: So, Stirling you are pretty confident?
 
PLIBERSEK: No! There’s no guarantees! I am telling you where I am working hard and I am very proud to work hard with Melita. I know she has been knocking on doors, and making phone calls and talking to voters. There's no guarantees in our line of work, no guarantees in our line of work, and we are going to fight right down till six o'clock when the polls close here on polling day for every last vote.
 
JOURNALIST: Five seats you think that are in play or that you think you could win?
 
PLIBERSEK: I'm telling you, I am campaigning hard in at least five seats.
 
JOURNALIST: Does Labor welcome further renewable investment by the PM?
 
PLIBERSEK: Well he is a pretty late convert to renewables isn't he, Scott Morrison, after dragging that lump of coal into the Parliament with him, his pet rock. This is a Prime Minister who has gone out of his way to talk down renewables and suddenly when he thinks that there might be a vote in it he is a late convert. I guess the thing that is most disappointing about Scott Morrison's policies in this area is that he has just reheated Tony Abbott's failed Direct Action policy. So Tony Abbott spent two and a quarter billion dollars on taxpayers money and pollution has gone up. So he spent two and a quarter billion dollars of taxpayers money and pollution has gone up. Now Scott Morrison says now I am going to spend $2 billion on the same policy and we are expected to believe that pollution is going to go down? Honestly, give me a break.
 
JOURNALIST: You rightfully pointed out that other institutions have been implicated in abuse, but we are talking about a very senior member of the Catholic Church. You have no concerns whatsoever that the actual organisation needs to make some meaningful change to protect children?
 
PLIBERSEK: Look, I am very aware of how Catholics feel about this. I was raised Catholic, my mother still goes to mass every Sunday. I can tell you that there is no one more distressed about the revelations of the abuse that went on within the Catholic Church than Catholics themselves, and I see an enormous movement within the Catholic Church that is deep and sincere and profound, to protect children, I really, really do. I think it is important because some people, the media and the public have focussed just on this one institution. We are not looking at the fact that we need a systemic approach that protects children in every setting. I mean we've had, I know this is a terrible thing to bring up, but the kids who were being abused by Rolf Harris in the UK, they were in hospital, you know, they were getting visits from famous people in hospital, and they were using that as an opportunity to perpetrate child abuse. This is large and pervasive problem, and by minimising it, or by pretending that it only happened in one part of our community, we can't properly protect children. It is also the case that the majority of sexual abuse of children occurs within families, by people who are related to them. If we focus only on the institutions and we don't have a system that protects children more broadly, then we are letting kids down.
 
JOURNALIST: Can we ask you a quick question as well too, just about the campaign?
 
MARKEY: Yep.
 
JOURNALIST: So what do you make of the Liberals selecting a man when there were also four women candidates?
 
MARKEY: Well I think that really goes down to their belief in the value of women, and creating pathways for women in their own party. In fact, I was having coffee down at the (inaudible) Street Cafe, which is now yellow with a bunch of swimmers in the morning, like an equivalent of the Bondi Icebergs, but here in Perth. We were having coffees, and the old boys were chatting to me about it, and they were saying about, you know, "The best person for the job." And I said "But what about your daughters? What do you say to them about getting a pathway in the Liberal Party?" and they looked at me and the said "You are right. We have to create pathways for our daughters in the Liberal Party." So they were fantastic, they said "Look Melit, we are going to seriously look at you."
 
JOURNALIST: How do you see your chances?
 
MARKEY: I am feeling very positive because of the feedback I am getting form the people in Stirling, but there is still a lot of work, because we still got to talk to a lot of people, a lot of doors to knock on.
 
ENDS