THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC RADIO RN BREAKFAST WITH FRAN KELLY
FRIDAY, 17 MAY 2019
SUBJECTS: Remembering Bob Hawke; Scott Morrison’s cuts and chaos; Labor’s negative gearing policies; Lies and scare campaigns by the Coalition; Labor’s support for low to medium income earners and small business owners.
FRAN KELLY, PRESENTER: Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek joins me now. Tanya Plibersek, welcome back to Breakfast.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Fran.
KELLY: Labor is very good at honouring its heroes, revering its heroes, even. How do you see Bob Hawke? Is he first amongst them?
PLIBERSEK: I think there's so much genuine love for Bob within the Labor Party, but I think also across the Australian community. They saw that he was a gentleman, a bit of a larrikin, they responded to his lust for life and of course, we treasure the economic reforms that he made together with Paul Keating, and the social and environmental reforms that changed our nation.
KELLY: So you say that Bob Hawke changed everything for the nation for Labor. What about for you? Julia Gillard has put out a statement honouring Bob Hawke. She describes him as a friend and a mentor. She said "As a teenager, Bob inspired me." I think you're a very young teenager when Bob was elected, but did he have an effect on you and the politician you decided to be?
PLIBERSEK: Yeah. I mean I was young but I followed politics already. In fact, I was a member of the Labor Party when he was Prime Minister, and and of course he inspired me then but more recently in the last few years, I've got to know him much better. We used to have lunch together at his favourite Italian restaurant sometimes and I went to see him at home at the end of last year. His health was already, you know, he was quite frail, but he was absolutely following politics. He was absolutely sharp and giving us advice and thinking about the upcoming campaign and the sort of government that we should seek to be and I value that friendship very much.
KELLY: Well, the Labor Party is in mourning at the moment, but you still have an election to win.
KELLY: Polling day tomorrow. Since the Second World War, Labor has only won government from Opposition on three occasions. It's a tough task. In this election, it's really been hard to detect any great momentum going your way. I mean, the polls don't reflect that, if anything they reflect the opposite, a tightening. You've been criss-crossing the country with Bill Shorten. What have you found on the ground? Do you believe there's a mood for change?
PLIBERSEK: I do and I think this is a classic 'Hope versus Fear' election. Our hope for the future is to see real change, to have stability and unity in government, to have policies that deliver lower pollution and lower power prices by investing in cheaper, cleaner renewables, investing in our childcare, preschool, schools, TAFE, university, better Medicare, including better cancer care and pensioner dental, real investment in infrastructure that sees investment in public transport as well as roads. These are visions for a more hopeful Australia.
KELLY: They may be visions for more hopeful Australia, but if the polls are right, Labor hasn't been able to bring the people with you in this campaign. Your primary vote remains stuck at a very low 33 per cent.
PLIBERSEK: Well, I heard Josh Frydenberg as I was waiting to come into your studio Fran, and I heard all sorts of fear campaigns and lies about Labor's policy and it is hard to combat that.
KELLY: As you know from last election though, fear campaigns and lies can be very successful. I mean, Labor had the "Mediscare" campaign.
PLIBERSEK: We had an option of trying to slide into government as a small target based on the utter chaos of three Prime Ministers and three Treasurers over the last six years and a government that still refuses to say why Malcolm Turnbull's no longer Prime Minister. We could have tried a small target, but we want to paint a big picture for people about a fairer, more prosperous, just and inclusive Australia.
KELLY: If you are still confident of winning, are you saying you're confident of winning?
PLIBERSEK: I agree that it's very close, but I believe we're ahead and I'd rather be us than them at this stage.
KELLY: Are you scaling back your ambitions to the notion of a hung Parliament?
PLIBERSEK: No I honestly don't think Australians want a hung Parliament and I would say part of the reason the chaos has been as it is in recent years is the proliferation of minor parties that are so unpredictable in their policies. They're, I think, if people want the country to move forward, electing minor parties and independents is like having your foot on the accelerator and brake at the same time. What we need is a majority Labor government with a strong Labor presence in the Senate. People should vote Labor in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
KELLY: Of course that's what you think Australia needs. It might not be what you get and I know we're in the realm of hypothetical but we are only a day away and last night on 7:30, the Prime Minister said if Labor falls over the line, but doesn't win a majority then your policy agenda would not have been endorsed by the Australian public. You would have no authority to form a minority government because your whole pitch is a mood for change and if he says in that scenario clearly there is no mood for change, there would be a strong case quote “to be made about continuing the incumbency of the Coalition government”. So in other words, he's saying if neither side wins outright the Coalition should form the next government. Do you think that's how the crossbenchers and the Governor-General might see it?
PLIBERSEK: Yeah. Well, he would say that, wouldn't he? I'm playing to win. I think all my Labor colleagues are doing their very best over this last day to convince people that if they want change in our nation, then they have to vote Labor and if they want unity and stability in our government, then they have to vote Labor. If we have to work with crossbenchers, we've done that before. We worked very effectively with the crossbench when we were last in minority government, but it is much harder, it's obviously much harder for the government, but it's harder on the nation to have that sort of insecurity. I would really urge people to not to muck around with independents.
KELLY: You're listening to RN Breakfast. It's five minutes to eight. Our guest is Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek. She's been criss-crossing the country, freed I think from as tight an election battle as you often have in your seat. Yesterday talking tax, you posed the question: “Who do you want to be celebrating on Saturday night - the big banks and tax dodgers or teachers or nurses? Will it be the people who want a refund on tax they haven't paid or pensioners who need dental care?” Were you comparing self-funded retirees who receive franking credits with big banks and tax dodgers?
PLIBERSEK: No. I was drawing, there were two separate comparisons, but there is some very clear choices at this election. We want to close down loopholes used by multinationals and use that money to fund proper healthcare, proper school investment, TAFE apprenticeships, university. There is a clear choice between continuing to pay franking credits, which are cash tax refunds to people who have not paid tax or whether we want to invest that in better cancer care, better pensioner dental, our schools, our hospitals, making sure that they are properly funded. We've got a government - Josh Frydenberg on your interview just a minute ago refused to say how much of their high income tax cut will go to the very highest income earners. We know that figure is at least $77 billion. Why won't they say it? If they think the most important thing to do is to give bigger tax cuts to people who are already doing pretty well, then why won't he defend the policy and say this is $77 billion well spent. We're prepared to say we're going to close those tax loopholes and we're going to use that money to properly fund preschool, child care, school, TAFE, university, cancer care, dental care and our hospitals.
KELLY: The Coalition is campaigning ruthlessly on Labor and taxes and we heard the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, doing that again. It's proving to be effective. I think that's one of the issues that always is - hip pocket generally effective in Australian elections. Labor's furious, I understand about the robo calls by the mortgage broker Mark Bouris warning of lower house prices. People have received fake red notices. But again, I mentioned 'Mediscare' earlier. Did you open the door to this? You know, you were campaigning with fake Medicare cards at the last election?
PLIBERSEK: Yeah, and at the last election the government had not just, they had a Medicare privatisation task force. They set it up. We didn't set it up for them and we've seen increasingly, even in this term, greater out-of-pocket expenses. We know that is a significant problem for people facing cancer. That's why we've got our cancer package – it’s for out-of-pocket expenses that they're paying from the fantastic Medicare system established by Bob Hawke all those years ago that was supposed to take this pressure off people. Now just on the tax issue. This is one of the things that is a bit irritating from the government. Ten million working Australians get the same or a bigger tax cut under Labor. In fact, if you're earning less than $48,000 a year, you get a bigger tax cut under Labor. Small business - we were talking about our Australian Investment Guarantee and our support for small businesses to hire people under the age of 25 or over the age of 55 or returning to work. They get a more generous tax treatment from Labor. The people we're going after, those very large companies that continue to structure themselves to send money offshore on profits that they've made in Australia. It's not fair because when people are very high incomes and big businesses pay less tax than they ought to, like the 69 people who earned a million dollars a year who paid zero dollars tax just a couple of years ago.
PLIBERSEK: If they don't pay their fair share ordinary people end up paying more or getting fewer services.
KELLY: Okay, just before we hit the news can I finish, we started off by talking about Bob Hawke as I did with Josh Frydenberg, ask you how you think the death of a great Labor leader, a loved Labor leader, might impact the dynamics of this election campaign on the final day?
PLIBERSEK: I don't know. I'm not thinking about that. I'm just thinking about how we miss him and I was, Fran, I just wanted to share a story about him with your listeners. He came down to do a Labor and staff dinner in Canberra. He was our surprise guest one night and I was under very strict instructions from his office to keep people away because it all want photos and he'd be exhausted. And so I was I was being guard dog, I was at the table there was something you know my hand out directing traffic, "No stay away", and Bob was just gesturing people over and the night finished with him singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a young waitress who was working at the club and all his, you know, the caucus and staff around him singing ‘Solidarity Forever’. And that is that my favourite memory of Bob. That even as his health deteriorated, he still wanted to be surrounded by people. He loved people. He loved the Australian people. That's how I remember him.
KELLY: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for joining us.
KELLY: Tanya Plibersek is Deputy Labor Leader and of course, she's remembering Bob Hawke as are all Labor supporters and all those who loved Bob Hawke around the country.