SUBJECTS: The Liberals’ energy shambles; Citizenship; Higher education; NDIS.

SABRA LANE, PRESENTER: Ms Plibersek, good morning and welcome to AM.




LANE: Will Labor make life uncomfortable for the Government with this policy but ultimately, before years' end, come around to support it?


PLIBERSEK: I think the Government's making life uncomfortable for themselves by releasing a policy with only eight pages of detail. And we are, of course, keen to work with the Government on any policy that brings down pollution, brings down prices and provides certainty, but from the eight pages of detail we have, this policy has hairs all over it. We don't know what the effect will be on jobs, we don't know that it will sufficiently reduce pollution for us to meet our international obligations, we don't know what the costs will be, we've got no economic modelling, we've got not impact on jobs. It is extraordinary that a government should make a decision itself on the basis of an eight-page letter, let alone asking states and a Labor Opposition to do the same.


LANE: Just on that point of modelling, how can Labor be critical about the modelling when Labor's own policy on a renewable energy target, specifically in relation to electricity generation, your policy is 50 per cent by 2030. There's no indication whatsoever what that will cost people.


PLIBERSEK: Our Emissions Intensity Scheme, which is our preferred model of reducing pollution in the economy, has no cost to taxpayers, because it's high polluters, high energy generating polluters, paying low-polluting energy generators, within a closed system. It means that polluters are subsidising less polluting forms of technology, so it has no cost to taxpayers. 


LANE: So you're saying that taxpayers will foot no extra bill for 50 per cent?


PLIBERSEK: That's the point of an EIS. That's why so many people see it as the best way forward.


LANE: Where's your modelling?


PLIBERSEK: We've done extensive work, and if you look at our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme we had 800 pages of work that we publicly released before we asked people to back that scheme. Even - 


LANE: And modelling?


PLIBERSEK: Throughout our time in government we provided information on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Dr Finkel provided 200 pages of detail on a Clean Energy Target and the other associated measures, and now we've got an eight-page proposal, based on a letter from some public servants, and we're expected all to fall into line. 


LANE: Business says the only certainty it can trust is a policy with bipartisan support. Do you agree with that view?


PLIBERSEK: We'd like to give bipartisan support to a policy that meets our objectives, which is reducing pollution, reducing prices and providing certainty. We can't make a judgement based on an eight-page letter about whether this proposal does that.


LANE: As we just heard, Labor and the Greens have united in the Senate to defeat the Government's bill on citizenship. Your electorate contains a large number of Australians from non-English speaking backgrounds. What feedback were you hearing?


PLIBERSEK: I didn't have to go very far. I only had to go home to my own parents who came here as migrants after the Second World War, who wouldn't have passed a university-level written English test, to know what a stupid idea this was. If people are already in Australia as permanent residents, the idea that we would make them wait even longer to become citizens is ridiculous. We want people to pledge their loyalty to Australia and its people, to say that they sign up to our democratic beliefs, to say that they sign up to our rights and liberties. We want people to make that commitment to Australia. So it was a stupid idea from the beginning and a great insult to the millions of Australians who've come here who yes, use English in their everyday lives and in their work, but wouldn't pass a university-level written English test.


LANE: The Minister, Peter Dutton, claims that that Labor's decision means the party has capitulated to the left. The Government may well try again. How solid are you in your resolve?


PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. This was a stupid proposal from the very beginning and implemented by a Minister who should actually be focusing on finding third-country resettlement for people who are on Manus Island and Nauru instead of trying to make people who live in Australia, who want to commit to Australia, wait longer to do that.


LANE: With your education portfolio hat on now, the Government is yet to put the higher education changes before the Senate. It may try to do that today. The Minister responsible, he's been pretty canny in getting other policies through that people said he'd have no chance at getting through, the childcare and Gonski for example. He might chalk up another win with this one.


PLIBERSEK: Well if he does convince the crossbenchers to vote for this legislation, what they'll be voting for is higher university fees, higher levels of debt for those students, repaid earlier, for a poorer quality education, because universities are also having their funding cut. People will be voting for students who have struggled at school or looking for a career change to pay for the first time for university entry courses, enabling courses as they're called. Probably the cruelest cut of all, people looking for a second chance being told they can't have that second chance unless they're prepared to stump up thousands of dollars. I mean there are elements of this package that we've be explicit that we're willing to support, we've had no approach from the Government to separate out those elements of the package. We've just got a Minister who is determined to ram through $3.8 billion of cuts to our universities. The rest of it's just window-dressing.


LANE: The Productivity Commission's report on the NDIS this morning suggests the scheme is struggling under a tsunami of demand, suggesting the full roll-out could be delayed by a year to enable it to catch up. Should the states be persuaded into contributing more money as soon as possible to help speed things up?


PLIBERSEK: Actually, this is not a problem about money. The same report shows that the costs are tracking as they were expected to track. It shows that it's a problem of implementation, and what the Government should do is allow the National Disability Insurance Agency to employ more staff, to ensure that the roll-out works. They should redouble their efforts to get the computer system right, which has been a debacle, a disaster. And they should allow proper face-to-face planning with people with a disability and their family or carers, because the system of doing this over the phone has prioritised signing up numbers over the quality of the plans implemented. What this shows is that there isn't a problem with the cost of the NDIS, it's not necessary to tax ordinary Australians more to pay for it, but the Government really needs to get its implementation right.


LANE: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for joining AM this morning.


PLIBERSEK: Thank you.



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