SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan to help Australians study at uni; Schools funding; CFMMEU; Bullying and sexism in the Liberal Party.

SABRA LANE, PRESENTER: The Federal Labor Party is promising to uncap university places if it wins the next election but crucially now, it's also promising an extra $174 million to help students from poor areas to enter tertiary education. The Opposition says that money will be allocated to new mentoring and support services. For more details, I was joined earlier by the Party's Deputy Leader and Shadow Education Minister, Tanya Plibersek. Tanya Plibersek, welcome to the program. Where and how will this money be spent? 
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well today Labor's announcing $174 million will be invested in expanding opportunities to attend university. We know that right across Australia, we've got some communities where you've got very high university attainment levels, for example the north shore of Sydney, about 63 per cent of young people have a university degree, but  somewhere like Moreton Bay, where I'll be today, that proportion is just 13 per cent. The reason is not because intelligence and aptitude is unevenly spread, it's because opportunity is unevenly spread. So we'll work with universities in particular, but also TAFE and not-for-profit community organisations to make sure that young Australians right across the country are able to attend university if they've got the preparedness to work hard and the aptitude to do so. 
LANE: $174 million over how many years? And how many extra students per year do you hope will actually complete a degree as a result?
PLIBERSEK: Well $174 million is over the decade and we've also announced that Labor will be uncapping university places. So, the combination of that and this money will see about 235,000 extra students in about 12 years go to university. The uncapping is a very important part of this. When Labor was last in government, we saw more than 200,000 extra students go to university because of our decision to uncap university places and we saw that disadvantaged groups were particularly well represented there. We saw about a 50 per cent increase in students from regional areas going to university, we saw about 90 per cent extra Indigenous young people going to university and almost a doubling of students with disabilities. So the two things together - the uncapping of student places plus measures like this where, for example, universities work with disadvantaged schools in their areas to raise expectations of going to university or some universities have used this money for example to have later years students tutoring first year students that they've targeted as at risk of dropping out. We've seen very good results from programs like this but sadly there's been a substantial amount cut by the Liberal government from these sorts of equity programs.
LANE: But it turns out though to be about, what, $17 million a year for ten years?
PLIBERSEK: Well, it’s very substantial. It's about what's been cut and the results we've seen of the programs that do work - and don't forget this is not paying for the cost of the students' university we are also of course uncapping places - so the place will be funded. These are about programs that for example build the relationship between the university and a high school. Have university students visiting high school, tutoring students and talking to them about what it’s like to go to university, perhaps what courses they might be interested in. This funding is on top of the cost of educating the student.
LANE: The Herald Sun this morning is reporting that the previous Prime Minister was working on a $4 billion education peace deal with the Catholic and independent school sectors on the basis that they accept true needs-based funding formula. What's your response?
PLIBERSEK: Well my response is, first of all, isn't it extraordinary that the leaking and the division and dysfunction continues, and secondly, 85 per cent of the cuts the Government has made in the first two years hit the public school system. The idea that they would have a peace deal with just the Catholics and independents but not the public sector is completely unacceptable and absolutely would have reignited the school funding wars. Eighty five per cent of the cuts come from public schools. Labor's commitment is to restore every dollar of the $17 billion cut from our schools and the neediest schools will get the most, and a lot of them are in the public sector.
LANE: Would de-registration of the CFMEU be a good result for industrial relations in Australia?
PLIBERSEK: No of course it wouldn't. It's like saying we should ban banks because we continue to see bad behaviour form the banking sector. When people do the wrong thing in the union movement they should face criticism if it's at a level of-
LANE: They've faced a number of fines, that particularly union for lawbreaking, millions, multi millions.
PLIBERSEK: - or they should face the full force of the law and I'm sure those fines are very effective in making people think twice, but it's a bit rich for Scott Morrison to be prepared to-
LANE: But that particular union, sorry, seems to be recidivist, a constant re-offender, the fines don't seem to be working.
PLIBERSEK: Well, like I say, any organisation should face the legal consequences of its behaviour and I can't help but notice that Scott Morrison is very quick to jump on this, but voted 26 times against a banking Royal Commission. Any organisation has people who do the wrong thing, those individual people need to be sanctioned, and if there is evidence of problems organisationally, then they should face the full force of the law.
LANE: The IR Minister Kelly O'Dwyer says the issue of bullying is across the board in federal politics and that women should call it out. What is your response?
PLIBERSEK:  I didn't hear Kelly O'Dwyer calling it out when her Liberal colleagues were going after Julia Gillard but I am delighted that she is now prepared to call out bullying behaviour. I do think that there is a bit of a difference between the Liberal and the Labor parties, I mean we are almost at 50 per cent now and I am not sure whether it's because there are more women we have less of this toxic culture, or because we have less of the toxic culture we've have more women. But I think it is...
LANE: Really? The recent case of Emma Husar, that was pretty woeful?
PLIBERSEK: Well that's a complex issue, and I don't think its proper to go into it on the radio in this way, but I would certainly say that our culture is a different culture. And in fact, I am not saying that it is perfect, I am not saying that people always behave perfectly but it is quite a different culture. I think you only really need to look at the different ways that the Liberals treated Julia Gillard compared to the criticisms that we make of Julie Bishop, to see the difference. I think the criticisms of Julia Gillard by the Liberals were incredibly personal and went to her marital status and childlessness, and all the rest of it. When we criticise Julie Bishop it is generally about the policies that we don't agree with. It's people on her own side that have criticised her, you know the clothes, and hanging out with Hollywood stars and so on. I think there is a difference in our cultures. 
LANE: Tanya Plibersek thank you for joining the program this morning. 
PLIBERSEK: Thank you.