The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development
Transcript of interview with Ben Fordham
Today Show, Channel 9
Subjects: Holden, NBN
Ben Fordham: How are we all?
Malcom Turnbull: We're very well.
Fordham: Everyone friendly?
Tanya Plibersek: Yeah.
Fordham: Ok, we’ll keep our answers short and sharp today because there's a lot to get through if we can. It's been a devastating week for Holden workers after the company confirmed it will cease manufacturing cars in Australia by 2017. Today a warning from Toyota that uncompetitive work practices could force it to go the same way as Holden, Ford and others. So does that mean, Malcolm, we need to have more flexible agreements i.e. Work Choices, things like that, in the automotive sector?
Turnbull: I think what it means is you need greater productivity. My understanding is that the wages of auto workers in Japan and Australia are comparable but the productivity here is a lot less.
Fordham: The bosses want more flexibility though and there are plenty of people within the Liberal Party who want a return to more flexibility in the workplace, so why wouldn't you deliver that to this industry if that's what they need?
Turnbull: Well, we’ve committed to an industrial relations policy and as you know, Work Choices is dead, buried and cremated but nonetheless it's incumbent on both the unions and the company and Toyota to be able to come to some settlement in terms of more productive work practices because if they can't, if they can't then Toyota will no doubt follow Holden. And then everyone loses.
Fordham: It's been revealed today, Tanya, that the executives in the US, the Holden executives were working on this decision for months. It was months in the making therefore it's a little bit …
Plibersek: Well, no Ben, what I think was revealed is they had two plans. If we stay this is what we need to stay, if we can't stay this is how we leave. And any business makes contingency plans. As late as Tuesday this week, when Mike Devereaux was talking to the Productivity Commission he was saying no decision had been made. What changed was he went into - we went into question time and Joe Hockey dared Holden to leave and they took his dare.
Fordham: You honestly believe that's why they pulled out?
Plibersek: I do.
Fordham: As a result of what Joe Hockey said in question time?
Plibersek: Seeing that, you've seen the text messages being sent by Holden executives saying "Are you watching this, this bloke wants us to leave, he's daring us, he's goading us." I think it was very significant in their decision.
Fordham: Ok, let’s move on right now. The Government is set to break a key election promise on the NBN, Malcolm Turnbull's baby. The pledge to deliver download speeds of 25 megabytes per second to the majority of Australians by 2016.
Now Malcom, I know that you will blame the former government for this. I know that you will bore us with all sorts of details on the NBN but can you just admit in the interest of transparency that what you said before the election is different to what you were saying now?
Turnbull: Well, what I said before the election is we would tell the truth about the NBN and we would for the first time get a thoroughly objective, independent analysis of where the project is now, where it could have gone to if Labor had stayed in Government which is to run up another $29 billion in debt and a much, much slower roll out and what the options are. Options are constrained by the mess we've been left with by Labor.
Fordham: But in the interests of transparency, you will admit now won’t you, that what you said before the election is different to what you're saying now?
Turnbull: What I said before the election was that we believed we could get all Australians 25 megs by 2016 and the company has come back with its advisers and said they do not believe that is achievable. But you know what that is? That is the first time the NBN Co has ever written a report which does not coincide with the political agenda of the Minister and that's because I'm the first Communications Minister - it's true.
Fordham: Come on, Tanya…
Turnbull: You can't deny that. I'm the first Communications Minister that has allowed the NBN to tell the truth. Stephen Conroy bullied them into telling lies again and again and again. And that’s the tragedy.
Plibersek: OK, two things to say. This is a report written by Malcolm's mate that he owns a yacht with.
Turnbull: That is outrageous. That is not true. The report on Labor…
Fordham: Hang on, is it true or not true?
Turnbull: It's completely untrue.
Plibersek: You don't own a yacht with him?
Turnbull: I own a yacht, own not a yacht actually, it's an old couta boat, it’s really better described as a menace to shipping and JB Rousselot, who is one of the people on that review - I own that boat with him.
Plibersek: The answer is yes.
Turnbull: No, hang on, wait a minute.
Fordham: Hang on a minute, Malcolm, Malcolm, Malcolm.
Turnbull: No, we've got to tell the truth, the truth about Labor was written by KordaMentha, not by JB Rousselot, and the Boston Consulting Group, it was not written by JB Rousselot, and you know that and you are smearing JB Rousselot because you are ashamed of the billions of dollars your government wasted and the mess that we have to clean up, Tanya, and it is a disgrace. Tens of billions of dollars…
Plibersek: Ben, Ben... This is a clearly broken promise.
Turnbull: You’ve broken your promise (to Fordham) to keep the answers short, you see.
Fordham: You're the one who didn't keep it short.
Turnbull: I never said I would.
Plibersek: The Prime Minister said a minimum of 25 megabits per second download speed, he said that before the election, very clearly. Promise broken.
Turnbull: Well, what we said was that was our objective.
Plibersek: Promise broken.
Plibersek: No, no, no the Prime Minister promised that.
Turnbull: We made it very clear that all of our objectives, all of our targets were subject to getting to the facts –
Plibersek: That's not true.
Fordham: This is supposed to be a lovely Christmas get together.
Turnbull: Well Tanya, you were –
Fordham: Let’s look at what you turned Christmas into you two.
Turnbull: Let's get this straight.
Fordham: No, Malcolm we're not going to. We're moving on Malcolm.
Turnbull: You went to the election with forecasts on the NBN which you and your Cabinet knew were false. And you didn’t tell the Australian people the truth.
Plibersek: Broken promise.
Fordham: Malcolm, you need to have respect for what I'm doing here right because I've got certain constraints that I've got to follow. Now we're moving on.
Turnbull: Good. Moving forward as someone said.
Fordham: You have found your own way of admitting that what you said beforehand is different to what you've said now. You have found your own way of admitting it.
Turnbull: Well, what I’ve done is made sure the truth is told …
Fordham: If you could, both of you, we need to end this nicely because this is our Christmas edition of In the House, if you could get anything in the world for each other for Christmas without any budget constraints, anything, what would you give Malcolm for Christmas?
Plibersek: Well, I had a really good present for him but I don't want to give it to him now because he's being mean.
Fordham: Come on.
Plibersek: I know that Malcolm and Lucy have been big supporters of the Wayside Chapel so I'd make a donation on their behalf to the Wayside Chapel.
Turnbull: That's very sweet and that's a lovely thing to do.
Plibersek: Now you're sorry you interrupted me, aren't you?
Turnbull: No, no, I tell you what I would give Tanya and it's not really mine to give but I would give Tanya lots of time, quiet time away from politicians and journalists to spend time with Anna, Joe and Louis, her three very beautiful children. That's lots of hugs from those 3.
Fordham: See, we all get along in the end, don't we?
Turnbull: We do.
Plibersek: Well, mostly.
Fordham: Merry Christmas, everyone, from all of us here at the Plibersek and Turnbull families.