TRANSCRIPT: Doorstop, Townsville, Friday 29 July 2016




FRIDAY, 29 JULY 2016

SUBJECTS: The federal seat of Herbert; the Coalition not supporting Kevin Rudd's nomination for UN Secretary-General; Royal Commission into Northern Territory juvenile detention system.



JOURNALIST: So Cathy, there’s no result yet?


CATHY O’TOOLE, CANDIDATE FOR HERBERT: No but why I’m here today is to welcome the Acting Opposition Leader, Tanya Plibersek here to Townsville on this momentous occasion for us, this 50 year celebration of the Lavarack Barracks. It’s really fantastic to have Tanya here with us to celebrate what is for Townsville a demonstration of a huge commitment to defence personnel, and I’d just like to introduce Tanya.


TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you. It’s a delight to be here with Labor’s candidate for Herbert, Cathy O’Toole and to be here for the 50th anniversary of the Lavarack Barracks. 50 years ago, 1966, Prime Minister Harold Holt opened these Barracks and a lot has changed in Australia in the last 50 years. But what hasn’t changed is the contribution the Lavarack Barracks make to Australia’s national security and to the society and the economy of Townsville. This is the largest facility of its type in Australia. Thousands of people live here today, about 8,000 people - armed services personnel and civilians. But the contribution is a much greater contribution than that because thousands of people have passed through these Barracks over the last 50 years. They take with them fond memories of Townsville, fond memories of the time that they spent here, and they leave behind them a contribution to the local community and to the local economy as well. It's a real pleasure to have been invited today to represent the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, at this very special occasion, and I bring the best wishes of the opposition with me today.


JOURNALIST: The seat of Herbert has almost been declared. Were you hoping to be celebrating a victory here as well?


PLIBERSEK: Well, I am celebrating today. I'm celebrating the history of Lavarack Barracks and it's a proud history at that. Of course, we are watching with enormous interest the finalisation of the count in Herbert. And we have very high hopes - Cathy O'Toole is a marvellous candidate who's run a marvellous campaign with a dedicated, hard-working, enthusiastic campaign team, and the support of the local community. So our hopes are great. But of course, the result hasn't yet been declared and we'll wait with interest until it is officially declared.


JOURNALISTIs it a concern that the Coalition is talking already about legal challenges to the result should Cathy O'Toole win?


PLIBERSEK: Look, it’s not the day really to go into those sorts of details. We're watching, as I say, with great interest for the declaration of the poll. We are a very proud of the campaign that Cathy has run. Anything more than that, we're just waiting on advice from the AEC.


JOURNALIST: If we could turn to other things - Labor elected Kevin Rudd as their leader. He won the election and was knifed before his first term was up. Is it hypocritical then for the Labor Party to criticise the way he's been treated by the Coalition?


PLIBERSEK: Kevin Rudd is a distinguished Australian. He was a diplomat of many years' standing before he ever went into politics. He's an acknowledged expert on China, on Asia more generally. His advice is sought around the world. He's been Foreign Minister, he's been Prime Minister. And frankly, what is incredible about the Government's decision not to back Kevin Rudd is that this would bring such credit to Australia, to have a former Australian Prime Minister as the head of the United Nations would bring such credit to Australia. It would be undeniably a great thing for Australia's international reputation, for our authority on the world stage. Sadly, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister show they have no authority at home. The Foreign Minister clearly made a case to her Cabinet colleagues that Kevin Rudd should have the endorsement of the Australian Government for this absolutely important, vital role. The Prime Minister is not able to assert his authority in the Cabinet, to bring the nasties into line. Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton, the right-wing extremists in the Liberal Party have got the Prime Minister on a short leash. He was not able to insist that what any right-thinking Australian would think, that an Australian should be backed for an international job like this. He was not able to get that through his Cabinet. It shows the weakness of the Prime Minister, it shows the weakness of the Foreign Minister.


JOURNALIST: Will it have an impact on the way Labor approaches future nominations from the other side of politics?


PLIBERSEK: Labor has always been bipartisan in areas like this. We appointed several former ministers, Coalition ministers to important posts overseas. Tim Fischer, for example, Brendan Nelson and others were appointed with Labor's blessing, or allowed to complete postings with Labor’s blessing. We appointed Peter Costello, the former Treasurer, to the Future Fund here in Australia. We've never played politics with the national interest. We've always put the national interest first. It's a real shame that Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop don't have the courage to put the national interest first.


JOURNALIST: Just on that - the ALP refused to nominate Peter Costello for the International Monetary Fund post in 2011. Are you really able to claim a bipartisan record on this issue?


PLIBERSEK: I mean really, this is pretty extraordinary thing because this story has been going around, and my information is that Peter Costello never formally contacted the Government and asked for a nomination. We appointed him to the Future Fund. We appointed him to one of the most prestigious domestic responsibilities that we could have appointed him to. And I certainly haven't seen any nomination from Peter Costello for this role. You have to have a look at the people that we did appoint. We appointed Brendan Nelson, we appointed Tim Fischer. We appointed a number of coalition figures to very important jobs overseas without having our arms twisted, without any sort of lobbying. We did it because it was the right thing to do.


JOURNALIST: Indigenous groups are angry about the lack of consultation over the terms of reference of the Royal Commission. Do you feel like this process has been rushed?


PLIBERSEK: I do feel like this process has been rushed. The Government had the complete support of the Opposition for a Royal Commission. We absolutely, 100 per cent, agree with the government that there needs to be a Royal Commission into what has happened in the juvenile justice system in the Northern Territory. Several Government ministers claimed that there was consultation with the Opposition and with Indigenous groups. That certainly hasn't been the case. We were not consulted on the terms of reference. We were not consulted on the appointment of a Commissioner. What's worse is that Indigenous Australians, the people who are best placed to say how we can have the most thorough, the most helpful, the most productive Royal Commission, they were not consulted either. I think it's time that the Government reconsider some of the process around this Royal Commission, act in a bipartisan manner in the way that Labor did in establishing the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and go back to the drawing board, including by appointing an additional Commissioner, an Aboriginal Australian. We've got many highly qualified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who could be a Royal Commissioner, and we'd certainly like to see the appointment of at least one additional Commissioner. We also would like to say that one of the most important things about this Royal Commission is that people living across the Northern Territory have the opportunity to make their case, to state their piece, to have their say. We absolutely need to make sure that that will happen, and if the Government continues in the way that it has started, without consultation, rushing the terms of reference, rushing these announcements, I think it's possible that we won't get the thorough result that all Australians want from this Royal Commission.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Northern Territory Government counter-suing two boys who were tear-gassed by prison guards at the Don Dale Detention Centre?


PLIBERSEK:  Look, I'm sorry, I don't know the details of the legal case. What I would say is the images that we saw on Monday night on the Four Corners program were shocking in the extreme. Shocking in the extreme. With very large adults attacking very slight young men, young boys. I would - I think it's absolutely vital that we, in the first instance, investigate the incidents that we saw on Monday night, make sure that those young men are safe from further violence, and from further victimisation. We should ensure in the medium to longer term that these sorts of incidents can't happen again. Thank you.