THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
TUESDAY,19 JULY 2016
SUBJECTS: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's new Cabinet; the representation of women in Parliament; the nomination of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as UN Secretary-General; US Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Australia; Sonia Krugers comments
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much for coming out this morning. I wanted to make a few comments to start with about the new Cabinet as unveiled by Prime Minister Turnbull. This Cabinet is a sure sign that any authority the Prime Minister had before the election has been completely shattered. We look at the size of this Cabinet – the largest in about four decades – and what it tells you is that the Prime Minister has no authority. He’s had to appoint all his friends and all his enemies to the front bench to try and keep peace in the Liberal Party and with the National Party Coalition partners. That’s an extraordinary approach – just give everybody a job and hope that they’ll stay happy. We also see some very curious decisions in the line-up. It is disappointing to see that two female Cabinet Ministers have lost responsibilities. It is very disappointing to see that. It is extraordinary to see that there is no Housing Minister. There is no representation from Tasmania. It is also extraordinary that an opponent of Section 18C of the Race Discrimination Act has been given responsibility for multicultural communities. The idea that someone who actually is prepared to go on the record supporting a ‘right to be a bigot’, as the Attorney-General put it, has been given responsibility for multicultural communities - I am not sure how that’s going to work out. This is a time when Malcolm Turnbull would normally, in the course of events, be at his strongest; he has just won an election. But the make-up of this front bench shows that he is worried that his colleagues are coming after him. He has to give jobs to enemies as well as friends. It is a time of great uncertainty and insecurity for the people of Australia when they see a Prime Minister with so little authority in his own party room. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: Is Kim Carr being dumped from the front bench, and who will be his replacement?
PLIBERSEK: Well we will be making our announcement later this week and I have never talked about the internal workings of the Labor Party, I am not starting to do it today. You will see, when we reveal our line-up, who is in our team for the front bench.
JOURNALIST: Does Kim Carr still have your support?
PLIBERSEK: As I say, I am not talking about the internal workings of the Labor Party, not today, not any day. I will be part of making an announcement later this week with our leader Bill Shorten and all will be revealed then.
JOURNALIST: Should the Prime Minister have promoted more women to his Cabinet?
PLIBERSEK: Of course he should have promoted more women but what you actually see is a Liberal Party party room that has fewer women. They are going backwards in representation of women in the Coalition. And that is really a big problem for Mr Turnbull. He has got fewer women to choose from when he is looking to promote women into the Cabinet or the outer Ministry because their numbers as a whole are going backwards. They are actually at about one in five of their Members of Parliament being women. The Labor Party has set a target of 50% of our MPs and Senators and we are well on the way to achieving that target. We will actually see an increase in the number of Labor women, probably from around 36 in our Caucus to about 40 in the new Parliament. That is a great step forward for us. We will continue to make sure that we have got a good representation, a balance between men and women, older, younger, different professional backgrounds. We have got a very diverse Caucus and that is one of our great strengths.
JOURNALIST: Do you consider the changes to Kelly O'Dwyer’s and Marise Payne's portfolios as a demotion?
PLIBERSEK: Well they are clearly demotions. They have had responsibilities taken from them, I can’t see how you can you interpret it any other way.
JOURNALIST: With the Labor Party will Linda Burney get a look in?
PLIBERSEK: Well, like I say, I’m not going to make any comments about the likely line-up. We will have an announcement later this week about Labor's line-up for the front bench. I can tell you it will be made up of hard working, talented people.
JOURNALIST: What did you think of Pauline Hanson and Sam Dastyari's exchange on Q&A last night?
PLIBERSEK: Sadly I wasn't watching Q&A last night so I am only going from reports this morning. I think Q&A is a great forum for people to have a full and frank discussion of their views. It is always important when we are having the debates to treat each other with respect. There is a broad range of views in our Australian community and we need to make sure we are engaging with people representing all of those different views in forums like Q&A.
JOURNALIST: Would it be good enough for the Government to nominate Mr Rudd as the UN Secretary-General but not actually lobby on his behalf?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think it is an extraordinary proposition that the Australian Government would not support an Australian for this very prestigious and important role. Mr Rudd has been Foreign Minister, he has served with distinction, he has been Prime Minister, of course. He is well-known in the international community as an expert on a range of foreign policy topics. He is obviously a very strong candidate. The idea that the Australian Government for party political reasons would not back his candidacy I think is incredibly small-minded. We have a Prime Minister who is out there saying that there should be more bipartisanship in public life. Well here is an opportunity to show that bipartisanship and support a distinguished Australian for an international role.
JOURNALIST: What is Labor doing to preselect more women in seats?
PLIBERSEK: We are doing everything right it seems, because we are actually seeing an increase in the number of women in our Caucus. We are hoping of course that Cathy O'Toole in Herbert will be the most recent addition to those numbers. We have a strong program of supporting women through organisations like EMILY's List. But I think it is really important to set a target because unless you set a target, it is difficult to achieve the organisational change that you need to increase numbers. I’d note that when Mr Turnbull was the Communications Minister, he had the worst record of appointing women to Government boards of any of the ministers at that time. I think it is about setting targets, it is about individual commitment of leaders and people in leadership roles to achieving those targets. And of course, it is also about cultural change.
JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts on your role in the front bench, will you be keeping the Foreign Ministership or will you move back to Health?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I am not going to comment on our line-up, even if it is about myself. I am very confident that I will be able to work with our leader, Bill Shorten, to have a role that makes a maximum contribution to our chances of being elected next time around. I am prepared to work in any role and I am prepared to work day and night as hard as it takes because we believe we will be back at the polls sooner rather than later. We think that Malcolm Turnbull's extraordinary, large unwieldy Cabinet shows that he has lost the authority of his party room and I am absolutely committed to being part of a Labor team that takes us into Government sooner rather than later.
JOURNALIST: Joe Biden is in Sydney at the moment. How important is his visit to Australia?
PLIBERSEK: I am delighted that I will be meeting with the Vice President later today, in just a little while in fact, and very much looking forward to talking to the Vice President about the very strong relationship that we have between the United States and Australia. He is an extraordinarily distinguished visitor and we will be talking about the strength of our relationship but also some of the challenges that we see around the world at the moment. Some of the challenges that we have with the rise of non-State actors, continuing recruiting of terrorist fighters in the Middle East, climate change, the movement of people around the world - and there are many issues where the cooperation of Australia and the United States is absolutely vital to Australian interests and I would say to global interests too.
JOURNALIST: Just lastly, I wanted to ask you about Sonia Kruger's comments. She claims that as a mother, she wants to see a moratorium on Muslim migration into Australia. You are a mother yourself Tanya, what do you think of her comments?
PLIBERSEK: As a mother, what I value about our Australian community is our diversity and our inclusiveness. What I have taught my children is to be respectful of other people, no matter what their background, no matter what their ethnicity or religious views. What we expect of people who migrate to Australia is pretty basic, it is actually in our citizenship pledge and it is a good thing to remind ourselves of it. We expect people to obey the law, we expect them to share our democratic beliefs and we expect them to respect the rights and liberties of other Australian citizens. Beyond that, the languages they speak, the religions they follow, their personal choices in their personal life – that is a matter for them.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it is appropriate to make the comments though?
PLIBERSEK: I’m not going to pass judgement on other people’s comments. I’d say that what I love about Australia is being part of a diverse community, a community that welcomed my parents as migrants in the 1950s and gave them an opportunity to do what migrants want to do which is work hard, obey the law, pay their taxes, raise their kids right. That is what has made us strong as a nation. Thanks everybody.