THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
FRIDAY, 15 FEBRUARY 2019
SUBJECTS: Royal Commission into discrimination against people with a disability, Medivac Bill; Energy policy.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: When I was growing up there was a boy who lived at the top of my street called Matthew, who had a quite profound intellectual disability and I remember wherever he went, when he was catching the bus, when I saw him in the park, coming home from school, he was teased, harassed, bullied, sometimes assaulted by the other kids who lived in our street. I know Matthew still, I know him as an adult and when I see him he tells me about what the workers on the railway station say to him, people on the train say to him, what people say to him at work, when he's walking down the street. And, you know, I think those kids and maybe the adults who are cruel to Matthew today think that he doesn't know or he doesn't understand the hurt and discrimination that he is facing. It’s so absolutely untrue, he feels it quite profoundly. He feels excluded, harassed and bullied in his day to day life and this is an experience that is so phenomenally common for people living with a disability. They experience discrimination, abuse, neglect, they experience those things within disability services, within residential care, group homes, community transport. They also experience it most profoundly in mainstream settings. I'm the Shadow Education Minister and I think it is sad but true that too many young Australians with a disability are facing discrimination in our schools system. I've heard so many terrible stories about deliberate discrimination. In fact, about half of all young people with a disability will report discrimination within a school setting and about one in five will report that they've been isolated or restrained within a school. There's deliberate discrimination and then there's also a thousand ways in which we accidentally or unintentionally let down people with a disability, we exclude them from mainstream services.
So it is absolutely critical that we give this issue of discrimination against people with a disability the serious and methodical attention that only a Royal Commission can bring to an issue. We've seen with the Banking Royal Commission and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Assault that the serious and methodical approach, the independence that a Royal Commission brings can really look thoroughly at an issue and make systematic recommendations that will change our nation for the better. That's why the Government must agree, must agree on Monday, to allow a Royal Commission into the discrimination, abuse and neglect of people with a disability. The Government cannot do what it did with the Banking Royal Commission and vote 26 times against what is a really necessary enquiry into a failing of our nation.
JOURNALIST: Is it now Labor policy to support a Royal Commission into the disability sector?
PLIBERSEK: It's been Labor policy since May 2017 to have a Royal Commission into the abuse and neglect of people with a disability. It's been our policy for close to two years to have such a Royal Commission, but we will have the opportunity of voting for it on Monday. Yesterday the Government in the Senate voted against a Royal Commission. Labor voted for a Royal Commission - it's been our policy for years. On Monday the Government must change its position. Labor will clearly be voting for a Royal Commission. Scott Morrison must allow the Liberals and Nationals to support that Royal Commission.
JOURNALIST: What should happen to the people who come here from Manus Island and Nauru for medical treatment once that treatment has taken place? Should they go back to Manus Island and Nauru or should they stay here?
PLIBERSEK: Once people's medical treatment is complete they should return to Manus Island and Nauru and be very quickly resettled in third countries. One of the reasons that we are having this debate at the moment is the utter failure of this Government over the period of close to six years to find permanent homes for the people on Manus Island and Nauru. Of course Labor welcomes the number of people who have been resettled in the United States but it is beyond belief that the Liberals continue to refuse New Zealand's offer to resettle other refugees from Manus Island and Nauru. I cannot understand how Scott Morrison can pretend that resettling refugees in New Zealand would be, as he says, a 'pull factor' but resettling people in the United States is somehow not a pull factor. I mean it is a ridiculous, illogical bone-headed opposition to doing the right thing.
JOURNALIST: History indicates people who are transferred here, they take court action, they seek injunctions to prevent them being forced back to Nauru and Manus Island. Would a Labor government fight those applications in courts?
PLIBERSEK: I'm not going to make blanket generalisations about complex matters, but what I would say is we have consistently said that the people on Manus Island and Nauru deserve a permanent home, and that we would work as a priority to find third country resettlement options for them. As a start we would accept New Zealand's very generous offer that has been on the table since 2013 when Julia Gillard negotiated it. Why Scott Morrison has never taken up that offer is completely beyond me. Completely beyond me.
JOURNALIST: Is the Royal Commission now a Labor…is it an election promise for Labor?
PLIBERSEK: Well it has been a promise since May 2017. We have been absolutely committed to this Royal Commission since May 2017. I hope that the Morrison government has the grace on Monday to accept the overwhelming message from the Senate and that the House of Representatives is also able to pass the motion calling for the Royal Commission on Monday. It would be churlish of the Prime Minister, in the extreme, to behave the same way with this Royal Commission as he did with the banking Royal Commission, to continue to argue against something that is so plainly necessary.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that James Ashby should be banned permanently?
PLIBERSEK: I have not seen the footage of the altercation that took place. I can't really make a comment on whose fault it was or anything like that, but plainly you have got a bunch of people all behaving badly and it doesn't befit the Parliament to have that sort of behaviour in your Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison says that any boat that arrives between now and the election or future will be on Bill Shorten's head, and by extension, will be on your head. Do you accept that charge?
PLIBERSEK: I think Scott Morrison should stop false advertising to people smugglers in Indonesia. Scott Morrison is pretending that the arrangements that passed the Parliament this week would apply to future arrivals to asylum seekers who might come from now on. They very plainly won't. We made it very, very clear that medical evacuation arrangements only apply to people who have been languishing on Manus Island and Nauru, in some cases, for close to six years. And the reason we have had to take this action is because of the pathetic failure of Peter Dutton to find permanent homes for these people. If the Liberals and Nationals has supported the Malaysia arrangement that Labor negotiated when we were last in government, many of these people would have found permanent homes in Malaysia, or other third counties. Of course we support the resettlement in the United States but as I say, it is inexplicable that this Government continues to refuse to allow these people to resettle in New Zealand. If we had permanent homes for the people on Manus Island and Nauru this legislation would have been unnecessary.
JOURNALIST: Labor has gone to great lengths over the years to ensure that there's, you're on a unity ticket with the Government on border protection. Is the gulf that you've opened up this week, is that based on a sense that there's been a shift in community sentiment in recent times about, you know, off shore processing and Manus Island and Nauru?
PLIBERSEK: It's based on the fact that Manus Island and Nauru were never meant to be places of permanent or indefinite detention. We believe we can have strong borders without being cruel, without holding people hostage.
JOURNALIST: So is that saying that it's not necessarily just about treating sick people but about getting them off the islands because they've been there for too long? Is that part of the calculus here?
PLIBERSEK: No. This bill is simply about making sure sick people get the treatment they need if it's not available to them on Manus Island and Nauru. But as a broader statement I would say this legislation would be unnecessary if the Government had not failed so comprehensively to find third country resettlement options for these people.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe there's been a shift in community sentiment on this issue?
PLIBERSEK: Well I don't know. I don't think that's the relevant question here. I think most Australians would be concerned that people were on Manus Island and Nauru for way too long. But equally, most Australians would be very disturbed to think that the boats were restarting because they know that brings more risk to the lives of asylum seekers, that they are exploited by merciless people smugglers who are only interested in profit. Any other questions?
I might just say a few words about the fact that the Government has now dropped its eleventh energy policy, their so-called 'big stick' legislation has been dropped from the program of the Government. This is another abject failure to govern from a Government that is divided and dysfunctional, with the Liberals and Nationals at each other's throats. Any questions about energy? Great thanks.