FRIDAY, 3 MAY 2019

SUBJECTS: Labor infrastructure funding in central and northern Queensland; Adani coal mine; Labor’s plan to close tax loopholes; franking credits; negative gearing; school funding; hospital funding; Labor’s cancer package; candidate resignations.

MARK BRAYBROOK: Well it is day 23 of the federal election campaign and well, tomorrow it will be two weeks before D Day, May 18. The Leaders Forum will be held in Brisbane tonight - the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten are currently making their way to Queensland. But one member of the opposition -  a couple of members, in fact, are already here, saw a photo of Albo today on the Ipswich Motorway, but the Deputy Opposition Leader, Tanya Plibersek is in Brisbane and joins me in the studio this afternoon Tanya, nice to see you again.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Great to be with you Mark and I was listening to what you've got lined up for the afternoon. I feel like I could just sit here all afternoon.

BRAYBROOK: You could stay, we'll get you a cup of tea, we’ll get you a coffee and you could you - could play some music with me as well if you wanted to - but, let's get down to the serious stuff. The big news here in Queensland, overnight, was the announcement by the state government - they're delaying, once again, the Adani coal mine, the Carmichael coal mine. North Queensland - the youth jobless rate is extremely high. Queensland is a state burdened with enormous debt, the north of the state wants this mine to go ahead. There are some key seats in the north of the state. Has this decision hampered your party's quest to win the election?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think all Queenslanders and all Australians expect us to examine all proposals like this very seriously and our position all the way along is that it has to stack up economically and environmentally to go ahead. But I think it is important to address the issue of jobs in North Queensland and in central Queensland, and that's one of the reasons that we've set aside hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure investment both in the north and in central Queensland projects, like the Mount Isa to Townsville rail corridor upgrade, a $100 million Bruce Highway upgrade, the Stage 5 of the Townsville Ring Road - $144 million dollars, Bruce Highway upgrades - hundreds of millions of dollars for Bruce Highway upgrades, Yeppoon Road duplication. We've talked about of course the Rookwood Weir -  2,000 construction jobs there and then ongoing agricultural jobs. These projects are about, obviously, the construction jobs while they're being built, but also giving us the capacity to drive greater investment in tourism and agriculture - particularly agriculture focused for export into our region. We know that we need jobs in central and northern Queensland. What we can't do is rely on one company to deliver all of those jobs particularly a company that has missed deadline after deadline as this company has done

BRAYBROOK: We'll get to those projects you mention and try and find out where the costings are coming from that, but the point about this coal mine is: the north of the state wants it. Regardless of what you say, the goalposts continue to be moved by this state government and it is to a certain extent a state issue rather than a federal issue, but the ramifications are going to be severe for you on May 18 because of this delaying tactic where the north of the state desperately want it and desperately need it. So do you think it will have an impact on your chances on May 18?

 PLIBERSEK: Look, I don't think we can afford to think about it that way. There are people trying to pull us in one direction, there are people trying to pull us in the other direction. What we need to do is look at the law and look at the science. What does the law tell us about the approvals processes, what do the scientists tell us about any impact that this might have on the environment on the water table and...

BRAYBROOK: It's been looked at a number of times and it keeps getting changed.

PLIBERSEK: It has been. But it's a large - as you know, it's a large and complex project and I think it's really important that we examine it to make sure...

BRAYBROOK: I think it'll mean you lose Herbert for a start, you won't return Herbert. 

PLIBERSEK: Look, we've got we've got massive investment in infrastructure projects that benefit seats like Herbert that create jobs now. They're not on the never never, they don't rely on a billion dollar loan to a mining company as this project originally did. I think it's really important that we address the question of jobs, of course I do, and we've got the projects that do that tomorrow, they can start, shovel ready, tomorrow. 

BRAYBROOK: Well, Adani will be able to start pretty quickly as well if the goal posts aren't continually moved.

PLIBERSEK: Yeah well, I think...

BRAYBROOK: Is it because it's an Indian - no, no, no, I'm talking for the people of the north. Is it because it's an Indian company - if it was an Australian company, would there be a difference? 

PLIBERSEK: All companies whether they're Australian companies or overseas companies have to abide by the laws of our country and that includes proper environmental assessment for large projects like this. There are, of course, you know different stages to approvals processes if you need more information, you have to get that extra information. What worries me is you've got the opponents of the project on one side, the boosters of the project on the other - governments can't be swayed by being tugged in one direction or the other - we have to abide by the law and the science when we're assessing projects like this. 

BRAYBROOK: And do what's best for the people. 

PLIBERSEK: And absolutely do what's best for the people. That's what the laws are supposed to guide you to do. But in the meanwhile, we have hundreds of millions of dollars of road upgrades, port upgrades, water facility upgrades, airports because we know that we need jobs in the north and central Queensland and there's construction jobs there, there's tourism jobs there, there's agriculture jobs there. We can't be relying on one company to deliver that - particularly a company that has seen so many delays in the project.

BRAYBROOK: Well, the delays are coming from the state government.

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it is really important that governments examine projects like this properly to make sure that there is an economic and environmental benefit.

BRAYBROOK: That's fine but not changing the goal posts. But anyway, Tanya, look this is more of a state issue than a federal issue. But I just wanted to get your opinion on whether you think it will have an impact on you because the people in the north want the mine and the people in the north of Queensland don't like the people in the south of Queensland telling them what to do;  and people in Queensland, collectively, don't like people from New South Wales and Victoria telling them what to do.

PLIBERSEK: I got that but we do have a responsibility as a federal government to contribute to job creation. And that's why we've got these big infrastructure projects and it's why we've changed our approach to, you know - the LNP, the Liberals in Canberra came up with this Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund. They've spent as much on bureaucrats and meetings as they have on actual infrastructure. We want to see real money going into roads, ports, airports, water infrastructure that delivers jobs - tourism, agriculture and construction jobs.

BRAYBROOK: I accept that because we have exactly the same with our state government here in Queensland setting up but those sorts of things as well. You mentioned the infrastructure - the costings. This is what a theme right throughout this campaign that Mr Shorten will keep saying that, in good time, the costings will it be released. How can we trust a government if, “in good time”, is always the answer we get?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we've got very clear costings on roads. We've got for example...

BRAYBROOK: Yeah but where's the money coming from is what I'm, what I'm getting to sorry. Where is the money coming from?

PLIBERSEK: That is the easiest one to answer because we're closing down tax loopholes that are unaffordable, that go to wealthy individuals and multinational companies....

BRAYBROOK: Who are wealthy individuals? 

PLIBERSEK: Well, I'll give you an example. The government is about to spend - wants to spend $77 billion dollars to go to the top 3 per cent of income earners, but they won't tell you where that 77 billion dollars is coming from. Are they going to add that to the national debt. Remember this government - Scott Morrison's government has doubled our debt in Australia. Are they going to add the $77 billion to our debt or are they going to further cut our schools and hospitals to pay for $77 billion of tax cuts that go to the top 3 per cent of income earners off in the never never or are they going to keep protecting the loopholes for the big multinational companies that they don't want to close down? This government says it's important for people to be able to spend an unlimited amount on clever tax lawyers to minimise their - minimise their tax. We know that there were dozens of people last year who earned more than... 

BRAYBROOK: There's a difference between minimising tax and avoiding tax. There is a big difference between the two. 

PLIBERSEK: Sure, but if you earn more than a $1 million a year, 

BRAYBROOK: And if people don't want to minimise their tax or don't minimise their tax, they're stupid.
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, Kerry Packer said firstly.

BRAYBROOK: But it's true. I try and minimise my taxes all the time because I'm sick of paying too much of it. 

PLIBERSEK: If you earning a $1 million a year, would you expect...


PLIBERSEK: would you expect to pay tax on that? 

BRAYBROOK: Of course and everyone should pay their own way. I'm not arguing that but... 

PLIBERSEK: There were more than 60 Australians last year who earned more than a $1 million who paid zero because they got clever accountants to reduce their taxable income to zero, is that fair for the rest of us?

BRAYBROOK: There's also is the people...

PLIBERSEK: Is it fair for the kids who are losing their school funding or the people who are waiting in accident emergency right now or waiting for hip or a knee replacement. It's not fair. We've got to close down those unaffordable loopholes. And that's the choice at this election. It's more unaffordable tax loopholes for the top end of town or better funding for our schools and hospitals, greater investment. in our roads, rail, ports and airports.

BRAYBROOK: Now part of that is negative gearing, franking credits, superannuation, family trusts. 40 per cent - the Australian Electoral Commission put out a release a couple of weeks ago, when it comes to the election and how many people are enrolled to vote - 40 per cent of those eligible to vote on May 18 are in a demographic 55+ - that's an enormous number of those that can vote on May 18. A lot of those - including me, Tanya and I am no rich person. I've worked hard in my life to have an opportunity to buy an investment property. 

PLIBERSEK: Yeah - you can keep it. 

BRAYBROOK: I know I can but you're changing the rules for the future and...

PLIBERSEK: It won't affect you. 

BRAYBROOK: I know I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about future generations. I'm talking about my kids - but the point being that I'm trying...

PLIBERSEK: If they want to negatively gear, they can buy a property but it has to be newly built.

BRAYBROOK: But not here in Queensland because you get taxed on that as well. But if I may finish the point I was about to make - is this attitude of that because you have a property that you're negative gearing or because you get franking credits because you're trying to invest to get some money in a nest egg for when you can retire, according to Chris Bowen and the Labor party, that we are some sort of, you know, we're all rich and that if we don't like it, we can vote for someone else. 

PLIBERSEK: Look, Mark, that's just not right when it comes to negative gearing, right, if you are already negatively gearing that is untouched.

BRAYBROOK: I understand all that. That's not my point.

PLIBERSEK: No, I just want to make sure you listeners do. In the future, if you want to negatively gear, you'll still be able to do it but you have to buy a newly constructed property because we want those construction jobs - a minute ago we were talking about ...

BRAYBROOK: Queensland doesn't, though because, as you heard in my introduction last night, they made an announcement that there's a tax going on new buildings.

PLIBERSEK: Well that's another matter. We do want more construction of new buildings. And so we are directing that investment into into newly constructed buildings. Now the franking credits thing we talked about that last time I was in here and I think I reminded you then - 4 per cent of Australians use this there's 96 per cent of your listeners out there going. What is this thing?

BRAYBROOK: I disagree, I disagree with that.

PLIBERSEK: Well, the the figure is four percent of Australians make use of it, right. 

BRAYBROOK: And that doesn't mean it's 4 per cent of my listeners by the way.

PLIBERSEK: Yeah. And right now, we are spending more on this for 4 per cent of Australians than the Commonwealth Government spends on public schools.

BRAYBROOK: But do you understand though...

PLIBERSEK: Two and a half million kids get less funding than 4 per cent of Australians  

BRAYBROOK: So you're trying - so you're trying to. Now, you're trying now to make me feel guilty.


BRAYBROOK: Because you're saying - you're suggesting...

PLIBERSEK: I'm just saying it's not affordable anymore. 

BRAYBROOK: Well, you're suggesting to me that because I'm trying to set myself up for retirement that I'm taking money away from schools. 

PLIBERSEK: I'm not trying to make you feel guilty - I'm saying it's not affordable for the nation anymore. We've got... 

BRAYBROOK: Well, there's other areas you can save money too.

PLIBERSEK: We've doubled the debt. We've been adding a $100 million a day to debt. So we're going to cut our schools and hospitals more. We're going to keep blowing out the debt. We're going to stop investing in the things we're talking about today - roads, rail, ports and so on or are we actually going to rein in some of these unaffordable tax loopholes? That is the choice.

BRAYBROOK: But my point about all this is the attitude that people like me and other people - my listeners who are just average Joes trying to do our best not being paid a fortune. I've had no super for 15 years while I was a contractor - not knowing from week to week in my profession where I was getting my next job from, so I've had to try and hopefully have some money so I am not a drain on the public purse when I retire and then I have someone like Chris Bowen tell me if I don't like it I can go and vote for someone else. That attitude is not acceptable to a lot of people and as I mentioned, Tanya, 40 per cent of those eligible voter - 55+ and the attitude from the would-be Treasurer is go and vote for someone else.

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think that is a complete mischaracterisation of what he was saying and and you know, you know...

BRAYBROOK: You know what I was told - perception is reality.

PLIBERSEK: So there's the franking credits thing. I think that's a very well justified policy. We cannot keep spending more on this than we spend on public schools. But look at the other things for 55+ right. We've got a commitment to have a decent health care system that will help you. Particularly if you get cancer - reduce those extraordinary out-of-pocket costs...

BRAYBROOK: We've already got that, we already have all this.

PLIBERSEK: Come on if you're if you're talking about.

BRAYBROOK: Do you want me to open the lines up from our listeners again, and it's all day here on 4BC of people ringing up saying, 'I don't know what they're talking about.' 

PLIBERSEK:  Well, I tell you you can talk to anybody who's sitting in a hospital getting chemotherapy today and ask them about their out-of-pocket expenses for all sorts of medical tests and medicines and so on. It can be crippling for people. We're doing pensioner dental for people who are pensioners or have a seniors health care card - $1,000 every two years to get their teeth seen to. We know that so many people are avoiding having their teeth seen to because they can't afford it. And even the people who've got private health insurance say that the out-of-pocket expenses when they go and see the dentist are crippling and I'll tell you something else, Mark - I really, truly believe and I saw this particularly in the 2014 Budget that people who are over the age of 55. Yes, they want their own financial security. We're not, you know - we're very supportive of people saving for their retirement through superannuation. We're not touching the family home. It's very significant asset.

BRAYBROOK: and you want to change superannuation again, Tanya.

PLIBERSEK: Well, we want to make sure that people who are very wealthy aren't using it as a tax minimisation thing.

BRAYBROOK: We can't keep up. 

PLIBERSEK: We have people who have got $10 million or a $100 million in their superannuation. That's not what it's for. It's for people like you saving for their future so that you can have a comfortable retirement. It's not supposed to have $100 million in your superannuation account with taxpayer subsidies going in - taxpayer subsidies while it's accumulating, taxpayer subsidies on the way out, but I'll tell you this - this is what I wanted to say people care not just about themselves. They care about their family members they care about the sort of country that their kids and their grandkids are going to grow up in. You're talking about negative gearing, people want to - yes be able to negatively gear, keep the property that they've got now, perhaps invest in a new property down the track. They also want to know that their kids are going to be able to afford a home of their own one day. 

BRAYBROOK: Absolutely,

PLIBERSEK: You're talking about, you know, the tax loopholes that we closing, we doing it for a really important reason we're doing it so we can invest in schools, TAFE, university. You talked about youth unemployment before, how can it be that a time of high youth unemployment? We have a very large - 1.6 million people with temporary work rights in Australia right now, and we're cutting funding to TAFE - we've got a 150,000 fewer apprentices and trainees today than when the Liberals first came to government. Yes, it's about choices. It is about choices. We choose closing tax loopholes at the top end for big businesses and multinational companies and using some of that money to protect and defend and improve our quality of life in Australia - best country in the world. Why would we allow our schools and hospitals to be run down the way they have been.

BRAYBROOK: We're running out of time. I'd love to get you back at another time. I know you're very busy. 

PLIBERSEK: I'd like to stay and listen to the Black Adder, I'll have to listen to that in the car. 

BRAYBROOK: In the commercial break, I'll play it for you before you leave. What I was going to say - now another big story today. I can't let you go without talking about this Luke Creasey incident and his resignation today in the fact that it is in all sides of politics - I'm not just picking on Labor here, it is Liberal, it is Pauline Hanson's One Nation, it is UAP, wherever you look we're getting these people who have been preselected to stand for government who then have to resign because of their behaviour in the past. How do these people get endorsed and your response to this resignation today?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it's absolutely right that he's withdrawn as a candidate. They were you know, I thought we'd seen all the comments - there were new comments that emerged today. It was absolutely unsustainable for him to stay as a candidate. And I think, you know, the comments that he made that I've seen - I haven't seen all of them. But the ones I've seen were completely unacceptable, they were really very off-colour very lewd but he had apologised for them. He owned up to them. They were years ago. So I think the fact that there were more comments today...

BRAYBROOK: Seven years ago. 

PLIBERSEK: Seven years ago - that's a that's a that's a while. You know, he was 22 when he made the comments. 

BRAYBROOK: 22 is old enough to know better. 

PLIBERSEK: I'm not making excuses for the comments. They were completely unacceptable. I would be horrified if my 14 year old was sharing that sort of material but...

BRAYBROOK:  Or being spoken about like that, Tanya. 

PLIBERSEK: Yeah or being spoken about like that, absolutely. So it's quite right that he's gone and it's a - it's a reminder don't share horrible stuff.

BRAYBROOK: So it's a difficult situation, I get this, because we are raising your very high bar, aren't we? Whereby potentially raising a high bar where we may not get enough people to even stand for government. If, you know, the moral high ground is too high and look I'm being the devil's advocate.

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, look, I'm almost 50 and I don't think I'd want to be judged on some of the things, you know, I said when I was 20, but I do think when it comes to racism or sexism - it is unacceptable. I think it's right to stand aside for him to stand aside of it's right that the Liberal in Tasmania stood aside for her - I mean much more recent racist comments. It is a high bar, but I think it's right to set a high bar for people who are seeking...

BRAYBROOK: But it is there the danger that we don't get, you know, good people who've made a mistake. What I would suggest is if you have made a mistake in the past and you've known you've made that mistake, if you're going to put yourself up for preselection you say; 'hey, by the way, seven years ago, I did this, I completely repudiate it. I am appalled that I was that young and immature' and you deal with it head-on.

PLIBERSEK: I completely agree. I think you have to - I think it absolutely works both ways. People want to trust their political leaders. So you do have to have a higher standard of behaviour and things like the National Integrity Commission that we've committed to but it goes both ways as political representatives. You have to trust the people that you're seeking to represent. You have to be honest about your views, your background, anything that's happened to you in your life that you're not proud of - you're much better off being up front about that stuff.

BRAYBROOK: Look I really appreciate you giving us so much of your time on a busy campaign.

PLIBERSEK: It's always a pleasure. I'm just sorry I can't stay and listen to - you've got so many great guests coming in as well.

BRAYBROOK: Chicago tracks coming up and we've got... 

PLIBERSEK: Top End Wedding. 

BRAYBROOK: Top End Wedding.

PLIBERSEK: Can I win those tickets?

BRAYBROOK: Well, you can - if we had some left, I might - well you have to declare them and all that sort of stuff?

PLIBERSEK:  I'm just joking. I will buy tickets to Top End Wedding. I do not want to get in trouble for this one man. 

BRAYBROOK: We wouldn't get you in trouble. Look, thank you very much for coming in and answering my questions - maybe next time some calls from listeners because there is so much more that I'd like to discuss with you because there's some serious questions that need to be answered even after the election as well. So thank you for your time.

PLIBERSEK Assuming, I win my own seat of course, Mark. 

BRAYBROOK: Why are you doubting that Tanya.

PLIBERSEK: I'm working very hard to retain it. 

BRAYBROOK: You never take it for granted though, do you?

PLIBERSEK: Never ever, you can't - take it very seriously.

BRAYBROOK: Well, good luck, and hopefully we'll talk again soon. 

PLIBERSEK: Thank you 

BRAYBROOK: Tanya Plibersek there. Who is the Deputy Opposition Leader joining me in the studio this afternoon.