SUBJECTS: Labor investment in TAFE and apprenticeships; Malcolm Turnbull’s $17 billion cut to education and $17 billion gift to the banks; Labor's plan to uncap university places; Braddon by-election; Justine Keay's achievements; Labor's plan for Government.

MARTIN AGATYN, PRESENTER: Good afternoon Tanya.

TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It's always great to be with you Martin.

AGATYN: Thanks for coming in. You have to stop doing this, people will start to talk . But the main reason you're here today is that-

PLIBERSEK: Martin, Martin, I'm only human. It's pretty hard to resist.

AGATYN: You'll make me blush, it's a good thing we're on radio and not on TV. The main reason you're here today is to talk about further education, TAFE, technical education, things like that. We've always been fairly strong on that here in Tasmania but there's been a big drop off in the number of apprentices taking up positions, and we saw in the reply to the Budget speech the other night by Bill Shorten, your Leader, that he wants to, almost in the shadows of Gough Whitlam I guess who abolished university fees, he wants to make it a lot easier for people to go to TAFE.

PLIBERSEK: We want to make it easier for people to get a TAFE education or a university education, depending on their interests and we think that TAFE and university are both very important. But I've been here with Justine Keay and campaigning. She's a fantastic advocate - as a mum of three boys in primary school she is a fantastic advocate for better education funding - and one of the things we've been talking about is that since the Liberals came to power in Canberra there's been about a 30 per cent drop in the number of apprentices in the seat of Braddon - it's about 700 fewer apprentices than when the Liberals first came to office - so we want to make sure that Australians who want to get an education at TAFE, take an apprenticeship, can do that. We've seen about $3 billion cut from TAFE and traineeships, including $270 million just in the last Budget last week and we want to reverse that. We actually want to give 100,000 Australians the opportunity of a TAFE education with no upfront fees. That comes on top of a previous commitment we've made to $100 million for upgrading TAFE facilities because of course if you want to get a job in an industry you need to be using the equipment that they're using today in that industry-

AGATYN: Which is changing, yes.

PLIBERSEK: -not 20 years ago or 30 years ago. And we've also said we want to see 10,000 taster courses, like pre-apprenticeship courses and 20,000 mature age apprentices, and very importantly we've said that one in ten of the jobs created when the Federal Government funds a project, like a new road project or something, would be apprentices. Now you probably remember, back when you were a boy, a lot of big companies, they put on apprentices but you look around today, who is putting on the apprentices?

AGATYN: It may surprise you I'm a mechanic by trade, I actually did an apprenticeship and when I left school in the late 1970s, I think 15 or 16 apprentices were taken on by the local mining company and naturally when you left school in those days you were either got an apprenticeship with a company if you were a boy in lots of different trades but if you were a girl you became involved in the administration side of things or at the hospital as a nurse or something like that but they were the choices back then.

PLIBERSEK: We want kids to have choices like that available to them today. There are jobs crying out on the skills shortage list - bricklayers, pastry chefs, hairdressers - it makes no sense not to be training young Australians for those jobs. But we also want to give people an opportunity of a university education if that's where their passion lies. We really want to properly fund both TAFE and university. You know, when Labor came to government in 2008 there were about 1,300 university places across this seat of Braddon. By 2016 because we'd uncapped university places we were well over 2,000, so we'd increased by almost 1,000 extra places and we say that our commitment last week to uncap university places again would add another 600 or so places over coming years to university places here. So, great TAFE education for the kids who want to do that and the older workers retraining, or a great university education for the people who want to commit themselves to that.

AGATYN: We all know the cost of sending people to university, it's a real strain on families and parents. What evidence have you got suggesting that it's also difficult for families that want their children to become apprentices, the cost of being educated at TAFE?

PLIBERSEK: I'll tell you what, the evidence of the people that I talk to, who are telling me, just a little while ago I met a young man names Jaeyden who talking about the difficulties he's is faced. He is a young carer. There's not a lot of extra cash in the family, he is looking after his mum and his younger brother. So upfront costs are a problem for him. But last time I was here, just a couple of months ago, we spoke to a young woman who was a young mum who wanted to upgrade her skills. She couldn't do it. She wanted to provide a better economic future for herself and her daughter and what was stopping her doing the next level of her education at TAFE was the cost of the course. So even a few hundred bucks, a few thousand dollars in many cases, can be a real barrier for people. We don't want it to be, especially when you have got jobs that have been on the skills shortage list for years, why wouldn't we try to do it?

AGATYN: In Australia we expect education to be free these days, and it should be for all types of education not just for primary and secondary school.

PLIBERSEK: We want to make sure that people have a great early education for their children, so universal preschool access for four year olds. Really good schools - this Liberal government in Canberra has cut about $14.7 million from schools in the electorate of Braddon, almost $15 million from schools in Braddon, and then TAFE, cuts to apprentices, university. It really doesn't make any sense because when people get a great education, they go on to return money as tax payers, as contributors to our economy, picking up those areas where we've got skills shortages, and to deny them that opportunity as individuals and to deny ourselves that as a nation, that doesn't make sense. And look I'll give you one example, right, well people say, "Oh well how can we afford all of this?" Nationally, over the next decade we have cut $17 billion from our schools, so Malcolm Turnbull's Government has cut $17 billion from schools. That is the banks' share of the big business tax cut they are getting. So the banks alone will get $17 billion extra next decade...

AGATYN: Rob Peter to pay Paul...

PLIBERSEK: You can spend it on schools or you can spend it on bank executive salary increases. I know what makes more sense to me.

AGATYN: Absolutely. Let's talk about the by-election, your timing being here today. You've worked, no doubt, quite a lot with Justine Keay as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and I think, there has been a bit of criticism, people are saying that she was dishonest and deceitful and all of that sort of that stuff. I take it on face value, and Justine told me she had made every reasonable step to maintain that her dual citizenship no longer existed and unfortunately the paperwork came through a fortnight after the election. Does she deserve to be re-elected, is what I'm asking, because a lot of people are saying she deceived us?

PLIBERSEK: Well there's no question that Justine has been completely up front about this, all the way through. What has changed here is, the High Court has actually changed the interpretation of the Australian Constitution. For 25 years, all of the legal advice is that if you’ve taken every reasonable step, then you’re OK. Justine absolutely took every reasonable step. And I think it’s a bit rich for people to be criticising, people like Malcolm Turnbull criticising Justine. Malcolm Turnbull let Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister who acknowledged that he was a New Zealand citizen but took no steps to renounce his citizenship, he let him be Deputy Prime Minister for weeks after that. And he said ‘there’ll be no problem, the High Court will so hold’ that Barnaby Joyce doesn’t have a problem. Well he did have a problem. So I think it’s a bit, you know, rich, for people like Malcolm Turnbull who were defending Barnaby Joyce and others like him, up hill and down dale, to now be pointing fingers.

AGATYN: Yes interesting coming from the Prime Minister. I guess there’ll be a certain element of a protest vote from people who are just annoyed with the whole thing and they may choose to take that out on Justine which would be a shame, but it’s going to be a really tight by-election, it’s going to be almost too close to call I think.

PLIBERSEK: It will be a tight by-election but I will say this – mostly if someone has been a Member of Parliament they will say to you ‘judge me on my record’. Well, Brett Whiteley is the only person recently who will be hoping people have actually forgotten his record as a Member of Parliament. Don’t forget, he voted to have a $20 gap payment to go and see your GP, and then when the $20 payment didn’t go through he still voted for a $7 co-payment to go and see your GP. He voted for cuts to the pension, he voted for cuts to Family Benefits. He’s the guy who said he’d do something about mobile black spots and never got around to it. It was Justine who has had to deliver that with Telstra. Last time I was in town we went to see this fantastic woman, Judy. Justine introduced me to Judy who’d really been struggling to get her surgery-

AGATYN: The lady with the brain operation, yeah.

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely, we spoke about her last time. There’s Justine, advocating for her, getting her her surgery, and you’ve got Brett Whiteley saying people should pay more for Medicare and that the care in the Mersey Hospital should be downgraded. The difference could not be clearer. You’ve got Bill Shorten who says ‘let’s invest in health and education’. We can give bigger tax cuts to low income and middle income people. We’re not going to waste money giving the big end of town a tax cut, and we can pay off our debt sooner because we’re not giving away all this money to big business and multi-millionaires. On the other hand you’ve got the Liberals who want to continue to cut investment in health and education and continue to feed those dollars to the big end of town.

AGATYN: Are you in election mode? You sound an awful lot like it to me!

PLIBERSEK: I actually love campaigning. I love campaigning with Justine because she’s just a great person and a really committed local member. I love campaigning full stop, because we’ve got a vision for the country that is about investing in our people, and the Liberals have got a vision for the country that if you just give the big end of town enough money then that will trickle down to the rest of us. That’s bollocks.

AGATYN: OK, that’s about as strong as we can get on radio.

PLIBERSEK: Well I’m not Jacqui Lambie with my language, she’s got a very colourful turn of phrase.

AGATYN: We love her though.

PLIBERSEK: No, no, I like her too. Like I say my language is a bit more subdued.

AGATYN: Thanks for popping in again today, as always, I appreciate it. Nice to catch up with you again and no doubt we’ll see you back here again on the north west coast some time in the near future.

PLIBERSEK: I always look forward to it Martin.